The Classic Coffee Cocktail Recipe

This milkshake-like cocktail dates back to 1887 and curiously uses no coffee. Rather, Cognac and Port mimic the complexity of your morning pick-me-up.
Photo by Katrin BjÖrk

From Meehan’s Bartender Manual (Ten Speed Press, 2017), by Jim Meehan

This classic Coffee Cocktail famously contains no coffee whatsoever. It originally appeared in the 1887 cocktail book The Bar-Tenders Guide by Jerry Thomas. He wrote that the drink looks like coffee, which is probably how it got its name. Jim Meehan, proprietor of New York City bar PDT, remembers the first time he made this drink, over a decade ago. “I stood dumbfounded at the deliciousness the recipe yielded,” he says. “The surprisingly balanced cocktail was milkshake-like, with chocolate notes and dark berry fruit.”

The Basement Milk Cocktail

Which Port? 

Meehan recommends fruity Ports like young rubies, or Quinta do Noval Black in particular, to pair with Cognac in this drink.
“Twenty-year-old tawny Ports and tannic late bottled vintage [Ports] don’t improve the cocktail,” he says. “Reserve them to savor neat.”
Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces VSOP Cognac, preferably Hine H
  • 1½ ounces ruby Port, preferably Quinta do Noval Black Port
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • Grated nutmeg, for garnish
Directions

In cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except garnish and shake well. Add ice and shake again. Fine-strain into a chilled highball glass. Garnish with nutmeg.

Published on January 8, 2018
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of Shake.Stir.Sip.: 40 Effortless Cocktails Made In Equal Parts (Chronicle Books, 2016) as well as ROAD SODA: Recipes and techniques for making great cocktails, anywhere (Dovetail Press, 2017). Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories