How do you take your coffee – with sugar or almond milk? What about long, with ice and bubbles and a scented grapefruit twist? Because the coffee highball (both alcoholic and non) is trending in coffee shops and cocktail bars on both sides of the Atlantic: a kind of easy-drinking hybrid of the Espresso Martini, the functional drink and the spritz.

It started, they say, in Australia, with the “turbo tonic” or “sparky”: craft cold brew with a splash of tonic water or club soda and a zap of citrus. Bittersweet, tart, roasty-rich but effervescent, it’s a power-clash of flavours and tastes.

Blank Street Coffee is now serving a Grapefruit Cold Brew spritz, a blend of cold brew, grapefruit juice, club soda and vanilla-bean syrup. At the inventive Spro Coffee Lab in San Francisco, meanwhile, you can order a whole range of zero-proof coffee cocktails including a Cold Fashioned, a “sangria” and a Cool Hunter highball of coffee, soda, grapefruit and elderflower, topped with edible flowers.

Blank Street Coffee’s Grapefruit Cold Brew Spritz
Blank Street Coffee’s Grapefruit Cold Brew Spritz

For a hard twist on the trend, simply add a dash of class-A coffee liqueur. At Allegory in Washington, DC, they serve the aficionado’s favourite, Mr Black, with cold brew, Q Tonic and grapefruit oil. “It’s light, refreshing and low abv but still gets the engine revving,” says bar director Deke Dunne. At New York’s Double Chicken Please, Gen Zers have been queueing round the block for the bar’s “taptails” on draught, which include a creamy-headed highball of coffee, citrus brandy, shiso and yuzu juice.  

Bartenders have also been using coffee liqueur to bring a darker edge to Italian aperitivi. At the Hoxton Hotel’s new outpost in Brussels, they’ve amped the traditional Americano (red vermouth, Campari, soda) with Mr Black and coffee-bean-infused Campari. “The drink highlights the bright orange notes and chocolate flavours found in the Caturra bean we use,” says its creator Gareth Evans.

Cocktails made with Mr Black liqueur
Cocktails made with Mr Black liqueur © Guy Davies

Gleneagles hotel in the Scottish Highlands relaunched its American Bar with a menu themed around berries (of which the coffee cherry is one). And one of its signature drinks is a whisky highball infused with coffee grounds. “They are one of our biggest waste products, so we’re repurposing them for their earthy, chocolate tones and woody flavour,” says head of bars Michele Mariotti. The grounds are soaked in Perthshire birch water and sandalwood for 48 hours to make a cold brew that is then carbonated. “To this we add Talisker Port Ruighe – a port-finished fruity whisky – and a dash of demerara syrup.” 

So go get your caffeine fix – but make sure it’s fizzy and tall. 

Four of the best coffee liqueurs

Mr Black coffee liqueur

Mr Black

Made in Sydney at the brand’s own roastery and distillery, this is coffee liqueur for connoisseurs. A limited-edition collab with Oz’s Starward whisky distillery drops in the UK this month. £30 for 700ml,

Luxardo Espresso liqueur

Luxardo Espresso

A fine new launch from the famous Italian liqueur producer – rich and chocolatey, with roasty coffee bean notes and a subtle minty lift on the finish. Great in an aperitivo or an Espresso Martini. £23.25 for 700ml,

Lyre’s Coffee Originale

Lyre’s Coffee Originale

A smart sub for Kahlua from the company that’s fast becoming the go-to for non-alcoholic liqueurs. £23.50 for 700ml,

Ojo de Dios Mezcal Odd Cafe

Ojo de Dios Mezcal Odd Cafe

This softly smoky, slightly mineral blend of mezcal and coffee is made with Arabica beans that are grown and roasted by a single-family estate in the Oaxaca mountains. Nice sipping. £40.80 for 700ml,


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