Review: Rosevale Cocktail Room's Irish Coffee Experience Is A Theatrical Drink For The Season

When Rosevale Cocktail Room opened in New York City in October 2022, the Carver Road Hospitality Group hoped the upscale bar would become a unique addition alongside its already-established Rosevale Kitchen and Starchild Nightclub. The Rosevale Cocktail Room subsequently took its place as a spot that could operate as both a local haunt for Hell's Kitchen tipplers looking for an extraordinary evening, as well as something special for the pre-and-post-theater crowd.

"This bar couldn't exist anywhere else in the city, or anywhere else in the world," according to Alec Kass, beverage director at Carver Road Hospitality. Kass is a visionary in the cocktail industry who focuses on the psychology of his guests to craft drink menus. Combining his admiration for classic cocktails with the idea that every drink can serve as an unforgettable experience (in addition to a sip in the moment), Kass has created cocktails at Rosevale Cocktail Room that focus on much more than just the drinks themselves — like the Irish coffee experience.

Though the makeup of New York City has changed in recent decades in regards to its theater district and Times Square, Kass still believes "this neighborhood needs magic," as he told Tasting Table. We were recently invited to speak with Kass at the cozy second-floor spot and try his Irish coffee in person. Here's our review of the Irish coffee experience at Rosevale Cocktail Room.

What is the Irish coffee experience?

If you've never had Irish Coffee, the simplest form is this: Combine hot coffee with Irish whiskey, then top with whipped cream. Though Alec Kass has taken that basic recipe to new heights, it's still intended for any Irish coffee drinker — novice or otherwise — to enjoy.

Since joining the cocktail menu in January 2023, the Irish coffee experience speaks to Kass's vision of offering more than just liquor in a glass. Designed with hot beverages in mind (and meant for two people), the experience is cocktail artistry. As Kass explained to Tasting Table, his mind "goes three places" when considering a hot drink. "One, starting the morning with a Chai. Two, an afternoon going to apple orchards and apple picking, drinking apple cider, getting those cinnamon-covered cider donuts. And then, of course, Irish coffee." 

Kass combines each of these elements in the Irish coffee experience. It begins with a 2010 vintage black tea in the top chamber of a glass vacuum siphon coffee maker. The tea's cured with toffee, caramel, and almonds, as well as a plethora of spices: allspice berries, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, star anise, mace (from Indonesia), cassia (from Sri Lanka), kokuto sugar (from Japan), dehydrated citrus wheels, and a sprig from a juniper tree. In the bottom chamber, you have Teeling Irish whiskey, French apple brandy, and Italian coffee, which rises from the heat underneath into the infusion chamber — thus becoming a chai-infused Irish coffee.

The cocktail is heated for ideal enjoyment

The Irish coffee at Rosevale isn't just a cocktail experience. Since the process relies on Boyle's Law – which states the pressure of a gas is inversely proportional to its volume — it's also a bit of a science refresher. As the flame underneath the glass siphon heats the bottom chamber, the expanded air causes the liquid inside to rise to the top of the vacuum (where all the aromatics live).

The bubbling liquid doesn't reach a full boil, according to Alec Kass, as the temperature remains at 175 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures the liquid will be warm to the touch after cooling for a few minutes, but not so hot as to burn your hand on the crystal stemware (or scald your mouth once you take a sip). Of course, next comes what Kass describes as the most challenging part of the Irish coffee experience: the waiting.

Homemade cream is topped with Hershey kiss shavings

Once the liquids have reached their peak temperature, you can enjoy the rich and inviting aroma of the vacuum's top chamber, which is like a warm blanket enveloping your olfactory with citrus and spice. The Irish coffee experience then pivots from the norm with the next step — inspired by what Alec Kass called "one of (his) least favorite things about Irish coffee" when ordering one elsewhere. "The bartender will pull out room-temperature whiskey and lukewarm coffee and cover it with cold cream" more often than not.

This may result in a "tasty" first sip, according to Kass, but "then you have your second sip, and it's just gone." To overcome this concern, he allows the post-heated liquid to cool via the cold air in the room to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. This "creates a ... frost effect," as Kass explained, which forms "a nice cold layer ... to melt the cream onto." After you've watched the liquids infuse and heat, and waited for everything to cool down? It's time for the piece de resistance: the homemade whipped cream. Made from over 30 varieties of apples, the cream is reminiscent of apple cider donuts.

Finally, a flurry of chocolate shavings from a 5 pound Hershey's Kiss covers the top. Utilizing chocolate instead of nutmeg "to do something a little bit different," Kass chose Hershey since it was the most "nostalgic and reminiscent of chocolate."

Irish coffee experience vs. regular Irish coffee

Kass wasn't lying when he described this cocktail as an experience. Simply serving the drink is a two-person job — and with more than two ounces of whiskey and apple brandy contained in each glass? It's a two-person job to drink it, as well.

That being said, the beverage fits in well with the atmosphere of Rosevale Cocktail Room. The establishment's non-cocktail menu features a handful of snacks that will pair perfectly with your spirited journey, including Wagyu cheesesteak bites, lobster rolls, and an over-the-top (and maybe over your budget?) plate of potato chips topped with an ounce of sterling white sturgeon caviar.

Between the Irish coffee served at the Rosevale Cocktail Room and its ambiance — which we'd describe as sophisticated with a hint of whimsy and theatricality — Kass and his team have created a truly unique Irish coffee cocktail. A variety of New York-based bars and restaurants serve up a more traditional Irish coffee — Dead Rabbit, Fraunces Tavern, and Sweet Science come to mind – but none provides a similar journey to what Kass offers. So while other businesses may serve a creamy and delicious Irish coffee, it's unlikely to be as enjoyable as the full Irish coffee experience at the Rosevale Cocktail Room.

How much does it cost?

A night out in New York City comes with a hefty price tag, and the Irish coffee experience at Rosevale Cocktail Room is no exception. Clocking in at $50 — don't forget, the drink is meant for two — the Irish coffee costs about as much as an exorbitantly priced high-end cocktail served anywhere else in the city.

Now, while you're certainly paying a premium here compared to other Irish coffees, considering the ingredients include small-batch whiskey, top-notch brandy, quality coffee, and a machine that infuses and warms all the ingredients to absolute perfection? We think the experience is worth the price tag. 

Luckily for Irish coffee lovers, when Rosevale's new cocktail menu debuts on December 12, 2023, the Irish coffee experience will still be there — and will remain available throughout 2024. Unlike most cocktail bars that change their menus seasonally, Alec Kass believes it's more important to have a menu that stands firm. "Seasonality is ... moot at this point," said Kass, who noted he'd "rather tell a story." This also allows visitors to come back and enjoy their favorite drinks no matter the weather or time of year.