Classic cocktails like Espresso Martini, Black Russian, or Irish Coffee are always present. These cocktails are made from spirits and coffee — originally two easy-to-find ingredients in Vietnam. Thus, they are gradually appearing more and more at home during cozy dinners.
One is coffee to keep the body awake, and the other is alcohol to relax the body. So what will be the effect of those cocktails? Will they awaken or infatuate us, or will they make us feel half awake and half asleep? And what difference does it make when we drink coffee in the morning and then drink alcohol at night?
Let’s take a look at a style of enjoying drinks from the perspective of medical experts.
Two opposing ‘friends’, but ‘miss’ each other when they are apart
If caffeine and alcohol were friends, they would always be in strong disagreement with each other. There’s a ‘friend’ who keeps our body awake, alert, even hyperactive and talking nonstop. The other ‘friend’ helps us to quiet down, reflect and slowly express our feelings.
The ‘bond’ between these two substances is adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved in metabolism and energy use. Throughout the day, our body accumulates adenosine, making us feel tired and asleep at night. By the time we wake up the next morning, our body has metabolized adenosine and we should feel refreshed and energized.
Caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, essentially helps prevent drowsiness by inhibiting adenosine levels from rising. The side effects of caffeine can include fast heart rate, elevated blood pressure, tremors, dizziness and anxiety. The level of effects depends on a variety of factors, such as sensitivity to caffeine. That’s why we should only drink about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, or about three to five 230ml cups of coffee, depending on the type.
On the other hand, as a central nervous system depressant, alcohol has a completely different effect from caffeine. First, it causes more adenosine to build up in your system. This is why we must try to stay sober after a few glasses of wine.
There are studies published on PMC Lab comparing the amount of alcohol (wine) consumed by people who drink and don’t drink coffee in the morning. The results showed that people who don’t drink coffee in the morning tended to drink less alcohol in the evening. The reason was because the body did not feel the need to calm the enthusiasm in the body.
However, this mutual inhibition effect does not apply when these two substances are mixed together.
Mixing caffeine with alcohol
The mix of coffee and spirits is as mysterious and inexplicable as when I texted my ex after Happy Hour. But this combination is not something new, especially when looking at the list of familiar cocktails like Irish Coffee, Black/White Russian and Espresso Martini.
The subtle aroma of coffee complemented with the bold taste of spirits leads the way for the bitterness to explode like fireworks in the palate, then leaving the sweetness falling lightly on the tip of the tongue. These caffeinated liquors endowed with the bittersweet flavor have successfully amazed diners. But what would medical professionals like Brandon Fritz say?
When you mix caffeine and alcohol, caffeine will mask the alcohol’s depressant effect. Besides, the metabolism of alcohol and caffeine is different, thus making you suffer more from hangovers.
Just like caffeine, alcohol consumption will temporarily increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This effect can be fueled when you mix caffeine with alcohol, but that doesn’t mean consuming them together would cause the heart-healthy effect twice as much as when you have either of them.
Find the best spirit for your at-home cocktail
A cocktail made from a strong spirit paired with coffee is worth trying, especially before you start a conversation after a weary working day. The best ratio of alcohol to coffee to ensure the taste and the caffeine content should be 2:1.
A small tip to have a powerful coffee cocktail is to use espresso or filter coffee since instant coffee flattens the richness and boldness of this type of drink. And don’t forget to use a coffee filter as you don’t want the creamy texture of your cocktail to be destroyed by some leftover coffee grounds.
For these coffee cocktails, the acidity of some wild berries will create a refreshing sour taste, balanced with the bittersweetness of the mixed drinks. If you favor a sweet aftertaste and want to add more richness to your next sip of the cocktail, try it with some cakes. A pretzel sprinkled with salt or a macaron would make your Black/White Russian enjoyment more leisurely and pleasing.
The quality of these coffee cocktails depends on the use of spirits. Since coffee cocktails are already powerful, the spirit base should give your drink a more subtle and silky softness – neither too strong nor too dry to avoid you getting hit hard.
A typical example would be Ketel One vodka infused with the refreshing hints of citrus and herbs, tasting a little toasty and sweet from the wheat base, delivering a round, smooth texture with a sweet finish paired with a touch of bitterness. This vodka would make a perfect sophisticated cocktail for you to drink at home.
Imagine an intimate evening with friends, chatting over two or three glasses of Martini or Black Russian in a joyous and playful atmosphere. And remember, only two or three of these cocktails in one night!
Translated by Thao Van and Bich Tram