Raktajino

I am a huge Nerd and an even larger Star Trek Fan. I grew up watching Next Generation and Deep Space Nine with my family, and now that I am an adult I love the Star Trek reboot movies and watching reruns of all the series on Neflix. Yes, I do own a Bajoran earring, have a majority of the Hallmark Star Trek Ornaments, and even have a Next Generation vintage Com Badge from the 90s.

So when I needed to mix up a liquor with a Space theme I turned to my tried and true Star Trek.

Now granted there are tons of Star Trek cookbooks and drinking guides out there; however, I wanted to really due homage to one of my favorite series so I figured I would create my own liquor.

When it comes to Star Trek themed drinks, there really are a plethora of drinks that come out of the replicators and everyone who ever watched NG knows that Captain Picard loves his earl grey tea.

I decided to see if I could do proper homage to the Klingon Raktajino. The way the crew of Deep Space nine drinks down Raktajino you would assume it was just a really strong coffee or chicory based blend, but is actually a blend of coffee and a Klingon liqueur called ra’tajRaktajino is normally served steamed or iced and has even been described as “like drinking an oil slick” but without the tangy aftertaste.

After I decided I wanted to make my own Raktajino I went searching for any reference I could about it, and also went researching the dietary customs of the Klingons…. Needless to say I don’t think I will be eating at any Klingon restaurants anytime soon.

There were a few elements I know I wanted to include in my Raktajino liquor. I wanted it strong alcohol wise, a very strong coffee flavor, salty/smoke elements, non-bitter, not-cloying or sweet, and STRONG.

I started with the coffee. When incorporating coffee into any beverage you will want to use the best coffee possible. If you use cheap coffee you will get a cheap light flavor, and coffee that has a burnt or over-processed flavor will make your drinks taste burnt. If you use instant coffee your brew will be done quicker but will taste just as bad as instant coffee.

Since I wanted to create the best coffee liquor I could, I started with the best coffee there is- Rising Star CoffeeRising Star Coffee is a Cleveland based coffee roasters whose coffee is so fresh and non-bitter it is the only coffee I can drink without cream and sugar.

I used a cold press process using vodka. That’s right, I cold pressed using straight vodka- how’s that for strong?  I left the rough ground coffee beans (1lb per 1.75 ml of vodka) sit for 3 days to extract as much of the coffee oils and flavors as possible. While that was sitting I took 1 cup of dark molasses and thinned it with 1 cup vodka and 1 tsp of smoked salt.

This is where the previous Star Trek research came in handy- a majority of Klingon food comes from the equivalent of a salt based environment- Racht, krada legs, octopus, etc.; so I knew this was an element I really wanted to add into the beverage.

People have been adding in salt to beverages since the Greeks (if not before) in order to highlight the other flavors. Salt also opens up the molecules of the ingredients in a brew allowing them to blend more thoroughly.  Most importantly, it is  known to counteract the after taste of more bitter items- and the last thing we want is a bitter coffee liquor.

After letting sit for 3 days I strained the grounds from the vodka and then using a bit of fresh vodka pressed out as much essential oils as I could in my French press. I mixed in the vodka molasses mixture and added in an additional ¼ cup buckwheat honey. Let this mixture sit for another 24 hours in order for any remaining spare sediment to sink to the bottom and rack like you would any beer or mead.

What I ended up with was a very STRONG coffee liquor with just enough sweetness to cut the burn from the vodka but not enough to make it sweetened. The smoked salt adds just a slight amount of tang on your tongue and everything combined gives you a drink to put hair on your chest, wake you, and ready to do battle.

Besides looking incredibly geeky displayed on your bar, this is a liquor that would be amazing added to cold coconut milk or cream, over ice cream or even added to a hot cup of water with cinnamon and sugar added to it.I have also thrown a splash in my morning shakes when I ran out of coffee flavoring and added a shot to a milk stout for an extra kick of coffee flavoring.

Maumee Bay Brewing Company

Over Easter I found myself away from home teaching a weekend long workshop in Toledo, Ohio. On Sunday, before heading home, I figured I would try myself to some Easter Beer (and some food) at a local brewpub.
I asked around for recommendations and surprisingly heard only crickets. I found it hard to believe that a town bordering two great craft brewing states would not have an enormous collection of brewpub choices.

After a little more social media prodding I decided to check out Maumee Brewing Company. Luckily, not only were they open on Easter Sunday, but they had a special Easter Sunday menu highlighting some of their regular items but with a down-home holiday feel.

Though I am only about a 2-hour drive from Toledo, I know fairly little about the city, and I know less about Maumee Brewing Company. Granted, the streets of Toledo were quite bare being a religious holiday; however, driving up to Maumee Brewing Companies restaurant had me just a little worried… The area was deserted and the part of town seemed like it had had better days (or was in the process of having a better day). In contrast the very large building that Maumee Brewing calls home was clean, bright, and very welcoming (but once again very deserted). I am glad there were ample signs pointing me where to go as there is a Café, a Brewpub, a steakhouse, a sports bar and lounge, and a banquet hall (some of which were closed) all in the same building. I finally found an employee in the massive building who guided me to the brewpub area.

I don’t enjoy sitting at the bar by myself, but I also didn’t want to monopolize one of their larger tables, so when they seated me at the bar I just went with it. Luckily for me the bartender, Lexi, was incredibly welcoming and efficient. I saddled up to my bar stool, pulled out a book and settled in for a relaxing holiday meal.

For dinner, they had a special “Root Beer Glazed Ham w/ pretzel stuffing and honey glazed carrots”. Everything food wise was spot on and their pretzel stuffing was so amazing if I ever find myself in the area again I will most certainly get their pretzels as an appetizer.

When it comes to their brews it was a little hit and miss. It was early in the afternoon so I wanted a lighter beer. I went with their Glass City Pale Ale which boasts citrus and grapefruit notes. The A.B.V. comes in at a respectable 5.7% and I.B.U. 37. The website claims that this pale ale is “dangerously drinkable on a warm day” which is a statement I would totally agree with. Quite honestly this is the way I would like all my American pale ales to taste; Light with a very prominent grapefruit front end, hoppy middle notes and a clear finish. I ranked this beer a 4 out of 5 on Untappd.

I couldn’t leave with just tasting one beer so I figured I would try out the Coffee Cream Ale. As much as I liked the Glass City Pale Ale, I did NOT like the Coffee Cream Ale. It was heavy on the coffee and there was an element of “something else” I could not put my finger on. With “Coffee” in the title I expected something dark and creamy, and this turned out to be a much lighter cleaner beer than expected. With so much coffee flavor it almost felt like they used an artificial coffee flavor, so I was surprised to find out they actually did a cold steep post ferment process (which still makes me wonder how they got the beer so light in color). Quite honestly I don’t really enjoy cream sodas, and I didn’t like this. However, if you like cream sodas and love coffee more than I do (which I don’t know is humanly possible) you might enjoy the Coffee Cream Ale. A.B.V. 5.2% I.B.U. 22 I ranked this beer a 2.5 out of 5 on untapped.

The best advice I could give to someone visiting Maumee Brewing company is to get one of their samplers and try each of the beers before deciding on their drink of choice. While you are there you MUST stay for the food. Where the beers offerings have both good and bad all the food was to die for and all the employees were efficient and friendly.