Lyons-made Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur racks up the spirits honors
Rick England certainly never had medals on his mind. Nor did the 56-year-old Lyons resident, former U.S. Air Force brat and land surveyor have any intention of turning a 26-year-old hobby into a full-time career. But in 2012, that’s exactly what he did.
After experimenting with different recipes during a stopgap bartending stint, England made his first batch of Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur in 1986, which he, along with his wife, handed out as gifts to receptive friends and family. But while just about everyone was appreciative of the freebies, his passionate avocation wasn’t a particularly lucrative financial endeavor. “It was an expensive hobby,” admits England, who began searching for a company that would allow him to produce his liqueur on a much larger scale.
In 2012, England, who happened to be the land surveyor of Lyons-based Spirit Hound Distillers, found kindred spirits in the distillery’s owners, who quickly brought England on as a partner. His patent-pending liqueur, a 30-day-aged proprietary blend of vanilla bean, granulated sugar, water, neutral grain spirits similar to Everclear and decaf coffee (the roaster, says England, is a secret) took off—and it took off big.
Since he and Spirit Hound Distillers formed their partnership, the liqueur has racked up a swell of honors, including a silver medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the title of Best Coffee Liqueur at the 2016 World Liqueur Awards in London.
Additionally, Richardo’s snatched up a medal at the 2013 Telluride Spirits Competition and double gold at the 2015 Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival. “We’ve been really fortunate with the awards, and it’s incredibly humbling that everyone from judges to our peers think that what we’re doing is so good,” England says.
But lest you think his award-winning liqueur is a synonym for Kahlúa—a rum-based brand of coffee liqueur that England calls the “K-word”—think again. “They taste completely different, and if you compare them side-byside, you can tell immediately which one is which,” he says, noting that the chocolate and caramel notes in his liqueur, plus the use of high-end vanilla, result in a flavor profile that’s far superior to Kahlúa.
“Unlike the K-word, our liqueur isn’t too sweet and you definitely get mild coffee notes,” explains England, revealing that he uses decaf coffee because caffeinated beans are too bitter and require the addition of more sugar.
And while it may come as a surprise that bona fide caffeine addicts don’t balk at the absence of an energy jolt, the biggest revelation, according to England, is the liqueur’s wide-spanning generational appeal. “College kids love it, and so do my parents; it’s amazing how it totally spans generations,” he says.
The liqueur’s success has been so widespread, in fact, that England is currently in the beginning stages of publishing a cookbook. “We’ve found that it works beautifully in baked goods and desserts, barbecue sauces and French toast batter,” says England, adding that chefs, in particular, love the liqueur for its strong vanilla component.
Another benefit: It doesn’t require refrigeration and has a phenomenally long shelf life. “The possibilities for recipes are endless,” says England, who now brews close to 200 gallons of Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur each month. “There’s pretty much nothing that you can’t do with it.”
Pick up a bottle or two of Richardo’s to make these recipes, courtesy of Rick England, at home.
2 ounces Richardo’s Decaf
2 ounces Spirit Hound vodka
6 ounces root beer
Combine the first three ingredients in a tall glass with ice; top with whipped cream.
Finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1 ounce Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur
1 ounce marshmallow vodka
1 ounce cream
Dip the rim of a martini glass in chocolate syrup (use a shallow dish) and then dip the rim in the graham cracker crumbs. Place the remaining ingredients in a martini shaker with ice. Strain and pour into a glass. Garnish with a toasted marshmallow.
1 ounce Richardo’s Decaf Coffee Liqueur
1 ounce Spirit Hound vodka Cream
Combine the first two ingredients in a rocks glass with ice; top with cream.