The Mudslide: Beyond Spring Break
Long before I opened PDT or was involved with nifty publications like Tasting Table, I was a bartender in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1995 at a place called State Street Brats. And I made a hell of a lot of mudslides there. The classic combination of coffee liqueur plus cream liqueur (and sometimes vodka or a thousand other variations) was incredibly popular back then.
Nowadays, you'll be hard-pressed to find a high-end cocktail bar that even stocks cream liqueur, but let's be honest: Just about everywhere else, it's what helps the "medicine" go down.
Sure, there's a sort of fratty side to the mudslide (see the recipe), but drinks like this—combinations of liqueurs—are really descendants of pousse cafés, which hail from the baroque period of the cocktail's Golden Age. Back then, bartenders prided themselves on knowing the liquid density and sweetness of all liqueurs so they could layer them on top of each other. So while these mixtures may have fallen from the grace of mixology's jet set, they're family and they're fun and it's hard to argue with that.
Which brings me to the last time I dined at Betony, when general manager Eamon Rockey shared homemade versions of cream and coffee liqueurs- along with half a dozen other mixtures he'd been tinkering with. A bit of a dandy, Rockey is a beverage savant; when he was at Atera, he served me one of the greatest wine pairings I've ever experienced in any restaurant anywhere—all this from a man who's best known for his cocktails. He knows I admire him, which is why I needle him when he's overly formal. So the first thing I did was combine the coffee and cream liqueurs: I am a bartender after all. It's uncanny, as I never sensed any intention on Eamon's part for them to be mixed into a mudslide, but I tasted it and just thought: This is amazing!
Eamon agreed to share the formulas for the autonomous elements of my masterpiece: simplified house recipes for coffee liqueur (basically a coffee infused bourbon) and cream liqueur (Irish whiskey meets a lot of egg yolks) for TT readers to prepare at home. You can mix a mudslide by shaking equal parts of each, but I prefer blending them. Some may view this technique as the lowest method of mixing, but this couldn't be further from the truth. A blender, like a mixing glass or shaker, is just a tool; and there's a time and a place for everything.
And right about now is the right time for this enlightened throwback, the from-scratch mudslide.
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