Charleston bartenders and brewers use cold brew to give their cocktails a kick

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Seanachai's Irish coffee uses Riptide cold brew instead of traditional coffee - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Seanachai's Irish coffee uses Riptide cold brew instead of traditional coffee

Once reserved for trendy hipsters, cold brew is now the go-to morning choice for many. With a full bodied flavor that's developed over a 12-24 hour period, cold brew is enabling chilled coffee to be more than just a lackluster, watery substitute for a hot cup. Beyond that, cold brew is also finding its way into cocktails and beers, and Charleston establishments are joining in on the fun. So, espresso martinis, go ahead and make a little room. Cold brew cocktails are the next thing, but what actually makes this slowly steeped coffee the ideal addition to a cocktail?

Well, that depends on the mixologist. Some places, like Seanachai Whiskey & Cocktail Bar, prefer to use it as a way to deviate ever so slightly from a classic coffee cocktail. Owner Jason Myers serves an Irish coffee with a recipe that was passed down to him from Gerry Kieran, who used to own the Johns Island establishment. Myers explained that nearly every ingredient in his rendition avoids the Irish coffee cliche — they use Donnybrook Stout instead of Guinness, Kerrygold Irish Cream instead of Bailey's, and cold brew instead of traditional coffee. And they aren't just using any old cold brew. Riptide Coffee Co., which Myers offers on tap at Seanachai, is a Charleston-based producer specializing in cold brew using a blend of beans sustainably sourced from South America. The resulting product lends itself to the Irish coffee cocktail, as its smooth finish allows the ingredients to combine into a cohesive sip.

Coffee enthusiasts are also drawn toward cold brew simply because, well, it's refreshing in the sweltering Lowcountry heat. Basic Kitchen demonstrates this with their Tropical Jolt cold brew cocktail, which is a mix of rum, pineapple, coconut, and cold brew. "When thinking about spring and summer cocktails, I generally lean toward bright, fruity, and exotic flavors," say Basic Kitchen bar consultant Joy Wolters. The tiki-esque drink screams summer, and Wolters says she "loves how the ingredients work together, and how the cold brew complements the tropical flavors, while helping to cut the sweetness and add a touch of bitterness and complexity — not to mention a little boost of caffeine."

Tropical Jolt at Basic Kitchen - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Tropical Jolt at Basic Kitchen

Several Charleston brewers are also using cold brew to enhance flavor, add color, and create a beer that's different, yet still drinkable. Two Blokes' Second Breakfast coffee brown ale combines chocolate and caramel hops with Broom Wagon cold brew, which is added during fermentation and gives the beer a roasted finish. Over at Revelry Brewing, you can find a 7.6 percent ABV Belgian dubbel with mild coffee notes that won't kill your palate called Breakfast & Brunettes. General manager Mike Wagner explains that the brewery essentially makes cold brew, but with beer instead of water. They add the cold brew 12-14 days into fermentation, which, according to Wagner, "allows the yeast to act on the sugar, giving the beer a complex flavor profile." Kudu roasts the coffee for Revelry, and Wagner says that they serve Breakfast & Brunettes right out of the tap for a short period of time after they keg it, as the coffee flavor can eventually shift to tasting more like green pepper if it sits too long.

Baker & Brewer, the new peninsular concept combining the minds of two North Charleston mainstays, EVO and Holy City Brewing, is dipping into both the cold brew beer and cocktail game. Springbok is their cold brew of choice, and bar manager Josh Eritano, who created the cocktail menu, uses it in house-made coffee liqueur. Eritano combines the cold brew with two types of rum and a touch of Everclear, along with white and brown sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks to create a smooth, caramel-colored liqueur. This concoction is the key component to the "Brewers Bulldog" cocktail, which also features Cathead vodka and their Check Ur Head dry stout. The B&B brewers are also using that same cold brew in their Springbok Coffee Brown, which tastes more refreshing than many coffee beers but maintains its body.

With a focus on not only procuring the best possible cold brew but also one that is roasted locally, these Charleston establishments are doing more than just adding in the newest eye catching ingredient for effect. Providing a richness that doesn't diminish the flavor of the other elements, cold brew acts as a binding agent for these cocktails and beers, making the beverages a sought-after summer treat.

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