Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Cognac & Other Brandy Cocktails

Coffee Cocktail

A port glass rests on a golden bar tray. The glass is filled with a dark brown drink with a fluffy white foam head, dusted with nutmeg. / Tim Nusog

The Coffee Cocktail is a classic concoction, developed sometime in the late 19th Century. Today, its recipe tends to be adapted from its first published iteration in the famed “Jerry Thomas’s Guide to Bartending” from the grandfather of modern bartending. While recipes may slightly differ from source to source, one thing is consistent—despite the name, this historic drink contains no coffee or caffeine of any sort.

The name likely comes from the fact that once the drink is shaken and served, it looks a bit like a coffee drink with lots of foamy milk. That’s the conclusion that Thomas came to in his book, at least, writing that while it had no coffee and no bitters (the latter of which was required for a cocktail at the time), it looked like coffee when “properly concocted.” Instead, it’s closest to a Brandy Flip, a historic drink category that uses a whole egg rather than only the whites, like many sours do.

Cognac is the base of the Coffee Cocktail, but it also gets an equal amount of ruby port, which is brighter than most ports with a fruity sweetness. There are plenty of brands of each on the market, so use whatever fits best in your bar for drinks like the Sidecar.

Simple syrup sweetens the drink, and the whole egg gives it a rich, creamy mouthfeel. It’s important to properly shake the cocktail, preferably with a dry shake first (no ice) before adding the ice to really agitate and foam it. You’ll know you’ve done it right if it looks like a foamy coffee drink when poured into a port glass.

If you like this classic version of the recipe, you might also enjoy the take on it from Dead Rabbit, New York’s famed Irish bar. This version includes Irish whiskey and Irish cream for an especially rich treat.


  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 1 ounce ruby port
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Garnish: grated nutmeg


  1. Add the cognac, ruby port, simple syrup and whole egg into a cocktail shaker and vigorously dry-shake (without ice).

  2. Add ice and shake again until well-chilled.

  3. Strain into a port glass.

  4. Dust with freshly grated nutmeg.