by Corin Hirsch
The propane guy showed up yesterday in his grumbling truck to pump gallons of liquid gas into the tank behind the house. The air was muggy, the leaves were still green, and a thunderstorm was brewing in the distance. But we both know what's coming — and it ain't more summer.
The season of autumn things is upon us: Fuzzy sweaters. Pumpkin beers. Early fires. Propane guys (!). And deep, dark mocha, the precursor to the hot chocolates of winter.
This summer, Christian Stromberg, the Saxtons River producer of Sapling Liqueur, came out with a bracing new spirit: a coffee liqueur called Perc. Stromberg cold-brews Arabica beans, then infuses the result into 60-proof liquor, sweetening it at the end. The result taste like sugared-up black coffee with a kick.
Vermont also gained two new maple creme liqueurs this year: Metcalfe's Vermont Maple Cream Liqueur — which sells briskly at the store where I pick up spirits — and Vermont Ice Maple Crème, from Boyden Valley. Metcalfe's version is light-bodied and nutty, but also slightly higher in alcohol than Boyden's version, which has more of a complex, Calvados-like note from the apples used in the blend. Together, the two products will likely dent in-state sales of Bailey's Irish Cream — both are far superior.
So how to marry these spirits together? In a mug of mocha. Coffee liqueur in coffee might seem like overkill, but Perc helps sweeten an otherwise astringent cup of java, while a dose of maple creme liquor adds silkiness. Make sure the coffee you start with is really, really hot, as the liquor and milk will rapidly bring down its temperature. I used Tonewood maple flakes instead of sugar to make my whipped cream — but a spoonful of maple syrup will do the same trick.
Spiked Maple Mocha
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 to 1 cup of strong coffee
1 teaspoon light cream or milk
1 ounce Perc coffee liquor (Kahlua is a passable substitute — barely)
1 ounce maple creme liqueur, such as Metcalfe's or Vermont Ice (Alternatively, use 1 ounce Bailey's plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup.)
Hand-whipped maple cream (or Cabot preprepared whipped cream)
Dump chocolate powder into a mug, then fill it three-quarters of the way full with strong coffee. Stir to dissolve. Add teaspoon of milk and spirits, and stir again. Spoon fresh whipped cream onto the top, sprinkle with cocoa powder, and serve.