Have you ever been to Sunday brunch and found yourself stuck between ordering a glass of wine and a hot cuppa? Perhaps you were even tempted to order both… but surely it’s as dangerous a combination as, say, alcohol and durian? Afterall, don’t alcohol and caffeine both work to alter your heart rate?
You might even notice a European couple sitting nearby, enjoying a beer and a latte. It’s not surprising, they enjoy these spiked coffee breaks without so much as a blink of an eye – what with the Italians and their caffè corretto, and the Spaniards with carajillo. (That is, a potent shot of espresso with brandy or Licor 43, respectively.)
Let’s get this out of the way once and for all. Can we enjoy alcohol and caffeine together, or risk trying? It has everything to do with a little chemical in our bodies called adenosine.
Effects of Caffeine
Throughout the day, the brain’s intense level of activity causes adenosine to be produced. This build-up, in turn, leads us to become sleepy and lethargic. (4pm naps, anyone?) How caffeine works, here, is that it blocks our adenosine receptors, preventing the drowsiness that occurs with rising adenosine levels.
Caffeine also works to constrict blood vessels, raising blood pressure – which may lead to rapid heartbeat, shakiness, and anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, this can also slow down our ability to perform mental tasks. Other effects of caffeine include elevated levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline which can help lift our moods.
Effects of Alcohol
Meanwhile, alcohol works the opposite way, causing more adenosine to accumulate in your system. This is why we often find ourselves dozing off after a few drinks, or with slower reaction time, and reduced motor skills and balance.
Yet, much like caffeine, alcohol is also associated with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. So how does the alcohol-caffeine combo affect the body?
Pairing Alcohol With Caffeine
Effect on your heart
Unfortunately, the research on how alcohol and caffeine work together to affect your cardiovascular system is somewhat mixed and limited. However, experts say if you’re already consuming enough alcohol or caffeine to feel uncomfortable heart rates, adding the other will only make it worse.
Effect on your brain
As for your brain, caffeine does not help you sober up. Combining alcohol with caffeine mainly helps to reduce the sedative effects of alcohol. Your sense of judgment and motor skills are just as impaired, yet the energy boost may lead you to believe you’re being clear-minded and sound. Which is why this can be dangerous – you think you’re sober enough to drive, but you’re not.
Not only might this pseudo clarity of mind lead to more reckless behaviour, it may also increase the risk of over-drinking as well as alcohol poisoning.
Coffee-Flavoured, Not Caffeinated
Coffee-infused alcohol and cocktails, such as the Espresso Martini and White Russian, are ever so popular due to their sweet flavour and comforting aroma. Yet the question remains – do they contain caffeine?
If coffee beans were used in the production of the liqueur, or the label states, “natural coffee flavour”, it would probably contain caffeine. One example is Bols Coffee, which steeps, then percolates Colombian coffee beans and cacao beans in a rum distillate to produce a sweet aperitif with notes of vanilla and honeycomb chocolate.
If it is coffee-flavoured, or described as “artificial coffee flavour”, then it contains no caffeine. However, if the label states, “natural ingredients”, it may either come from ingredients that taste similar to coffee after roasting, such as chicory or dandelion root, or contain trace amounts of caffeine – probably not enough to be harmful, but, as with all things, moderation is key.
The Patron XO Cafe is one such coffee-flavoured tequila from Mexico, where undertones of creamy vanilla are wrapped in top notes of rich dark chocolate, while a smoky coffee aftertaste properly rounds off the flavour.
Full-bodied and smooth with a slight sweetness as well as robust, dry, espresso-like finish, the O’Hara Irish Stout may be just what your taste buds are looking for to fill your coffee cravings.
While this is not a coffee-flavoured liqueur, but an Italian wine (something for everybody, am I right?) – the Zonin Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore features lightly spicy notes of cocoa and cherry that might remind the avid coffee drinker of Ethiopian beans.
Perk Up With The Aroma of Coffee
If you simply have to enjoy both beverages simultaneously, perhaps keep to one shot of caffeine and one glass of alcohol, so as not to overdo it. However, if you have existing cardiac issues, perhaps it would be wise to avoid it altogether.
If you love the taste of coffee and want ‘em spiked, why not try some of these coffee-flavoured alternatives? Enjoy an aromatic bottle of coffee-flavoured liqueur today with our free alcohol delivery services (for all orders $99 and above). Choose us as your preferred liqueur delivery service today!