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Uppers and Downers

Uppers & Downers — Warming up with an Irish Coffee Competition

You've probably already got your ticket to our second annual coffee beer festival (we're almost sold out), but that doesn't mean we're done surprising you. This year Uppers & Downers is branching out with some killer talent and delicious offerings—two sessions, tons of new brewer and roaster collaborations, chefs, educational sessions, and more. To top it all off, we decided to get fancy with an Irish Coffee Competition with some of Chicago's best bartenders and mixologists together at The Tack Room underneath Thalia Hall. 

Starting with a tasty foundation of Teeling Whiskey and an Intelligentsia Bolivian coffee, each competitor was given free reign to experiment with the traditional cocktail, and wow the judges with their presentation, flavors, and overall affect. Eyes twinkled. Drinks were drank. Games were raised. 

The simple syrup is the first clear path to differentiation. And the cream—some were firm, others puffed like a cloud, many were infused. Still others went cold instead of hot, sprinkled spices and nuts (like silver-coated cardamom planed over the head), and plenty introduced new ingredients like Surly Coffee Bender, peanut butter, or roses to achieve uncommon aromatic and flavorful results. 

Graham Heubach Sportsman’s Club
Laura Kelton Sportsman’s Club
Charlie Schott ­Parson’s Chicken & Fish
Mony Bunni ­Queen Mary
Bob Begandy ­Dusek’s Board & Beer
Clint Rogers ­Beacon Tavern
Dianna Sanders ­The Promontory
Carlos Matias Band of Bohemia
Gary Matthews Drumbar
Kristina Magro Pub Royale
Richard Birdsong The Duck Inn

The judges, including myself and Lindsay Tyler of GBH, world barista champion Stephen Morrissey, and Imbibe Magazine digital editor Emma Jantzen, had the unfortunate-but-literally-rewarding task of having to pick three favorites to finish the night. These are those winners, and their winnings, which included cash, the invitation to pour at the main event this Saturday, and prized Thalia Hall snowglobes. 

Boatman's Call: Roger Landes (mfk)
Teeling Irish Whiskey, Intelligentsia Coffee, Orgeat, Black Cane Syrup, Curaçao, Mascarpone

1 oz Teeling
2oz coffee
1/2 Orgeat
1/4 black cane syrup
1/4 Orange Curaçao
Mascarpone whipped cream

Fluttered Goodbye: Carlos Matias (Band of Bohemia)
Teeling Irish Whiskey, Intelligentsia Coffee, Orange-Cocoa Nib Syrup,  Vanilla-Cardamom Whip, Hazelnuts, Orange Zest

1.5 oz Teeling Irish whiskey
1 oz cocoa nib-orange syrup
Fill with Intelligentsia coffee, top with toasted green cardamom-vanilla bean whip
Finish by grating candied hazelnuts over the whip, along with a sprinkle of candied orange dust

Pillow Talk: Laura Kelton (Sportsman's Club)
Teeling Irish Whiskey, Intelligentsia Coffee, Roasted Banana Syrup, Ancho Reyes, Creme de Cacao, Malted Milk Cream

1.5 oz Teeling Irish Whiskey
1 oz Roasted Banana Syrup
.25 oz Ancho Reyes
.25 oz Creme de Cacao

Build in a heated glass mug
Top with coffee
Float malted milk cream

Thank you to all the participants, Teeling Whiskey, Intelligentsia Coffee, Tack Room, and our judges for a fantastic night. Onward to Uppers & Downers! 


Words + photos by Michael Kiser