Sometimes when you’ve eaten too much it’s nice to have a lie down. Other times there is socialising to do, and you need a little something to pick you up.  The Café Brûlot is a prohibition-era cocktail from old New Orleans that’s been all but forgotten, but deserves a place at any good dinner party. Not only does it contain the holy trinity of alcohol, caffeine and sugar that makes the Espresso Martini so popular, it’s a spectacle in its own right, and as long as you don’t burn the house down, it’ll smell great and give everyone the shot in the arm that they need to get them through the post-dinner lull and into the real partying.   


- First, brew a pot of strong, black, plunger coffee, half a cup for each person - this recipe is for 6 people, so use 3 cups of coffee. 

- In a large metal bowl add 2 cinnamon sticks, 8 cloves, a large piece of lemon peel, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar & 120ml of Cognac, or cheap brandy if you must. 

- using a blow torch or long match set the Cognac on fire, then stir it with a long spoon to warm the mixture, melt the sugar, and release the volatile aromas of the spices. (NB, there will be flames, have a heavy tea towel nearby to kill the flames if they get out of control.  Also, warming the Cognac first will make it easier to light - it’s the volatile fumes that burn, not the liquid).

- after a minute or so pour in the hot coffee and continue stirring until the flames have died out.  

- Ladle into a demitasse and enjoy. 

High society houses in old New Orleans would have a dedicated Café Brûlot bowl on a side board in their formal dining room for preparing this wonderful after dinner drink. There’s something special about diverting the attention postprandium and sharing a restorative drink. Just because the last course is served, doesn’t mean the night has to be over.