Cozy up for long winter nights with local coffee and cacao liqueurs.
The latest Nevada-made coffee and cacao liqueurs weren’t actually made in heaven, but they sure taste like they were.
Originally distilled by European monks, liqueurs’ flavors can be sublime. With such Elysian ingredients as black currant, cardamom, almonds, and myrrh, these sweet spirits conjure up dark absinthe bars and love potions. However, for winter sipping, your shelf should be stocked with plenty of toe-warming coffee and cacao liqueurs.
Mr. Cinnamon’s Wild Ride
Ferino Distillery opened in Reno’s East Fourth Street District in November 2019. During the 2020 mandatory shutdown, CEO and master distiller Joe Cannella began to hash out a plan with Coffeebar Roastery’s director of coffee David Wilson and wholesale manager Matt Brown. They wanted to make a coffee liqueur.
“It was an obvious partnership that we could definitely execute right at that time,” Cannella says.
The union birthed Ferino’s Corretto, a single-origin coffee liqueur. Named after the Italian tradition of caffè corretto, or corrected coffee, the liqueur is made with brandy (from wine supplied by neighbor Basin and Range Cellars) and distilled with sugar and natural-process Ethiopian coffee sourced by Coffeebar.
“We did a lot of experimentation to see what coffee would best show through,” Wilson says. “It would require a coffee with a blend of characteristics that would translate all the way through the liqueur.”
During the distillation process, Cannella adds the whole beans directly to the brandy and periodically agitates the mix.
“The actual extraction process only took a few days,” Cannella says. “But finding the recipe and finding the right bean took about six or seven months.”
Though Cannella says that each person’s palate interprets the liqueur differently, a sip tends to start out on the tongue as a warm brandy flavor, then opens up the coffee flavor in the back of the mouth and finishes in the throat with a subtle, anise-flavored twang.
That multilayered taste must have been a hit, because the first batch sold out in a few weeks.
“We barely had enough to give out to our distributor,” Cannella says.
Two or three seasonal releases of the liqueur are in the works, and each batch of Corretto will feature Coffeebar beans with similar flavor profiles as the original Ethiopian brand. Along with Ferino’s Cannella Cinnamon Cordial, Amaro Cannella, and Fernet Ferino, Corretto is served in cocktails or during tours and tastings at the Fourth Street location.
Cannella’s family comes from Italy; it was a bottle of Rosolio Cannella (Italian for cinnamon) liqueur in Sicily that sparked his love of Italian flavored spirits. He still prefers to have them in simple cocktails to let the flavors shine.
“My favorite cocktail using Corretto is Coffee Old Fashioned,” Cannella says. “It’s delicious and easy to execute at home, too.”
“I like to pour it over vanilla ice cream,” Brown adds with a smile.
Fit for a Goddess
In Minden, the coffee incantations continue with an homage to the goddess of the night.
In Minden, Bently Heritage Estate Distillery’s Hecate Coffee Liqueur is made by infusing its own Source One vodka with lemon zest and both hot coffee and cold-brewed coffee from Reno’s Magpie Coffee Roasters.
“It very much speaks to an Italian espresso-style coffee,” says John Jeffery, Bently’s general manager and master distiller.
For the distillery’s Hecate Cacao Liqueur, the cacao is made with criollo (meaning native) cacao nibs from Peru and Ecuador and sustainably sourced bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar. Both the beans and nibs are macerated in a blend of bourbon and single-malt whisky.
The dark and bewitching name of the liqueur line was inspired by the ancient Greek goddess associated with the night and the Bently Heritage staff’s process of gathering botanicals and natural ingredients for their own spirits and cocktail mixers.
“We have a strong connection to the land, and we were trying to call out the esoteric nature of the night,” Jeffery says.
To writer Christina Nellemann, combining spirits, sugar, and coffee into one beautiful bottle might just be the height of alchemy.
Bently Heritage Estate Distillery
Coffee Old Fashioned
(courtesy of Ferino Distillery in Reno. Serves 1)
1½ ounces bourbon
½ ounce Ferino Corretto coffee liqueur
1½ ounces water
1 ounce chilled espresso
¼ ounce simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
3 whole coffee beans
Add bourbon, coffee liqueur, water, espresso, simple syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker, and shake well. Strain into old-fashioned or lowball glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with coffee beans.
(courtesy of Bently Heritage Estate Distillery in Minden. Serves 1)
1½ ounces Bently Heritage Source One Vodka
½ ounce Bently Heritage Hecate Coffee Liqueur
½ ounce cream
1 dash vanilla extract
2 dashes chocolate bitters
1 tablespoon dark chocolate shavings
Add vodka and coffee liqueur to a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into old-fashioned or lowball glass filled with ice cubes. Using a frother or Aero whipper, whip cream, vanilla, and bitters until frothy and pour over the cocktail. Garnish with dark chocolate shavings.