Maine residents buy a lot of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, the state’s top-selling spirit. As of 2016, they bought two-and-a-half times more cases of Allen’s than of the state’s next-most popular spirits—Orloff Vodka and Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Unlike Captain Morgan, though, Allen’s is not a top seller anywhere else.
It’s also not actually brandy. Allen’s is a liqueur made from neutral grain spirit mixed with coffee bean extract and sweetener. Brandy, in contrast, is made by distilling wine.
Maine residents take no offense at Allen’s dishonest labeling; it’s still a more popular choice than vodka or whiskey. Most often, the faux-brandy is served one of two ways: hot in a cup of coffee (a favorite among Maine fishermen since the 1960s) or cold in a glass of milk. The latter is available at virtually every bar in the state—just ask the bartender for a “Sombrero.” Other fond nicknames for the popular pairing include “fat ass in a glass,” “moose milk,” “leg spreadah,” and “lily of the tundra.”
The ubiquity of Allen’s Coffee Brandy in Maine alone begs the question: Why? It’s not even made in-state. Allen’s is a product of Somerville, Massachusetts, but around 75 percent of the product is sold in Maine. One explanation is New England’s obsession with strong drip-style coffee. Long, cold winters and a Puritanical work ethic make a hot cup of coffee an obvious choice for the hard-working people of Maine.
Why not drink a well-known coffee liqueur, like Kahlua? Allen’s is cheaper, which makes it easy to forgive the “funny copper edge” that people look to milk or coffee to cover up. Couple a regional allegiance to coffee with 30 percent alcohol by volume, then sell it for less than the other guys, and you’ve got the key to Maine’s heart.
Need to Know
You can find Allen's Coffee Brandy all over Maine, but it's also available online. Serve with hot coffee or milk over ice.