Once upon a time, the pairing of ''coffee'' and ''cocktail'' in the same sentence would mean a whipped cream-topped mug of Irish coffee drunk by the light of a candle in a chianti bottle. Now that we are all coffee and cocktail sophisticates, however, scorched filter coffee and standard spirits ain't going to cut it. And in any case, do coffee and booze belong together in the first place?
Greg Sanderson from EDV Melbourne (sibling to Sydney's Eau-de-Vie) says coffee is a cocktail ingredient that offers no middle ground.
''Some things taste great with coffee while others taste terrible,'' he says. ''Gin and coffee is a truly horrible combination.''
That is why, presumably, the Espresso Martini, the poster child for today's coffee cocktails (and the adult equivalent of vodka and Red Bull), is from the vodka branch of the Martini family.
Sanderson has nothing against the Espresso Martini, but believes people are missing out if that's the only espresso-laced concoction they'll try. At the Sydney and Melbourne Eau-de-Vie bars, the Espresso Zabaione is a spin on the classic that includes maple syrup and a vanilla saffron cream in the mix, a sweeter drink ''with more depth''.
Espresso cocktails are a much easier sell in Melbourne than in Sydney, according to Sanderson. That seems a little surprising, given the universal appeal of mixing stimulants with depressants. Perhaps some Irish coffee memories are harder to expunge than others.
Coffee cocktails will be featured every night from 5pm at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's Urban Coffee Farm, where some of Melbourne's finest bartenders will present their own interpretation of the espresso-booze combination. See melbournefoodandwine.com.au.
Eau-de-Vie, Sydney, EDV Melbourne
15ml Ketel One vodka
10ml maple syrup
30ml fresh espresso
Vanilla and saffron mousse (6 egg yolks, 500ml cream, 250g sugar, a vanilla pod, a pinch of saffron simmered over a low heat until it reaches a custard-like consistency. Put into a cream gun, charge and pipe on top).
Stir all the ingredients (except the mousse) with ice and then strain into a coupette glass or a wine glass. Top with mousse.
50ml Ron Zacapa spiced dark rum
10ml chocolate liqueur
2 dashes chocolate bitters
1 tsp smooth peanut butter
1 espresso double shot
10ml chilli syrup
Shake all the ingredients vigorously in an ice-filled cocktail shaker (the harder you shake it, the better the foam the espresso will form). Strain into a martini glass.