Top 8 Coffee Liqueur Brand Review + At Home Recipe
It may seem weird to combine coffee with alcohol. After all, coffee is more associated with waking up in the morning while alcoholic drinks are more often enjoyed later in the evenings.
Well, contrary to one’s first instincts, coffee and alcohol is a marriage that has been happening for a long time.
A coffee liqueur is one of the countless types of liqueurs that humanity has been concocting for centuries. It is a very simple mixture of coffee brewed in some way and alcohol. Added sugar, to balance the taste between the bitterness and acidity of the coffee and the harshness of the pure alcohol.
Depending on how much coffee, what type of coffee, the strength of the alcohol, and the ratio of sugar that is added, one coffee liqueur can taste wildly different from another.
Given these basic indications, let’s see how usually coffee liqueur is made.
How to make coffee liquor
A starting recipe to make coffee liqueur is using a cold brewed coffee. That makes more sense as the liqueur is to be made cold and a cold brew has a less acidic taste while retaining all the coffee flavors.
- 1 cup of cold brew coffee
- ½ cup of dark brown sugar
- ½ cup of water
- 1 cup of alcohol
- 1 vanilla bean
Proceed to make the sugar syrup. Gently heat the water with the sugar in it, without stirring. The sugar will naturally dissolve in the water. Let it cool. Then mix the coffee, the cold syrup and the alcohol. You can use pure alcohol, overproof, if you want a very strong coffee liqueur. Otherwise experiment with any other spirit, like dark rum, unflavored vodka and even bourbon.
Slice the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds, and toss the pod in the liqueur. Let it sit for 2 weeks at room temperature, occasionally stirring. Then strain the liqueur through a fine mesh. Store in a sealed bottle.
Best kind of coffee to use
If you don’t have the time to wait for a cold brew, a good instant coffee can work too. As they are often harsher and more bitter, you may need to increase the ratio of the sugar syrup to counterbalance that.
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Quality coffee beans will of course make a difference. That’s why cold brew is often the preferred type of brewed coffee used to make a coffee liqueur. But a good pour over, a French press or even a few cups of espresso can do wonders to exalt the qualities of the beans. The various flavors of the coffee will add nuances to the coffee liqueur.
Alternatively, you may aim for a strong, intense type of coffee liqueur. Then go for a darker roast, maybe made as an espresso or with a Moka pot, to increase the strong flavors of the coffee.
Best kind of liquor to use
Next to what kind of coffee to use is what kind of liquor/spirit. Commonly either rum or vodka are used to make coffee liqueur, but there’s no rule that prevents you to use a different spirit.
Vodka, unflavored, will give the most straight, unadulterated taste. Rum, if white, will work the same, but with it you can greatly experiment with darker rums. Those from the French Caribbeans, made out of molasses, work wonderfully in making a sweeter coffee liqueur, for instance.
A spiced rum may add lots of different flavors. Check the taste profile of these rums and if they match what you like, try making coffee liqueur with one.
Another common liquor used is bourbon. Whisky is usually too harsh and with a very distinct taste profile to work well in a coffee liqueur, but classic bourbon or Irish whiskey are smoother, sweeter. A medium-strong bourbon pairs well with coffee in general, so that’s a good choice too.
Brandy is also a common option as the alcoholic base for coffee liqueur. It can give warm notes, sweetness and a nice aftertaste. Make sure to not use a strong one, as it may easily overwhelm the coffee taste in the final liqueur.
How to drink coffee liquor
First of all, try coffee liqueur straight. Cold, possibly. Try to enjoy and understand the taste of it first, before mixing it with cocktails or other beverages. Most people simply have a glass of it in the evening.
You may add a splash of coffee liqueur to the coffee itself. Up to you how much you want to add but do remember that you’re adding both more caffeine and alcohol, so be considerate.
Of course, cocktails have been using coffee liqueurs for decades. White and Black Russians are as popular as they’ve ever been, and both use coffee liqueur in them.
Or, you can make your own cocktail: a simple recipe is to add to the coffee liqueur plenty of tonic water and ice, making it a refreshing drink for the hot season.
Last but surely not least, coffee liqueur is creamy and sweet enough to work well with desserts. Either as pouring it over a slice of cake or to mix with a scoop of ice cream. If you have guests, they’ll be amazed by the strong yet sweet taste of an ice cream with a splash of coffee liqueur.
How to store coffee liquor
Store your coffee liqueur as you would any other one: either in a cabinet, away from sources of heat and sunlight, or in the fridge, ready to be served. As long as there’s no dairy in it, a liqueur doesn’t really expire so you can keep it forever as long as you store it properly.
Coffee Liqueur Cocktail Ideas
Not only Black Russians and White Russians. Plenty of cocktails make use of a coffee liqueur. Some popular and well-made ones are:
Coffee Negroni: mix a shot of dry gin, 2/3 shot of Italian red bitter liqueur, 2/3 shot of a red vermouth and 1/3 shot of coffee liqueur with plenty of ice in a highball glass.
Italian Chocolate Martini: shake 1 and ½ shot of Averna amaro, ½ shot of coffee liqueur and 1 shot of freshly brewed espresso coffee, still hot. Fine strain in a chilled glass.
Espresso Martini: shake either gin or vodka, 1 shot of espresso coffee, 2/3 shot of coffee liqueur. Fine strain in a chilled glass.
Plus the classic White Russian and Black Russian: 2 shots of vodka, ¾ shot of coffee liqueur and, only for the White Russian, a float of cream. Serve over plenty of ice.
Top 8 Coffee Liqueur Brands
If you aren’t up to make your own coffee liqueur, bartenders have been using excellent distilled ones since long ago. Let’s see a short review of the most popular ones.
Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
An Australian brand, Mr. Black coffee liqueur comes from 100% Arabica coffee, cold brewed in Australia. Then it’s blended with Australian wheat vodka, for a clean taste, and cane sugar, to increase the sweetness. This is straight coffee liqueur that works wonderfully either alone or as the base for any cocktail.
This is as classic as it gets. Kahlúa comes from Mexico and has been used and praised worldwide for decades. It combines Arabica coffee and sugar, both grown in Mexico, for a classic taste, very smooth and sweet, of a coffee liqueur.
Tia Maria Coffee Liqueur
Originally from Jamaica, Tia Maria is probably the second most popular coffee liqueur in the world, right after Kahlúa. It used to be made only with Jamaican Arabica coffee. But in recent years it’s been produced in Italy and uses different coffee beans, not necessarily from Jamaica. It still uses as a spirit base Jamaican rum and sugar, for a distinctly sweet, vanilla flavored coffee liqueur.
Leopold Bros Frenchpress-Style Coffee Liqueur
A more recent entry in the list of the best coffee liqueurs, Leopold Bros is a Colorado-based distillery that uses French press brewed coffee for this liqueur. This gives an intense, heavy-bodied taste of coffee that marries perfectly with the raw cane sugar added later. It’s a nice and strong coffee liqueur.
St. George Nola Coffee Liqueur
St. George Spirits is based in California. Their take on a coffee liqueur has a twist: it follows New Orleans’ tradition of mixing chicory with coffee. Thus, this liqueur has less caffeine than others, which along with the bourbon, sugar cane, vanilla and Yirgacheffe beans from Ethiopia makes for a very light, complex and aromatic coffee liqueur.
Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee
This is what you think it is. Jägermeister original herbal liqueur, made with 56 botanicals, with the flavors of a cold brewed coffee. The floral notes from the herbal liqueur marries well with the chocolate-y coffee chosen. To drink straight, and very cold, to fully enjoy all the different flavors present.
Patrón XO Cafe
Coming from Jalisco, Mexico, Patrón XO Cafe is made with tequila. The coffee chosen is delicate and very aromatic, with notes of chocolate and vanilla. For those looking to enjoy, slowly, their coffee liqueur, this is palatable, extremely aromatic, and very flavorful.
Kapali Coffee Liqueur
Another coffee liqueur coming from Mexico, Kapali has selected only high-grown coffee, for a more flavorful experience. Especially good to add a twist to your cocktails, Kapali’s has proven to give plenty of chocolate, vanilla and a pleasant sweetness to many mixes.