Most of us need a little caffeine buzz to get through the day. Monday through Friday, we’ve learned to be content with a single buzz that comes from our favorite cup of Joe, home brewed to our liking or frothed lovingly by a barista in a good neighborhood cafe, though more often consumed from a go-cup that displays some ungodly bastardization of our names in magic marker. “Armada.” What? Do I look like I am about to invade England by sea?
But Saturdays and Sundays in New York City’s East Village, it’s time for the Double Buzz!
The Double Buzz began this summer at Amor y Amargo, a tiny bar specializing in all things boozy, bitter and stirred, which also acts as a general store for a well-curated bitters selection and cocktail tools. However recently in an inspired move, for weekend days, beverage director Sother Teague brought in barista extraordinaire Natalie Czech, whom one can even refer to as a “coffee sommelier,” to brew the perfect cup of coffee alongside a cocktail made with it, hence the double buzz effect.
There are only two coffees used – Ndaroini from Kenya and Finca Nueva Armenia from Guatemala – from fair trade Counter Culture Coffee. Teague carefully considered the nuances of each coffee to create a menu of cocktails that compliment them. The richness of the Finca Nueva Armenia finds its way into the Purple Drank, with mezcal, Amaro Zucca and lavender bitters. Or the Grandma’s Coffee, with apple brandy, Cognac, Cocchi Americano, Becherovka, Peychaud’s and apple bitters. Czech points out that the Ndaroini is a brighter and more acidic coffee, with flavors almost akin to tomato juice. To play off
them, Teague was challenged to come up with a coffee cocktail reminiscent of a michelada. Seriously? A beer cocktail with coffee and bitters? Don’t knock it till you try it! One of my visits was in the company of someone who is very serious about all things coffee, beer and cocktails, but definitely not all together. Even he was convinced that somehow, some crazy way, the Nyeri Sunrise – Ndaroini, tequila, Averna, orange citrate and mole bitters, all topped with Pacifico Mexican beer – is quite delicious, and an excellent hangover cure too! Boom. But if you still can’t quite get your head around that, Ndaroini also matches in other pleasing, less dare-devil concoctions on the menu.
The coffee itself is only served one way – pure black and on ice – that’s right, no sugar or milk. That way, customers can fully appreciate the complexities of each brew. It is meant to be approached as though tasting something as subtle as wine, beer or neat spirits. Czech is quite the purist when it comes to brewing the coffee. The beans are carefully weighed and placed in jiggers lining the bar, then ground and measured, then individually brewed pour-over style through a filter in a glass cone over a mixing glass filled with ice. Czech then delicately swirls
hot water into the filters, first for the initial “bloom.” She explained that this is the moment that can make or break a coffee, when the gases are released and the grounds momentarily expand to greet the water. Too much water added at this stage will drown the grounds and trap the gases, resulting in a weak brew. An exact amount of hot water is then swirled periodically over the bloomed grounds until time runs out on the stopclock. It’s a very zen experience watching this whole process.
To accompany the cocktails, Teague, who is a trained chef, takes to the back kitchen (shared with Cienfuegos) to prepare a choice of meat or veggie quiches served with yucca fries, or Chicken “IN” Waffles with spicy maple syrup (overheard at the bar, “I don’t want this dish to end!”), as well as small bites of cauliflowered deviled eggs with fish roe, or a pickled Scotch egg. You can also order a simple vegemite on toast, if you like that sort of thing…
Considering its name, the Double Buzz is actually one of the most relaxing things to do in New York City on a weekend day. It’s such fun to sit at the bar and watch the coffee and cocktails prepared. The food is beyond delicious and the intimate but convivial atmosphere keeps fun conversation flowing between customers, Czech and Teague. It’s the proverbial “friends you haven’t met yet” experience.
But if you still prefer your coffee served up foamy and Amaro-less, well, go round the corner and get your name misspelled on the go-cup. That’s fine. More Chicken “IN” Waffles for the rest of us!
The Double Buzz: Saturdays and Sundays 12 noon – 4pm
Amanda Schuster is the Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor and the author of NEW YORK COCKTAILs available from Cider Mill Press. Certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer - she likes to think of herself as "bi-spiritual." Please don't ever offer her a Pickleback. Complete bio here.