The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
In the dead of winter, rich, sweet drinks are appealing -- preferably those that call to mind warming climes and long sunny days. You can't go wrong with Kahlúa. It's very easy to make on your own, and the homemade stuff is much better than most store-bought coffee liqueurs.
Coffee liqueur is typically vodka-based while Kahlúa is rum-based. Rum is a natural when it's paired with sugar and spice. Whether you choose rum or vodka, get something over-proofed so the finished product still has a respectable alcohol content.
The main advantage of making your own Kahlúa is that you get to pick which kind of coffee to use. The commercial stuff usually has coffee flavoring with caramel color added. We used Mexican coffee beans from Oaxaca, locally roasted by La Cosecha in Maplewood.
Brew up a double-strength batch of coffee (750 ml) and add two cups each of brown sugar and raw sugar while the coffee is still hot. Let it cool. Mix the sweetened coffee with 750 ml of over-proof rum (we used Plantation Original dark, which is 73 percent alcohol). Add a cinnamon stick and a vanilla bean; slit open to maximize flavor.
Let it sit for about two weeks, then filter it through a cheesecloth. It's ready to enjoy sipped neat or to be used in your favorite cocktails or desserts.
With your new homemade Khalúa, try this tasty vegan take on the classic white Russian: Combine an ounce each of Kahlúa, vodka and coconut milk in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain it into a chilled glass. It's great served up or over a large ice cube.
We're calling it the "Dude Abides" after The Big Lebowski's white-Russian-sipping hero. It's a drink you can take comfort in. You'll feel as warm and as content as if you had bowled a few frames with the Dude himself.