October 5, 2015

Java & Brioche

Coffee and bread, you ask? Is this not a cocktail blog? Indeed it is - and todays cocktail is inspired by a late 1800’s early 1900's hangover cure from a cafe in Copenhagen involving coffee and bread.

Café Bernina was a popular hangout for young intellectuals from about 1880 until the 1920’s. At it’s height it was owned and run by two Swiss brothers named Tönjachen but always called Cognacsen (well it's funny in Danish).

Bernina's specialty was a punch called the devils punch made from 17 different types of booze. After a night of drinking the devils punch with people like the Norwegian Knut Hamsun or the Swedish August Strindberg you needed help to get you going the next morning. Bernina had a cure.

Some guests had ham and eggs on rye bread others had brioche and java - bread and coffee - which has always been the way most Danes eat breakfast.

One of the young intellectuals was the Danish author Gustav Wied. He once wrote a short story called Spader Es (sorry in Danish) meaning Ace of Spades -  set at Bernina.

In this story a man orders an Absinthe au Lait as if every cafe in Copenhagen would know that particular drink. And then he goes on to explain that absinthe mixed with milk makes him very mellow and friendly whereas absinthe neat or mixed with water makes him bitter and antagonistic.

So I looked it up - all of google has only references to this particular short story - Absinthe au Lait does not exist in the real world.

So I decided to make it exist - and to work in the brioche and java too (Ham and eggs would have been a step too far, don't you think)

It turns out that the Dutch (not to be confused with the Danish although our languages are equally difficult to understand) have a tradition for drinking warm milk with an anis tablets or blocks dissolved in it.

And back when Bernina existed and the intellectuals had ham and eggs or brioche and java for breakfast in the less affluent parts of Copenhagen workers started their day with a Milk Toddy - warm - or cold - milk and a shot of aquavit. (One such establishment can be seen in the picture at the end of the post)

So it all comes full circle with Java & Brioche:
  • 2 cl absinthe - I used Artemisia's Butterfly 65%
  • 2 dl milk - I used organic full milk
  • half a small brioche bun - I baked my own you can too
  • 1 teaspoon ground java
Start by steeping the brioche and java in the milk for at least a couple of hours in the fridge, then strain and strain and strain until all or most of the coffee and the bread is out of milk.

Pour the absinthe into the bottom of a glass capable of handling a bit of heat and then either steam the milk with an espresso milk frother or gently heat it in a sauce pan but do not bring it too close to boiling - it should only be hot.

Pour milk into absinthe and stir and then garnish with a coffee bean it your drink has a frothy head.

How does it taste you ask? Interesting is the polite word but it actually grew on me as I drank it and I could see it work for a late winter brunch with ham and eggs after a long walk on the beach.

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