Coffee for Night Owls

A new Australian coffee liqueur, Mr Black, takes coffee from daytime fuel into nighttime tipple
June 7, 2018 11:56 pm Last Updated: June 7, 2018 11:56 pm

If the thought of coffee liqueur brings to mind something like Kahlúa, you’re in for a nice surprise with newcomer Mr Black. Distilled in Australia, amidst three acres of beautiful gardens and wandering water dragons, this new coffee liqueur can already be found at some of the world’s best bars, such as the Black Pearl in Melbourne, The Savoy in London, and Employees Only in New York City.

What makes Mr Black different? It’s got half the sugar of your average coffee liqueur and 10 times more coffee.

Making only 300 bottles at a time, Mr Black roasts and cold brews coffee, and distills its own vodka, on site.

“The production of Mr Black is much more akin to the winemaking process than it is [to] making distilled spirits,” said co-founder Tom Baker, a designer turned coffee snob. He and his co-founder, Philip Moore, an award-winning distiller, take great pains to source their specialty-grade coffees.

Co-founders Tom Baker and Philip Moore. (Courtesy of Mr Black)

Currently, the cold brew consists of beans from Kenya’s Microlot Kia-Ora AA (42 percent), Colombia’s Popayán Reserve (54.5 percent); and Papua New Guinea’s Baroida Estate (3.5 percent). The latter gives the cold brew a “citrusy, marmalady, moreish” element, Baker said, a bright acidity that keeps drinkers coming back for more.

The resulting cold brew coffee concentrate is then cut with neutral Australian wheat vodka. If you were to try the vodka by itself, you’d find it “the most boring drink,” said Baker. “It’s slightly sweet, completely characterless, which—if you’re using the best coffee in the world—is what you want. What alcohol is really good at is dissolving all those amazing fatty acids that are in the coffee.”

Imagine those multi-layered coffee aromas—in turn chocolatey, fruity, and citrusy—being carried and magnified by the booze.

“It’s intense coffee flavor that’s just begging to have some alcohol added to it,” Baker said. After testing, it turned out that 25 percent ABV was the sweet spot.

Many sleepless nights went into crafting 240 different iterations of Mr Black before arriving at the current one. For three years, Moore, the head distiller, would routinely stay up alone, late into the night, to grind coffee.

“You get buzzed making the coffee—not even drinking the coffee,” Baker said. Mr Black’s tagline may go something like, “it’s coffee made for the night,” but as it turned out, “it’s also coffee made at night,” Baker said.

And not only that—the workers handling the coffee beans developed insomnia. It turns out the oils from the coffee beans were affecting them. Someone at the company got wind of their predicament and recommended wearing gloves—and the problem was solved.

As with great coffee, Mr Black is balanced and harmonious; take a sip, and layers of chocolate, caramel, fruit, and citrus successively unfold. There are no added flavorings, such as vanilla, caramel, or extracts.

Drink it on the rocks, or with macadamia or cashew milk. Or, if you want to be really indulgent, pour it over vanilla ice cream for a twist on the classic affogato. In cocktails, it’s great in espresso martinis, or with spirits such as mezcal or rum.

Mr Black retails for $40 and is available for purchase online from Drizly, Astor Wines, and Bottlerocket.

Mr Black Cold Fashioned

  • 1.5 ounces Mr Black
  • 1 ounce rye whiskey
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Method: Stirred. Served over ice
Glass:  Rocks

Espresso Martini. (Courtesy of Mr Black)

Mr Black Espresso Martini

  • 2 ounces Mr Black
  • 1 ounce fresh espresso

Method: Hard Shake. Double Strain
Glass: Martini

Recipes courtesy of Mr Black