Sunday, September 8, 2019

High Spirits with Corrected Coffee

It's 8.30pm, pitch black outside, cold enough that I've got an extra blanket on my bed, it's meant to rain tomorrow, and the met office app has updated its cover picture to an autumnal scene. It's time to put the kettle on and pull some ghost stories off the shelf.

I found Robertson Davies 'High Spirits' in a charity shop a year or two ago, came home all excited because I love Davies, and never got round to reading it. I could go as far as to say I'd forgotten all about it (otherwise I would have joined in with the recent Robertson Davies reading week) but it fell on my foot when I pulled out some of the British Library tales of the weird collections earlier looking for just the right book for a Corrected Coffee.

'High Spirits' which promises to mix parody with true scariness and features one story with a haunted bust of Charles Dickens sounds perfect to me, and I'll also put in a word for the Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, or any of Edith Wharton's ghost stories, or E. F. Benson's (because I'm now remembering just how very good he is too).

A corrected coffee (caffè corretto in Italy, carajillo in Spain) would not traditionally be made with vermouth. Grappa, sambucca, brandy, whisky, or anisette would all be more usual but coffee gets on well with all sorts of alcohol. Jack Bevan's suggestion of using a full bodied, sweet, vermouth (he suggests something like Cocchi Vermouth de Torino - which is my current favourite - or Sacred English Spiced Vermouth, which I really want to try) is a winner.

The recipe is simple - a double espresso topped up with vermouth, but there's a lot of fun to be had matching the characteristics of your preferred, or current, beans with your vermouth if you want to take it seriously. You could also pour this over ice cream to make an affogato.

I love a slightly boozy coffee, with the emphasis on slightly, the point of it is to feel self indulgent rather than tipsy. It's a signal that you're settled for the evening as well as being a thoroughly grown up pleasure. This is aromatic, rich, and about as dark as the night outside, so it really is my perfect gothic ghost story companion.


  1. I used to enjoy coffee occasionally but no longer do so; sad state of affairs but it makes me feel very unwell now. My favourite was a cup of milky coffee with a little sugar and a stiff Cognac on a cold Winter morning - or evening.

    1. I can't drink coffee in the morning, and won't drink it to late at night, but somewhere in between is a sweet spot. It's a shame when those small pleasures stop being pleasures.