American Whiskey magazine
For more than a decade, the owner and operator of The Flatiron Room and Fine & Rare, Tommy Tardie, has provided a spirits-focused approach to his New York City restaurants with some of the country’s largest selections of whiskey and spirits.
After he was inspired by the commonality between fine spirits and quality coffee, noticing the way in which fans enjoy savoring the experience of each note and layer of their drink, Tardie decided to create a coffee with a whiskey drinker in mind.
The resulting product is The Morning Dram, a new line of barrel-aged coffee that launched in time for the 2021 holiday season and ensured that January’s cold mornings got off to a much brighter start. The launch products include Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee, Rye Barrel Aged Coffee, Apera Sherry Barrel Aged Coffee, and House Blend No. 1; with options such as a subscription box, starter kit, and The Morning Dram merchandise available for purchase exclusively at www.TheMorningDram.com. The Morning Dram is also served at Tardie’s New York landmark establishment Fine & Rare.
We sat down with Tardie to find out more about the process of creation and his plans for the future of The Morning Dram.
Phoebe Calver (PC): Firstly, how did you come up with this idea?
Tommy Tardie (TT): When the pandemic temporarily closed both of my restaurants, I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands. I wanted a project to work on that would be enjoyable while also providing a nice distraction from the status of the hospitality scene. I’ve always loved coffee... even more than I do a nice dram of whiskey. I thought it would be interesting to combine two things I really enjoy: coffee and spirits. The Morning Dram developed from there.
PC: What kind of research and testing did you have to do during the process of creation?
TT: When I first got the idea for The Morning Dram, I set out to make a barrel-aged coffee I would want to savor. I happened to have a few ex-Bourbon casks from a barrel pick and after some research, I bought coffee beans and a small roaster to test with. After a bit of experimenting, I realized I had developed an exceptional coffee that I could appreciate like a fine dram of whiskey in the evening. It’s for that very reason that I created the tagline, “It’s 8am somewhere”.
I wanted to create more varieties, so I found an experienced coffee roaster that understood my concept and knew how to develop the flavor profiles I was looking for. We tested the beans in smaller batches to ensure they worked harmoniously with the flavors of each barrel. From there, we developed four different varieties: Bourbon Barrel Aged, Rye Barrel Aged, Arpera Barrel Aged and our House Blend No. 1, which is our only coffee that is not barrel aged.
PC: How long did that take?
TT: Over the course of a year I developed many different test roasts until I had a finished product I was satisfied with. I’m a purist and take my morning brew black, so coffee that I’d put my name behind must be balanced, smooth, and complex – a coffee that you can drink slowly and appreciate on its own, like a fine spirit. With The Morning Dram, you can taste the difference in the quality with each sip.
PC: Are the barrels used from local distilleries, or did you look further afield?
TT: We utilize newly emptied barrels from some of my favorite distilleries.
PC: How did you decide which distillery barrels you wanted to use?
TT: Quality for me is key, so I relied on barrels from exceptional distilleries that I know and trust to create each coffee.
PC: And leading on from that, how did you decided on the beans you wanted to use?
TT: We carefully considered the notes of each coffee bean to see which would complement each type of barrel best. We use high-quality beans from Honduras, Colombia, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Guatemala to ensure we produce an exceptional coffee.
PC: What impact would you say the barrels have had on the flavor profile of the coffee and how does it vary?
TT: Each coffee variety has distinct flavor profiles, which is a result of the barrels and the spirits they once contained. The Morning Dram contains no artificial flavorings, additives, or alcohol – just exceptionally good coffee beans combined with the natural flavors of the cask. The tasting notes of each coffee are as follows:
Bourbon Barrel Aged: Honduras
• Caramel corn, vanilla fudge, toasted marshmallow, sweet Bourbon
Rye Barrel Aged: Colombia & Mexico
• Milk chocolate, orange zest, ginger candy, cinnamon toast, sweet oak
Apera Sherry Barrel Aged: Guatemala
• Cherries dipped in milk chocolate, brazil nuts, figs, strawberry preserves
House Blend No. 1
- Our only blend that is not barrel aged
• Rich cocoa, chocolate-covered apricot, mixed berries, butterscotch
The freshness of the barrel and the moisture content also play a major role in the flavor it imparts in the beans. Since each barrel is so unique, it requires frequent test roasts to determine the perfect amount of time needed to age each blend. I use my own intuition and familiarity with spirits to determine the best time to pull the beans.
PC: What has been the reaction so far?
TT: So far, the response has been fantastic! Coffee, much like spirits, is a very personal preference and initially I focused on crafting a cup of coffee that would appeal to my palate. However, after much testing I was confident that others would enjoy it too, so I sent samples to some colleagues that I admire in the whiskey industry. I received nothing but amazing feedback, and that’s when I knew...
PC: What are your hopes for The Morning Dram moving forward?
TT: I hope that The Morning Dram will become the go-to brew for people who love coffee and appreciate the finer aspects of what they consume. Those that take pride in the spirits they drink and those that take time to savor each note and layer. For me, that’s the ultimate compliment. I also hope to expand the line... I have already been experimenting with new types of casks and single-origin coffees – more to come!