Coffee Ice Cubes: Your Perfect Summer Drink Ingredient

Coffee Ice Cube Trays
Coffee Ice Cube Trays

All photos by Jake Emen.  Ice dilutes cocktails, and it's no secret or surprise that it's actually a desired outcome in the right proportions, even when stirring a drink before serving it up. In recent years it's been a relatively common sight to take advantage of the ongoing dilution of a drink to change its flavor, texture and presentation -- think fruit purees frozen into ice cubes, for instance. Yet, I haven't seen coffee put to the test, so my attention turned to another round of at-home ice experimentation.

The coffee ice cube itself is something I picked up from my mother a decade ago for usage in iced coffee -- I'm a year-round iced coffee drinker, snow and freezing temperatures be damned, something I also likely picked up from her. Why dilute your coffee with water, when you can reinforce your coffee with more coffee?

That principle spurred me onto thinking about the usage of coffee ice cubes in cocktails. After much trial and error -- accomplished rather rapidly, thanks to all the caffeine -- I've developed a lineup of libations fit for cocktail and coffee lovers alike. Take them as they are, or twist them, tweak them, and adorn them, as any good home barista slash mixologist would.

Making Coffee Ice Cube Cocktails Work for You - Tips & Notes

 

  • I also made a batch of espresso ice cubes, which you can compare visually to the regular coffee cubes. These ice cubes retained the signature espresso crema, or froth, offering a distinct effect on a drink in comparison to standard coffee.
  • Several other ingredients were put to use here, including coffee-infused whiskey (technically Tennessee whiskey, George Dickel 12 Year, which I chose for mostly its richness to stand up to the coffee, as well as its higher proof, making it preferable for cocktails). I made two batches for comparison's sake, utilizing 1/4 cup of whole beans to a half bottle for one, and a 1/2 cup of whole beans to a half bottle for the other, and left both to sit overnight for approximately 18 hours. The 1/4 cup to half bottle ratio was the better of the two, taking on plenty of coffee roast, nuttiness and earthiness, without overpowering and over-bittering the whiskey.
  • Further, I also made a simple 1:1 demerara syrup, expecting the darker, rich sweetness of the demerara to play well with the coffee in a number of drinks and be a go-to ingredient. It was.

 

Pitch Black Manhattan with Amaro Averna and Pikesville Rye
Pitch Black Manhattan with Amaro Averna and Pikesville Rye
  • I'm not a coffee snob -- I enjoy good coffee, and can tell when it's bad or when it's great, but ultimately, I'm not a stickler for types of roasts or origin countries or anything of the like. Choose the type of coffee you personally enjoy drinking.
  • The coffee ice cubes generally melt a bit quicker than a regular cube would, so you may want to use more ice than usual in your drink, or when stirring a drink.
  • There were a few failures and stumbles along the way. A tandem of bourbon and coffee ice cubes curdles cream liqueur, despite my efforts to avoid the result by changing ingredient ratios, or avoiding disturbance with stirring, which scratched off several cocktail ideas. Elsewhere, as the coffee continues to impart more flavor as time passes, you need to create a drink that won't become overpowered by its bitter or roasted notes as dilution increases.

13 Coffee Ice Cube Cocktails to Try

The City That Never Sleeps

A big, caffeinated Manhattan riff perfect for the after hours.

  • 2 oz/60 mL Rye (Pikesville 110 proof)
  • 1 oz/30 mL Sweet Vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Coffee ice cubes
  • Orange twist

Stir the ingredients with coffee ice cubes. Stir well, for at least 60 seconds. Strain and serve up with an orange twist.

It's a stiff drink, with a lovely velvety texture, and the orange twist offers nice bright citrus in contrast. A vermouth such as Carpano and coffee tandem may be rich for some tastes, in which case try perhaps Cinzano or Dolin Rouge.

Pitch Black Manhattan

Do you like Black Manhattans, with Averna in place of vermouth? Make it Pitch Black, here.

Buzzy Boulevardier
Buzzy Boulevardier
  • 2 oz/60 mL Rye (Pikesville 110 proof)
  • 1 oz/30 mL Averna
  • Pecan bitters
  • Coffee ice cubes
  • Orange twist

Stir the ingredients with coffee ice cubes. Stir well, for at least 60 seconds. Strain and serve up with an orange twist.

The pecan bitters add a nice touch to this one, playing well with the coffee and Averna, and orange twist.

Buzzy Boulevardier

Add some Campari to the rye and vermouth mix for a riff on the classic Boulevardier.

  • 3 oz/89 mL Rye (Pikesville 110 proof)
  • 1 oz/30 mL Campari
  • 1 oz/30 mLSweet vermouth
  • Coffee ice cubes
  • Orange twist

Stir the ingredients with coffee ice cubes. Stir well, for at least 60 seconds. Strain and serve up with an orange twist.

Silky texture, with the Campari making itself more known upfront, and the coffee really shining on the finish.

Red Eye Russian

Red Eye Russian
Red Eye Russian

There's White Russians, and Black Russians, and now, the Red Eye Russian.

  • 2 oz/60 mL Vodka
  • 1 oz/30 mL Kahlúa
  • Cream
  • Coffee ice cubes

Pour the vodka and Kahlúaover coffee ice cubes. Top with a splash of cream. Stir lightly.

This is a creamy, mocha iced coffee with a boozy punch. It's a dessert drink or nightcap for someone who doesn't actually have any intentions of going to sleep.

I Take My Coffee Black Russian

There's White Russians, Red Eye Russians, Black Russians, and now... the I Take My Coffee Black Russian.

Pour the vodka and Kahlúa over coffee cubes. Stir in glass for 30 seconds.

This one is like a dark chocolate brownie. Stir it in the glass upfront to get the dilution going, otherwise the vodka and Kahlúa tandem is too rich upfront.

The Dude Would Abide

The Dude may never have tried this, but if he did, he'd totally abide.

Pour vodka and cream liqueur over coffee ice cubes. Stir lightly to avoid potentially curdling the cream liqueur with too much acidity from the coffee. Grate fresh nutmeg on top.

The nutmeg really ties this one together. Like the way a certain rug really tied the room together.

The Frappe Flip

Double Shot Old Fashioned
Double Shot Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz/60 mL Bourbon (Baker's, or another high proof bourbon)
  • 1 oz/30 mL Frangelico
  • .5 oz/15 mL Demerara syrup
  • 1 Whole egg
  • Espresso ice cubes
  • Fresh grated nutmeg

Pour the ingredients in a shaker over espresso ice cubes. Shake for at least 60 seconds, strain and serve up. Grate fresh nutmeg on top.

Luscious, noggy texture thanks to the egg and espresso tandem, making for a holiday concoction that goes down easy any time of the year. The high proof of the bourbon provides a backbone for the sweeter, richer components. A favorite.

Double Shot Old Fashioned

A twice caffeinated riff on a classic.

  • 2 oz/60 mL Coffee-infused bourbon
  • .5 oz/15 mL Demerara syrup
  • Angostura bitters
  • Large coffee ice cube

Pour ingredients over a large coffee ice cube. Stir lightly.

The demerara proved a valuable ally here, with the double shot punch of both coffee-infused bourbon, and coffee ice. That's also why using a slower melting, large cube, was preferable. It begins rich and sweet, before morphing into melted ice coffee by its end. This could easily become a go-to midday caffeine pick me up, you know, if your office doesn't frown upon day drinking.

Tropical Fashion

A riff on a rum Old Fashioned.

Espresso Tonic Cubed
Espresso Tonic Cubed

Pour ingredients over coffee ice cubes, stir lightly, and top with an orange twist.

The pineapple, coffee, demerara and Angostura all create a nice synergy here. The drink starts sweeter and moves towards savory as you continue sipping.

Espresso Tonic3, AKA, the Cubed Espresso Tonic

The espresso tonic ran rampant through your favorite coffee shop a summer or two ago. Let's take it up a notch.

Pour rum and demerara over espresso ice cubes. Stir for 30 seconds to begin dilution. Top with tonic.

Stirring prior to adding the tonic helps to unleash some of that lovely leftover espresso crema from the cubes. When topped with the tonic, the tandem offers a fizzy explosion, for a light and effervescent cocktail with delicious roasty espresso notes.

Three F's & You're Out

The Frappe Flip
The Frappe Flip

Fancy rum, Frangelico, and Fever Tree.

  • 2 oz/60 mL Plantation Stiggins' Fancy Pineapple Rum
  • 1 oz/30 mL Frangelico
  • Fever Tree tonic
  • Coconut bitters
  • Large coffee ice cube

Pour rum, Frangelico and bitters over a large coffee ice cube. Stir lightly. Top with tonic.

Nutty and tropical, with the Plantation Pineapple taking center stage to begin, and more coffee earthiness coming through as dilution increases. Refreshing, fun beverage.

Brewhaha at the Border

Have too many of these and border patrol might not let you back in.

  • 1 oz/30 mL Ancho Reyes chili liqueur
  • 1 oz/30 mL Tequila Reposado
  • 2 oz/60 mL Cold Brew Coffee
  • Fever Tree tonic
  • Habañero bitters
  • Coffee ice cubes
  • Orange twist

Pour Ancho Reyes, tequila, cold brew and bitters over coffee ice cubes. Stir, and top with tonic and orange twist.

An earthy almost savory cocktail, with the interplay of nuttiness, roasted coffee, tequila, the spice of the Ancho and the bitters. Orange twist key to liven it up.

Bourbon, Black

Let's not make this one too scientific.

  • Bourbon
  • Coffee ice cubes

Pour some of your go-to bourbon over a couple of coffee ice cubes.

5 Cold Brew Coffee & Coffee Ice Cocktails

Just as one goes to Starbucks and customizes his or her coffee with a preferred tandem of flavor syrups and special milks and who knows what else, do the same with cold brew coffee and coffee ice cubes.

Here, using a base of cold brew with coffee ice, it's most like my starting frame of reference, using coffee ice cubes in an iced coffee to reinforce rather than dilute the coffee as time passes.

Brewhaha At the Border
Brewhaha At the Border

Four ounces of cold brew coffee and a large coffee ice cube were used in each of the following. Start from there, and build it out with your preferred flavors and ingredients, and give it a quick stir. My favorite? The Nutty Islander.

Hazelnut Mocha

  • 3 oz/ 89 mL Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka
  • 1 oz/30 mL Frangelico
  • .5 oz/15 mL Demerara syrup

Hazelnut

  • 2 oz/60 mL Frangelico
  • .5 oz/15 mL Demerara syrup
  • Pecan bitters

Island Iced Coffee

The Nutty Islander

  • 2 oz. Appleton Reserve rum
  • 1 oz. Frangelico
  • Pecan bitters

The Cold Brew Express

  • 2 oz. Coffee-infused bourbon
  • 1 oz. Demerara syrup