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Spirit of the Month: Ampersand Coffee Liqueur

Skip the Kahlúa and go for this Old Harbor all-star


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If your goal is to have a well-stocked home bar, you’ll need a good coffee liqueur. While Kahlúa’s an obvious go-to—and sure, it makes a good white Russian—there are better options from small distilleries, including San Diego’s Old Harbor. I was reminded of how much I like their Ampersand coffee liqueur when I was interviewing distiller Blake Heffernan a few weeks ago. I asked him his favorite Old Harbor spirit, and he said, “Ampersand on the rocks.”

Launched in 2016, Ampersand is a collaboration between Old Harbor and San Diego’s Coffee & Tea Collective. It combines cold-brew coffee and Old Harbor’s Barrelflag Navy Strength Rum. Usually, rum is proofed down with water, but for Ampersand, it’s proofed down with cold brew.

“We then make a simple syrup with the same sugarcane used to make the rum,” says Jade Boyd, brand manager at Old Harbor. “So you get depth from the rum, coffee from cold brew, and a slight sweetness from cane sugar.” (Boyd will be guest bartending tonight, February 11, at Amplified Ale Works, making Old Harbor cocktails from 7 to 11 p.m.)

You can find Ampersand at a lot of places, including Chip’s Liquor on Garnet Avenue, The Market Place on Fifth Avenue (a good sandwich spot, too), and Base Liquor at 3201 National Avenue.

As for what to do with it, replace Kahlúa with Ampersand for a less-cloying white Russian. Or, instead of dessert at your next dinner party, mix Ampersand with vanilla cream, cold-brew coffee, and sarsaparilla bitters for a boozy milkshake. For something tasty and simple, mix two ounces of Ampersand with two ounces of milk. Or, try this twist on an old-fashioned:

 

1.5 ounces bourbon
0.5 ounce Ampersand
2–3 dashes orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice; stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with an orange peel.

 

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