“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat.” — Alex Levine, Irish actor and musician
There’s something utterly meditative about a properly made Irish coffee served in a clear glass. Initially, there’s the dichotomy of the pale whipped cream and the deep brown coffee. Soon, the bottom layer of the cream started to filter down in wavering strands, lightening the coffee to the color of a warm praline. On a sip, there’s first the silken touch of the cream, then the warmth of the coffee followed by the bracing strength of Irish whiskey. It’s a balm and one of the most perfect, simple drinks ever invented.
Mike Sammons is one of the owners of Mongoose vs Cobra and he says a kind stranger once provided this comfort to him as a young man. Now, he seeks to establish an Irish coffee service at the bar.
Sammons had his first Irish coffee when he about to catch a flight back to the United States after living in Europe for three years. He had only five dollars left when he went to the airport in Dublin. When he arrived, his flight was delayed, everything was closed and he couldn’t afford a hotel. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to find a place to sleep,’ and I snuck into this closed bar and went to sleep in a booth,’ he said.
When he woke up the next morning, a bartender had arrived to open the bar for the day’s business. “Can I get you something?” called the bartender. The groggy Sammons asked for coffee. “Irish coffee?” asked the bartender. Sammons assumed it was just coffee roasted in Ireland. “Sure,” he replied.
The kindly bartender didn’t even charge the young man, who obviously didn’t have much money and just needed a place to sleep. “It’s a lasting memory,” said Sammons. “When I think on it, I feel like a kid again. Everyone on that trip had been extremely nice and generous. I am sort of this sentimental guy and I get nostalgic about things. I try to not do that so much anymore, and look to the future instead of the past. But I can’t escape some memories.”
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Good memories shouldn’t be escaped, though. Sammons is channeling his experience into a new Irish coffee program at Mongoose vs Cobra. From 4 to 6 p.m. on every day except Sundays, he plans to make every glass himself. (On Sundays, head bartender Andy Charlton will likely take care of the Irish coffee service.) “I whip the cream myself, I make the coffee myself. There are no shortcuts. I’m just trying to make an honest drink,” said Sammons. Mongoose vs Cobra uses beans from local roaster Amaya Coffee.
Soon, Mongoose vs Cobra will offer iced Irish coffee on nitro, which will be perfect for summer. Aerating the coffee with nitrogen will give it a smooth, creamy character.
Sammons hopes people will take the opportunity to just stop and catch a moment for themselves. The caffeine provides a second wind to get through the rest of the evening, while the whiskey calms the nerves. “I think we’re missing that culture in Houston,” he said. “I know it won’t change the world, but it might make a difference for a couple of people. This town is a place to work, and sometimes it’s good to just hang out for a while.”
The cost of the coffee and whiskey therapy is only $5 per glass from 4 to 6 p.m.