At the end of the day, the coffee pour-over, used in the morning, may seem like the least useful piece of equipment in your kitchen. This third-wave funnel, whether it’s made by Chemex or Blue Bottle, is designed for brewing coffee by hand (if you’re the type of enthusiast with time on their hands), but a handful of party planners aren’t stopping with coffee: They’re repurposing the pour-over method for pour-over cocktails instead.
Inspired by hip cafes, creative minds behind high-style events have personalized the method, using the basic pour-over technique to dazzle guests with craft cocktails which change colors mid-pour, or infuse gin or whiskey with flavors you might not typically get from a cocktail shaker (like floral tea). We spoke to a few of these beverage directors to see just how entertaining this cocktail hack can get at their imaginative events — and a few tips for how you can bring the party home.
It’s a Pretty, Easy Party Trick
At Canard, an NYC-based catering boutique with a flair for presentation, planners use the pour-over method to elevate the classic, stagnant punch-bowl. For their signature Spiced Bourbon Cider cocktail, mixologists batch the bulk of the cocktail before guests arrive, mixing all of the liquids (bourbon, cider, lemon juice, and honey simply syrup) and storing it in pitchers. Once it’s ordered, the mixologists place a pour-over on top of a glass, and then pour the batch over a blend of dried mulling spices. It provides guests with a showy presentation as they watch their drink made not in a cocktail shaker, but with a pour-over.
“Our pour-over cocktail is an exciting and easy way to elevate the look of a bar and serve delicious drinks to our guests. When people see the setup, they are always curious, and always want to try the cocktail. The apparatus is easy to put together and most of the materials needed can be found at a local hardware store. We purchased two small blocks of wood as the base, some copper pipes and casings to hold the tea drippers up, standard coffee filters, and a few glass coffee drippers. We were inspired by the craze around small-batch, slow drip coffee systems that have been taking over coffee shops around the country and turned it into something that can be used for serving cocktails.” – Lisa Torswick, Canard
Line Them Up
It can be easy, or over-the-top: Twist by Pinch Food Design, another NYC catering innovator, crafted its own two-tiered pour-over station, a sleek unit made of maple wood and brass which, despite the crafty design, is their way special way to make cocktails faster—if you line up a handful of pour-overs, you can pour multiple drinks at the same time.
“The recent pour-over coffee trend inspired us to apply this method to craft cocktails. Designed for pouring multiple drinks at once, 10 glass funnels sit atop a two-tiered maple and brass shelving unit. This creates a beautiful visual aesthetic and also allows for a quick and efficient service.” – TJ Girard, Twist
Tea Up Your Spirits
At home, the pour-over method is an easy way to flavor spirits with your favorite herbal and floral teas— delicate flavors that don’t need the aggressive cocktail shaker, and whose dried leaves need to be caught in a filter (so they don’t end up in the drink itself).
“Each drink is made by combining the ingredients into a glass or pitcher then pouring it over the tea blend and strained through a filter. The flavor combinations are endless, and it gives a very creative and inspired look to your at-home bar and will surely leave an impact on your guests.” – Lisa Torwick, Canard
Clear liquors taste delicious, but clear liquors look clear. Unless you’re sick of millennial pink, you can make spirits blush with just a flick of the wrist. At Twist, TJ Girard makes clear liquids—like gin, vodka, or blanco tequila—pop with a blend of tea that incorporates dried hibiscus flowers, which gives the spirits a vibrant pink tinge, plus floral notes. “Absorbing flavors and colors, the cocktail changes before the guests’ eyes,” says Girard. To drink pink, here’s Twist’s recipe for their Hibiscus Cocktail (Tip: If you’re truly tired of pink, blue will do, too):
Dried hibiscus flowers
Agua de jamaica
Spice Your Own Spirits — Straight Up
Cocktails always mix up your spirits, but if drinking gin straight strikes your fancy, a subtle pour-over can spice it up. Jeremy Allen, the mixologist at L.A.’s MiniBar, fiddles with spice to flavor even the most straightforward spirits. Give your gin a kick of ginger, or make whiskey extra seasonal with a hint of coriander. You can make it in advance and serve your signature spirit straight to guests on the rocks, or bottle it up and wrap a bow around it as a gift—better yet, keep it for yourself.
“Making things that taste good at home is always trial and error, but that’s also what’s fun about it. Using a pour-over to make your own flavored spirits is exciting because you can taste your ideas almost instantly. Two of my recent homemade booze ideas were inspired by fancy soaps at a gift shop: clementine & clove and cardamom & coffee. Hit up the spice rack, add a fruit component and pick a booze for the base. Hint: early grey goes with everything, and chamomile goes great with tequila.” – Jeremy Allen, MiniBar
Just For Show
At the West Village’s Slowly Shirley, a Tahitian Coffee cocktail is served in a glass—but not the glass you might expect. Here, style holds substance, as their Tiki-style drink is served inside a Chemex coffeemaker. The pour-over isn’t intended as a drinking glass, let alone a cocktail glass, but its clean lines make for a rather attractive look.
“The Chemex was chosen for the Tahitian Coffee, because of the coffee element in the cocktail. It is also a unique serving vessel for a cocktail, and, with its wooden collar and leather tie, also has sort of a rustic, Polynesian look to it that I’ve always thought lent itself well to a Tiki-style cocktail,” – Jim Kearns, Slowly Shirley
Recipe by Jeremy Allen, MiniBar Hollywood
2 cups brandy
2 bottles dry white wine
2 tbsp cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves star anise
1/3 cup dry rose petals
Slicing lengthwise, halve clementines. Press each half with a wooden spoon to slightly mash the fruit.
Combine the mashed clementines, brandy, and white wine in a saucepan over medium heat (keep a lid handy in case you need to extinguish a flame; even wine vapor can catch fire, so be extremely careful heating or cooking anything with a proof in it).
While the spirit is warming, prep the pour-over. In a coffee or spice grinder, coarsely grind the cloves, cinnamon stick, and star anise in separate batches. Combine the ground spices with dried rose petals, and fill a coffee filter with the mixture.
Once the spirit hits a near boil (or you can see the first smoke coming off it), you are ready to pour over. Be patient and pour gently, little by little.
Tip: “Use the clementine-clove spirit like you would a vermouth in a martini, or a dry Manhattan/ Rob Roy, or try it in a version of a Pegu Club with Singani or Pisco instead of gin.” – Jeremy Allen
Spiced Bourbon Cider
Recipe by Canard Inc.
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. cider
.5 oz. lemon juice
.5 oz. honey simple syrup
: Combine liquids and pour over mulling spices into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a dehydrated apple slice.
Learn to love your inbox again by signing up for Domino’s daily email.