Coffee is the flavor agent in this mix best suited for fresh and local. Washington state certainly has its wide variety of locally distilled vodkas, but most of them aren’t going to be suitable for the White Russian. They have too much character on their own, and their unique flavor compounds won’t mesh well with the creamy espresso notes that are going to dominate this drink. For this one, stick with your favorite bottle of mixing vodka and leave the craft stuff for sipping.The White Russian, a classic cocktail made by combining vodka, coffee liqueur and cream, is a nice dessert drink, but it needs a major overhaul to keep up with today’s craft cocktail sensibilities. Seattle is the perfect place to give this old favorite a much-needed makeover. Where better than Coffee Town to update the quintessential coffee cocktail.
The big problem with the traditional White Russian is that it’s incredibly sweet but not especially nuanced. Coffee liqueur tends to be very sugary and thick, more like a syrup than anything. This is why we’re taking it off the table entirely for our localized cocktail. Instead, we’re going to enjoy an infused brandy.
Infusing alcohol with natural flavors is simple enough to do at home. The most popular base for infusions is vodka, though today we’re going to do something a bit different. Since the White Russian is a dessert drink with roots in classics like the Brandy Alexander, we’ll be infusing a bottle of VS brandy (that’s the simplest and usually least expensive variety of sipping brandy). Seattle is home to a number of practiced, local coffee roasters and no hometown bean is better for infusing than Vivace Espresso Dolce. It’s sweet, dark and potent. To infuse your brandy, you’ll need the following:
1 cup coarse ground Espresso Dolce
1 bottle VS brandy
1 sterile, glass container large enough to hold all brandy
Put the fresh ground espresso into the glass container, then pour the entire contents of the bottle of brandy after it. Gently stir the mixture and seal the container, letting it rest in a cool, dark place. Stir the mixture once a day for two weeks, then strain the liquid back into its original bottle. The alcohol in the brandy will release the essential oils in the espresso, creating a powerful, but not too sweet coffee tincture, good for a variety of applications.
The rest is simply a matter of replacing the coffee liqueur with your homemade espresso-infused brandy in the White Russian recipe. That’s one-part vodka, one-part espresso brandy, and milk or cream to taste. For an extra-local cocktail, use Smith Brothers Half-and-Half for your cream top. The result will be a smooth, sweet, but not cloying, cocktail good any time of the year.