Coffee cocktails can get very complicated very fast, but sometimes the simplest drink can be the best one. Case in point: this three-ingredient bourbon sipper from Bob Peters, creative director of the Punch Room in Charlotte, NC.
Peters’ Strange Brew cocktail is simple: just bourbon, hazelnut milk, and a large coffee ice cube.
“The Strange Brew is one of our most popular and longest living cocktails at the Punch Room,” explains Peters. “It's interesting because when the ice melts it actually adds flavor to the drink as opposed to taking flavor away from it.”
Most of the work for this drink is in the early preparation stages, namely making the coffee ice cubes and the nut milk. Peters makes the cubes by brewing coffee at double strength before putting it into large format ice trays. He advises giving it more time to freeze than you’d expect. Allow a good bit of time for freezing it does take a little bit longer than just plain water.
“Making hazelnut milk is actually easy it's just time consuming,” he explains. “If you don't have the time or patience to make your own homemade nut milk go to a nice health food store. They should have a large selection of nut milks to choose from.”
What really makes the cocktail for Peters is the bourbon choice. “I love Old Scout bourbon. It works so well in this cocktail is because it has big strong shoulders that you can build these other strong flavors on, like nut milk and the coffee. Even through all of those flavors the Old Scout bourbon shines through and still manages to be the star of the show.”
Old Scout is a high rye bourbon from West Virginia, bottled at 99 proof, so if it’s not available in your market, you can substitute any high rye bourbon near that proof point, like Old Grand-dad, Four Roses, or Bulleit. We suggest trying a few different ones to tweak the drink to your preferences.
“There is something really magical about simple cocktails,” says Peters, a Charlotte native, has won numerous awards including the 2015 Global Bartender of the Year for The Ritz-Carlton Corporation.
“A simple three-ingredient cocktail really allows you to taste all the ingredients individually and then together they make up something that has a much greater some than of all their totals.”
And that’s exactly what you’re getting with the Strange Brew. “It’s an amazing cocktail that starts off very bourbon heavy and then gets more coffee as time goes on. About every two minutes you have a completely different cocktail.”
Once you have all of your ingredients, here’s how you put it together:
2 oz. old scout bourbon
1 oz. homemade hazelnut milk
Large “King” Coffee Ice Cube
Stir the bourbon and hazel milk. Pour into a rocks glass over double brewed coffee king cube.