Most of the time, dumping a mini bottle of Irish whiskey or vodka into your morning coffee probably isn't a the healthiest idea. But there are days when a well-crafted eye-opener may just be the thing you need to get you up and running. And in this age of adventurous craft cocktails, why not have a little fun with it? So we went down to our local package store to pick up some single-serve mini-bottles, then stopped by Starbucks for coffee and more. We're mighty pleased by the results of what we're calling the Starbucks Singles Program — so much so that we can't wait to try this again in the fall for pumpkin, peppermint and egg nog season. Here are a few of our favorite combos, but feel free to experiment on your own. Your results may vary, especially after more than one or two of these. — Jay Cridlin firstname.lastname@example.org
The coffee: Medium Roast
The kick: Mr. Stacks Butterscotch
For our control, we sampled a handful of spirits with a standard cup of Starbucks coffee. First we tried Jameson Irish Whiskey, which was pretty hardcore; it could use a dollop of whipped cream to soften it up a bit. Frangelico gave it a dry, nutty finish. Our favorite was Mr. Stacks Butterscotch liqueur, which sweetened up the drink without the use of sugar. If you like your coffee dark, but not too dark, go with this. However, our overall lesson from this taste test was this: If you want to play morning mixologist, embrace Starbucks' lengthy menu of flavored drinks. They bring much more to the table than a simple cup of Pike Place.
The coffee: Caramel Apple Spice
The kick: Early Times Fire Eater
To mix things up a bit, we tried this cider-style drink, which tastes like apple pie. Much like Fireball cinnamon whiskey, Early Times Fire Eater gives it a wonderfully spicy kick, like you're on a naughty apple-cart ride through an orchard on a crisp fall morning. Okay, that's definitely the Early Times talking, but still, this one is pretty delicious.
The Wide-Eyed Russian
The coffee: Iced Vanilla Latte
The kick: Kahlua
Kahlua is such a natural coffee additive that the liqueur maker actually has its own K-cup. It's alcohol-free, but the flavors of rum and vanilla are unmistakable. We chose Starbucks' Iced Vanilla Latte to create something akin to a White Russian, an after-dinner drink that really needs to catch on in the a.m., too. The Kahlua darkens up the otherwise sweet iced concoction. The Dude would most surely abide.
Coffee and Go Nuts
The coffee: Caramel Hazelnut Macchiato
The kick: Bailey's Hazelnut
Another obvious coffee mix-in is Bailey's Irish Cream. We tried the hazelnut-flavored version in Starbucks' Caramel Hazelnut Macchiato, which may have been a mistake — instead of complementing each other, the flavors simply melded together into one hazelnutty grog. Only after dumping the entire bottle into our teeny-tiny grande did we really taste the Bailey's. But they do make other flavors, so feel free to experiment. Bailey's has several coffee recipes on its website, baileys.com.