Kentucky Coffee Boozes Up Your Morning With A Splash Of Bourbon

The "breakfast of champions" might actually be a beverage. What we mean is, to start your morning off on a spicy foot, add a splash of bourbon to your cuppa joe. This combo is formally known as a "Kentucky coffee," and it's a straightforward but effective duo.

Bourbon is packed with caramel, vanilla, and oak top notes, making the spirit a natural fit for spiking a cup of coffee. It'll also warm you up on a cold winter morning ... kind of. Alcohol triggers a physical response from the skin's thermoreceptors. In the presence of alcohol, blood rushes to the surface of the skin, and these thermoreceptors react the same way they react when exposed to heat, giving the brain the impression that the body is feeling warmer (even if the actual body temperature remains the same or lowers).

To keep your beverage extra toasty as you sip, pre-warm the mug. You can do this by popping it in the microwave for a brief spin or by filling the mug with boiling water from your electric kettle and then pouring it out. Still, bourbon works wonders for both hot and iced coffees. Simply stir a slug into your coffee and add any other flavorful ingredients you might normally enjoy in your mug. Start with 1 ounce of bourbon per 6 ounces of brewed coffee as a jumping-off point, roughly 9%-11% ABV. You can always add more to suit your preference if desired.

Picking the right tools for the job

Kentucky coffee is perfect for fans of the Bourbon Lift cocktail – and, like any cocktail, Kentucky coffee can be customized by using different coffee beans, bourbons, and sweeteners. Opt for a rich, strong-brewed, full-bodied coffee to stand up to the punchiness of the liquor. For an extra chocolatey, caramel-forward profile, use a Brazil roast, which totes these notes already. (Jack Daniel's also makes liquor-infused coffee beans, by the way ...)

If you prefer a more spiced drink, opt for spiced bourbons with top notes of cinnamon, cloves, and baking spices, like Wild Turkey 101. Like it sweet? Jim Beam Vanilla Bourbon is ready. There's nothing in the rule book that says Fireball cinnamon liqueur is off-limits, either. 

Perhaps the most impactful customization for Kentucky coffee is the sweetener you choose. For both punch and sweetness, add a slug of honey liqueur (start with ½ ounce and adjust from there). Or, kill two birds with one stone and whip out Evan Williams Honey Bourbon. You could create depth with a spoonful of brown sugar, or whip up some homemade brown sugar syrup to help achieve thorough dilution. You could also add a splash of flavorful creamer like hazelnut, French vanilla, or Irish cream.

Serve your Kentucky coffee with a slab of banana bread with salted butter for a playful weekend breakfast. Kentucky coffee also makes a great pick-me-up digestif after a warming meal — especially if it's served with a slice of pecan pie.