Australia is a nation obsessed with coffee. And why not? It's the thing that fuels us morning, noon and night, be it in that first morning cup or the ubiquitous espresso martini. Given Australia's love affair with caffeine, we last explored coffee in booze nearly a year and a half ago so time was nigh for an encore. This time we partnered exclusively with Mr Black Spirit Co and Della Hyde cocktail bar to revisit the category and explore its application in both hot and cold cocktails. Not only that, we were taking a crowd vote on their favourite cocktail of the evening to feature on the Mr Black website.
We've long been fans of Mr Black, Australia's first cold press coffee liqueur that came about when co-founders Tom Baker and Phillip Moore decided to make a spirit that paid proper respect to the bean after finding other coffee liqueurs on the market to be too sweet or artificial in flavour. That was more than 4 years ago and since then they've gone from strength to strength, releasing a limited edition number with Campos Coffee in December 2015 and at the time of our tasting, were about to launch their second collaboration with Campos - a world first made using the best of the best coffee beans in the global market, the Panama Geisha. Unfortunately the Geisha was still in production at the time of our tasting, but we were able to secure some of the first limited edition to do a side by side tasting.
First off however, guests were treated to the cold cocktail on arrival, a riff on an old fashioned made with Woodford Reserve, Mr Black, dash of sugar syrup and chocolate bitters.
Then it was time to get cracking on the tasting itself! We presented a flight of 3 coffee liqueurs, the first of which was a mystery coffee liqueur - though it isn't quite so much a mystery to the rest of the world. As the biggest selling coffee liqueur of 2015 at a whopping 11 million bottles sold across the globe, Kahlua required very little introduction. By definition all liqueurs are sweet (in the EU, they are required to have at least 100ml of sugar per litre of alcohol) and there was no mistaking the sugar in Kahlua against its rum base.
Moving on to the two side by side Mr Black, we were lucky enough to have Malcolm Gandar, brand ambassador take us through a short history of coffee consumption (despite our affinity with the stuff, Australia only ranked 28 in the world for coffee consumption) before taking us through a tutored tasting of the regular Mr Black and the first limited edition - the exercise providing an interesting insight into how the type of coffee bean itself can make a difference in the palate and flavour of the final product, when everything else is the same. Unlike Kahlua, Mr Black uses a neutral grain spirit as its base and uses cold press coffee, resulting in a liqueur that although is still sweet is closer to drinking a cuppa than most of the other coffee liqueurs on the market. Interestingly enough, when tasting it side by side, the room was divided as to which preferred the regular Mr Black and which preferred the first limited edition - unluckily for those that preferred the latter, it is now sold out nationally!
Closing things off, everyone was served the hot cocktail, a riff on the Irish coffee but minus the heavy cream. Mixing up Jameson Caskmates Irish whisky with Mr Black and a dash of Fernet Branca, this probably came across more like a mulled wine alternative (albeit a bitter one) than a Irish coffee!
When it came time to take a vote however, there was no mistaking the crowd favourite - the Coffee Old Fashioned knocking its hot opponent out cold!
Much thanks to Mr Black Spirit Co and Della Hyde for making this a night to remember. And thanks also to Matt Wooler of Dramnation who kindly came along and took some of the cracking shots you see here.