Drinking coffee in the morning is quite common. For some people, it might even be an essential part of the morning, one that helps to kickstart the brain and get one ready for a hard day’s work. Cocktails, on the other hand, are commonly drunk later in the day, usually after working hours.
But what about coffee cocktails? When exactly is a good time to drink one? Well, at new cafe + cocktail bar Happy Stan, the answer is: any time of the day.
“I think the best time to have one is when you are craving for one! In South-East Asia, we tend to drink coffee or tea, and eat ice cream anytime, even at midnight!” said Karl Too, co-founder of Happy Stan.
“Jokes aside, coffee cocktails can be low caffeine or even taste like coffee but without caffeine. Cocktails can be sophisticated, delicious and low ABV at the same time. So I would like to believe Malaysians are ready to drink cocktails in the day time, as long as you drink moderately.”
The brainchild of coffee specialists VCR and Too (who is also the co-founder of pioneering KL cocktail bar Omakase + Appreciate), Happy Stan has a menu that is sure to delight both coffee AND cocktail lovers alike.
Located at Republik at Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, the cafe/bar is named after legendary international travel writer Stanton Delaplane, who was instrumental in bringing the Irish Coffee cocktail over to the United States, and popularising it there.
The idea for Happy Stan came about because Too is a big fan of coffee himself.
“I think coffee is really amazing as a ingredient. The inspiration and creativity I can get from coffee and spirits is endless. Coffee can be very versatile in terms of flavour combinations in different styles of drink, even when it comes to to the coffee or caffeine, ” he said.
Being a coffee and cocktail lover as well, I was naturally quite keen to try the drinks at Happy Stan. In an interview with coffee cocktails specialist Martin Hudák last year, I was told that the most important component of a coffee cocktail is the coffee, as the quality of the coffee determines the quality of the drink itself.
Fortunately, VCR is one of the most well-known coffee specialists in the region, so all Too has to worry about is getting the right mix for his cocktails.
One thing I liked about Too’s menu is that he doesn’t just stick to the usual suspects like Irish coffee and espresso martinis in there, but also gives them a unique twist that somehow enhances the drink.
Case in point, the Irish Coffee is on the menu as well, but with a more decadent twist. The Cold Irish Coffee is made using Teeling single malt whiskey, with cold filtered coffee replacing the usual brewed coffee, and instead of sugar syrup, Too uses honey and muscavado as a sweetener, topping it with a dollop of double cream. The result is a smooth, rich and sensual coffee cocktail that takes the humble Irish coffee to another level.
The cocktail menu at Happy Stan is divided into several categories. Aperetivo Moment consists of low ABV cocktails that are best enjoyed as an aperitif before dinner, while the Coffee Cocktails category is meant to showcase the versatility of coffee in cocktails, Too explained.
Another interesting category is the Classic Cocktails Crossover, which Too says are like mash-ups of classic cocktails.
“You will get two classic cocktail flavour profiles in one glass. Think Manhattan and Negroni... and enhanced with coffee liqueur, ” said Too.
In case you’re interested in trying coffee cocktails but are not keen on having an alcoholic drink, Happy Stan also has a menu of non-alcoholic cocktails, which use the non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip as a base spirit.
One of the main ingredients in many of the coffee cocktails on the menu is something called Mr Black, which also helps to set these drinks apart from ordinary coffee cocktails.
Made in Australia, Mr Black is a brand of coffee liqueur that blends high-quality Arabica coffees with Australian wheat vodka, and boasts half the sugar content and “ten times the coffee of old- world liqueurs”.
To get the full extent of just how, err, coffee-y the liqueur is, we tried the spirit neat. On the nose, it had the rich, bittersweet notes of a cold brewed coffee, with hints of dark chocolate, which follows through on the entry and then coats your mouth with a luxurious and silky smooth, coffee/chocolate richness.
Compared to the more mainstream coffee liqueurs in the market, this was definitely miles ahead.
One of the simplest but best ways to get a taste of the liqueur is with the Happy Black Tonic, which mixes Mr Black coffee liqueur with the London Essence Co. classic tonic. Think of it as a refreshing twist on the gin and tonic, but with coffee instead of juniper.
There’s also the Nitro Espresso Martini (Belvedere vodka, Mr Black coffee liqueur, Chapada de Minas cold brew coffee, and Muscovado), which is actually served on tap! And while we’re on the subject of taps, another cocktail that is served this way is the Noir Cha, which mixes another Mr Black product, the Coffee Amaro, with genmaicha tea, nutmeg and citric.
Ultimately, Too hopes that Happy Stan will be able to pave the way for further cooperation between bartenders and baristas.
“When I go into a business venture, I try as much as possible to contribute back to the industry, so I hope this concept can be a a platform to encourage baristas and bartenders to learn from one another, explore ways to collaborate, and also appreciate each others’ professions, ” he said.
For more information, visit Happy Stan's Facebook page.
Michael Cheang usually takes his coffee with milk, but prefers it black in a cocktail. Contact him at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram (@MyTipsyTurvy) or Twitter (@MichaelCheang).
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