While the Big Island is famous for Kona coffee, there are a growing number of coffee purveyors and roasters on the Hawaiian islands. In a state renowned for coffee, it makes sense that in the thriving city of Honolulu, bartenders are using bracing cold brew and local coffees in cocktails to fine effect.
The Pig and The Lady’s chef Andrew Le has been pushing boundaries with Vietnamese cuisine at the James Beard–nominated restaurant since it opened in 2013. The restaurant experiments with the cocktails, too, using the likes of sriracha, salted lemon and sesame in its drinks. Its Damn Fine Cup of Coffee is just that: New Orleans’ chicory-laced Cafe Du Monde coffee plays nicely with cognac, Bénédictine, cacao and a Vietnamese coffee touch of condensed milk.
Busan Star at Lucky Belly (image: Virginia Miller)
The standout coffee cocktail of recent Honolulu explorations was at Lucky Belly, a beloved ramen (and beyond) hot spot in Honolulu’s Chinatown. The Busan Star cocktail showcases makgeolli, a Korean rice or wheat liquor with a milky texture and look. The subtle sour-sweet notes of makgeolli interact with the vanilla citrus of Spanish liqueur Licor 43, the earthy grassiness of matcha green tea and the bracing notes of cold-brew coffee, softened by the froth of egg white.
Pint + Jigger has been one of Honolulu’s best bars for years, thanks to owner Dave Newman. It specializes in craft beers and hearty dishes like a stout burger or biscuits and gravy. Here, whiskey is king, and the cocktails are some of the best in Hawaii, in keeping with great bars in mainland U.S. cities. (Just try the Cynar Daiquiri for confirmation.) When it comes to coffee, Newman may have the most addictive offering, the Talventi, a signature cocktail he has at times served on tap. Bulleit rye whiskey and Campari play with house cold-brew coffee (using Stumptown Hair Bender blend), topped with house vanilla whip, like a bitter-robust Boulevardier meets Irish Coffee.
The Pig and the Lady (image: Virginia Miller)
Though both food and cocktails can be hit-and-miss at hip Livestock Tavern, it pulled out a playful turn over the winter in a drink referencing Home Alone: Ya Filthy Animal, a drink in which Rittenhouse rye whiskey, almond syrup, Angostura bitters and Hawaii Bitters Company’s Kona Coffee Mac Nut bitters were mixed with Stumptown cold-brew coffee. Even if the results were a bit too sweet, the lush whiskey spice and almond-macadamia tones evoke dessert and after-dinner comfort.
Set to island breezes and daily rainbows, coffee cocktails feel both appropriate and signature in the land of aloha.