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Move over, espresso martini — This whiskey-based coffee cocktail is so much better

Espresso martini alternatives: Meet the revolver cocktail

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If you’re a fan of coffee-based cocktails, you probably get your caffeine fix from an Espresso Martini or a classic Irish Coffee. And while these drinks are all well and good, there’s another coffee-based cocktail you need to add to your boozy, energetic rotation. It’s called the Revolver, and instead of vodka or Irish whiskey, it gets its alcohol base from the use of good ‘ol American bourbon whiskey (or rye whiskey if you need a little extra, peppery spice in your life).

The simple, elegant, caffeinated cocktail is made with whiskey (bourbon or rye whiskey). Coffee liqueur, orange bitters, and, for a little flair, a flamed orange peel. Not only is it flavorful with a nice mixture of whiskey sweetness (or spice if you decide to go the rye whiskey route), citrus, and bold, robust coffee, but it’s also surprisingly easy to make.

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The invention of the Revolver

This contemporary cocktail just celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, so if you’ve never tried it, now is the time. This coffee-based twist on the traditional Manhattan was first conceived by bartender Jon Santer at San Francisco’s Bruno in 2003 before taking the drink with him to the well-known cocktail bar Bourbon & Branch.

Revolver Cocktail
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The Revolver Cocktail

While you can make this drink with any bourbon or rye whiskey you prefer, the original recipe called for Bulleit Bourbon with its high-rye mash bill. By the late aughts, the drink had begun to gain notoriety and acclaim and was beginning to be seen on cocktail menus all over the world.

What do you need to make the Revolver

  • 2 ounces of bourbon (or rye whiskey)
  • .5 ounces of coffee liqueur
  • 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Flamed orange peel

The steps needed to make this drink

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add bourbon (or rye whiskey), coffee liqueur, and orange bitters to the ice-filled mixing glass.
  3. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  4. Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Flame an orange on top of the drink.
  6. Express the orange oils around the rim of the drink.
  7. Garnish with the orange peel.
  8. Enjoy this complex, yet easy-to-make cocktail.
Whiskey bottles
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Pick the right whiskey for you

The key when making a drink like the Revolver is making sure the drink’s base fits your unique palate. While the original recipe called for a high-rye bourbon, that doesn’t mean you have to use one. If you prefer a soft, wheated bourbon, use that as the base. A bold, cask-strength bourbon? Go ahead. You won’t find any judgment here. And if you prefer a spicy, earthy, herbal, peppery rye, you do you. Experimentation is great when it comes to cocktailing. The most important rule for enjoying a cocktail is to have fun.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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