If you love coffee, ‘correct’ it & make these buzzy cocktails

on 17/01/11 at 12:44 pm

Spirits

From coeds to day laborers to Cary Grant in “His Girl Friday,” imbibers spanning continents and generations find the lure of a spiked coffee drink in its very definition — the marriage of two favorite vices. “It was the Italians who first recognized the appeal of ‘correcting’ coffee with a shot of liquor — caffe corretto in Italian,” says Michael Turback, author of “Coffee Drinks” ($14.95, Ten Speed Press). “In a culture that takes eating very seriously, the stimulating, after-dinner spiked coffee provides both an excuse to linger longer and an aid to digestion.”

Italians tend to reach for sambuca, cognac and grappa, Turback says. But the coffee-booze combo most famed in the U.S. is whiskey-fortified Irish coffee, invented by an Irish airport bartender on a winter night in the 1940s.

P.J. Clarke’s (1600 K St. NW; 202-463-6610) serves the classic recipe — two teaspoons of brown sugar, a cup of hot coffee, a shot of Jameson and fresh, heavy cream (never whipped!) floating on top. “The brown sugar gives it extra buoyancy,” says general manager Dave Lovett. “It almost looks like a miniature pint of Guinness.” For nontraditionalists, P.J. Clarke’s also offers twists on the iconic cocktail, starring Baileys, Kahlua and even rye whiskey.

As in Italy and Ireland, throughout the afternoon, Cuban workers line up at coffee stands for shots of espresso. “It’s their culture,” says Bob Gallo, vice president of operations at Havana-gone-hip Cuba Libre (801 Ninth St. NW; 202-408-1600). “Drinking coffee is how they get through the day.” And as evening wears on, he says, out comes the rum.

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