Marcin Wójciak runs Makiato, a coffee consulting company based in Krakow, Poland. We met him at the DC Campus event thrown by our friends and partners at Dalla Corte a few weeks ago in Milan. Just a few weeks from now in Melbourne, Australia, Wójciak will be competing for Poland in the World Coffee In Good Spirits Championship, a global coffee competition that focuses on pairing coffee and alcohol.
Victor Delpierre, a Frenchman who took home the gold at the 2013 World Coffee In Good Spirits Championship, was also on hand for this year's DC Campus. We asked both of them to share some of their thoughts on making a classic Irish Coffee–one of the mandatory beverage categories in the WCIGS competition. Delpierre, who we profiled on Sprudge in May 2013, was even kind enough to share his award-winning Irish Coffee recipe with us.
Marcin, baby, talk to us, tell us about how you make the perfect Irish Coffee.
So, about this Irish Coffee: for me it's similar to other cocktails, and not just coffee-based cocktails.
Yeah? Why's that?
For me, like all cocktails, balance is the most important factor in Irish Coffee.
How do you find that balance?
Balance between the alcohol and creamy smoothness. Between the hot coffee and cold cream.
Balance between sweet and bitter, too, I'm sure.
Yeah, and I know it can sound strange, but you can even have a harsh, bitter coffee, but if its balanced with the rest of the ingredients, it can be an amazing Irish Coffee. Another thing that is important for me is a new idea.
Right, because when you're competing, and everyone is doing the same drink, you've gotta make it yours, right? Freak out the judges a bit.
Yeah, “an idea for a classic cocktail,” that sounds kind of stupid, when you're not really allowed to change the recipe. But still you can play with things like the temperature–and temperature will totally impact the flavour perception.
I noticed a few different ways that Coffee In Good Spirits competitors played with temperature–some brewed coffee into a cool vessel, some used an AeroPress with low temperature brew water…
Exactly. And temperature is just one example. You can use different kind of whiskeys (Japanese single cask, sweet American bourbon, nice smooth Irish blend, or smoky Scotch single malt.)
I bet a smoky Islay Scotch would taste amazing. What else can you play with?
Different sugars. Like maple syrup, honey, demerara, rapadura, muscovado…
Which one worked best for you?
Two years ago I used date syrup…
Date syrup! Damn, Marcin, you crazy.
So the key to making the perfect Irish Coffee? Make it interesting, make it balanced, and make it yours.
Victor! Let's start at the beginning. What is “The traditional Irish Coffee”? A commonplace drink?
On the contrary, it is the drink which everybody thinks of knowing but which is in fact very delicate to work with if we want to reach the perfect balance. We can play with a very large number of parameters: for example, the temperature of service, the coffee, the whisky, the cream, the sugar, the proportions, the method of realization etc. The very reduced information of the regulation [of the drink by WCIGS rules] complicates the whole because it does not allow to understand the precise expectation of the jury.
Tell us about how you made your Irish Coffee stand out.
Initially I wanted to accentuate the history of the Irish Coffee. But this track has proved to be a bad source of inspiration. I decided to look for the best Irish blended whisky, according to the World Whisky Awards, then build my recipe around that. The “Kilbeggan Irish Blend” was voted number one by a panel of experts in the 2013 World Whisky Awards.
I chose to sweeten my Irish Coffee with an Agave syrup, known for its healthy virtues and aromatic notes of caramelized pineapple.
What coffee did you use?
I chose a blend, “Duet of Natural Coffees”, which was comprised of:
60% Brasil, with a sweet/soft with a round body
40% Harrar, with intense fruits highlighting the fruitiness of my whisky.
I used the coffee 12 days off roast.
How did you prepare it?
I filtered the coffee to remove the crema to assure a perfectly white surface when I pour the cream.
I used a 40% full fat cream for an unctuous texture.
I added the whisky and agave syrup to the coffee, and to finish, the cream.
Look out for more coverage of the World Coffee In Good Spirits Championship, as well as the World Latte Art Championship, when Sprudge decamps to Melbourne, Australia for two weeks in May, 2014.