Wake up! It’s time for a cocktail with some coffee in it! No, Vaken is not an extraterrestrial humanoid species in the “Star Trek” universe, vaken means “awake” in Swedish, the heritage behind Wildwood Spirits Co. and its co-founder and distiller Erik Liedholm. (Did his name give it away?)
Vaken A featuring a new creation from Liedholm in collaboration with Seattle-based Novus Coffee Imports: a bourbon whiskey barrel-aged coffee. Advertised as “rich and incredibly smooth coffee with notes of vanilla, chocolate and caramel,” the coffee undergoes a serious process in which green coffee beans are placed into a barrel that previously housed Wildwood’s The Dark Door bourbon and are then hand-turned in the barrel on a regular schedule over several weeks. During the aging process, the beans absorbed the flavor of the whiskey and the barrel before being roasted.
Based in Bothell, Washington, Wildwood Spirits is part of the Chef John Howie restaurant group, which has its perks in connecting with likeminded crafters. Chef Howie had old restaurant connections to Craig Russell of Novus — formerly the vice president of global coffee for Starbucks — and the two thought a collaboration would showcase what all parties are doing.
So why barrel age a coffee, especially when the beans are green, and what impacts does the barrel make on the brew itself?
“Green coffee picks up aromas and flavors much like a barrel picks up the flavors of what goes into it,” Liedholm explains. “The fact that barrels are, essentially, cellulous means that they also give flavor/aroma. The roasted coffee has the distinct aroma and flavor of our whiskey and in six months we will taste that the whiskey that went into that coffee barrel will also have that torrefaction nuance too. [Torrefaction is process used to dry and roast coffee beans, which makes them brittle and gives them their distinctive flavor.] The cold brew version of the coffee taste like an Irish Coffee.”
In this cocktail, Liedholm mixes the bourbon-enhanced coffee with the same bourbon, Dark Door. “Both have that ‘torrefazione’ essence and those aromas and flavors really compliment each other so well, yet both provide their own subtle nuances,” he adds.
Liedholm also says the orange twist in the drink is more than a garnish — it’s critical in “lifting the confectionary notes” of the sip. So don’t miss that step but do grab some of the coffee (available for purchase in-person and online at Wildwood Spirits and John Howie Restaurants) and pecan pie then dig in.
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces Dark Door Bourbon Whiskey
1 ounce Cold Brew Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee
½ ounce vanilla simple syrup
1-2 dashes Bittercube molasses bitters
In a mixing tin, combine all of the ingredients except for the twist over ice and stir. Strain and serve up in a coupe, then peel and twist a fresh orange peel over top and drop in.