Mixology 101: Caffeinated cocktails

Updated: 20 Aug 2012

Wired and drunk, at the same time. By Jay Chooi

A doomed pair?
We love caffeine for breakfast, in soft-drinks and in our tipple; from the popular Irish coffee to the more spontaneous highballs such as rum and coke. Bad news is it can be dangerous. There aren’t any findings on the toxicity of a caffeine and alcohol blend, but studies showed mixing stimulants and depressants creates a doubleedged mess. Caffeine hijacks your body and masks the natural lethargy from alcohol – it’s your body’s alarm to tell you that you’ve had too many – so you drink more. Match that with a common belief that uppers and downers cancel each other out... makes the drunk want to drive home. Really, it’s still all about limits.

Can the can
In the US, the authorities targeted brewers and companies that manufacture canned drinks containing both caffeine and alcohol for its latent dangers. Carbonated malt beverages with fruity flavours were massively popular with young drinkers in the west; the already present dispositions linked with this group add a whole new meaning to risk-taking behaviour. These canned ‘cocktails’ contained other stimulants as guarana and taurine, yet nothing beats caffeine’s potency. Some of these brands had more than three times the caffeine in a Red Bull with the same alcohol level equal to six light beers. Mixed drinks pale in comparison.

Crème de le crème
The Irish whiskey is made by stirring one and a half ounce of whiskey, two ounces of coffee, five ounces of sugar and two teaspoons of cream in a heated glass mug. Float a thick layer of whipped heavy cream. Serve. The original recipe calls for brown sugar, but feel free to mix and match. Very little could go wrong with a drink that has all four major food groups you need – alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. Vanilla icecream in place of whipped cream? Go for it. Alcohol-caffeine cocktails don’t have to be Irish or creamy; there is plenty of room for modern mixes behind countless bars.

Clouds in my coffee
The best classic alcohol-caffeine cocktail, as some would argue, is the Irish coffee; surely more refined than the juvenile Red Bull-vodka mix. It was invented in 1940s Ireland by a terminal bartender named Joe Sheridan for a group of jetlagged American tourists on a seaplane dock. On a whim and off the kitchen counter, whiskey, hot coffee, sugar and cream appear to be the recipe to soothe the moodiness of travelling. It’s the definitive comfort drink. Spiking a drink with whiskey to make it ‘Irish’ has since become commonplace.

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