The Rich Boozy Drink That Puts A Retro Twist On Irish Coffee

Bolstered by the recent espresso martini resurgence, coffee cocktails are back — and they're turning heads. And while there's a delicious allure to innovative mixing, like the unique way coffee beans can "season" your negroni or a robust mescal coffee cocktail, there's merit in the classic slings, too.

Among the most beloved is the whiskey-based, two-ingredient Irish coffee. For many drinkers, this drink opens the door to the magic of a hot coffee cocktail. So, if you're looking for another warm and boozy drink with a retro twist try out the Keoke coffee.

In its original form, this cocktail packs a sweet and casual mixture of Kahlua, brandy, and creme de cacao, mixed with coffee and all topped with heavy cream. It's a dessert-like cocktail reminiscent of a classic white Russian. As opposed to an Irish coffee, it has more boozy sweetness, chocolate flavors, and a different spirituous flavor thanks to the use of overproof brandy. However, it's mixed and served just like its predecessor. It's an old-timey Californian creation, said to have been first made by steakhouse owner George Bullington in 1967. Especially after modernizing with a few tweaks, it's ready for the limelight once more.

The recently revitalized Keoke cocktail pairs brandy with coffee and chocolate liqueur

The Keoke was relatively popular up through the early 2000s until the drink dropped out of style. This aligned with the start of the cocktail resurgence, a renewed interest in turn-of-the-century recipes and fresh ingredients. As such, the addition of two sweet liqueurs and the precision-free mixing of the Keoke likely didn't hold up to trends.

However, that's not to dismiss the magic found in its elements. Recent reworking by acclaimed Portland, Oregon-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has translated the drink as a distinctly U.S.-born Irish coffee riff. He ditches the overly sweet Kahlua in favor of a brown sugar syrup while keeping the creme de cacao. The coffee — a strong brew poured piping hot — is paired with a spirituous, high-quality brandy. The whipped cream is still present, further garnished with powdered cinnamon.

Many bartenders have adopted this recipe as the new Keoke favorite. It presents the same chocolatey, boozy, and sweet elements but in a more balanced form. However, perhaps you want a more dessert-like creation, so try out the Kahlua version, too. Craft a rendition of each and see how they stack up against the absolute best coffee cocktails.