What is Coffee Liqueur and How is it Made?

What is Coffee LiqueurIt’s below zero as I’m walking through the snow. Step after step into the freezing inches of fresh snow, I march toward the cabin in the woods. It’s nothing fancy, but it keeps you warm with a glowing fire in an old wood stove. As I enter the small doorway, I can smell the coffee brewing in the old pot on the stove.

Again, it’s nothing fancy, but it gives a good solid cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day. I reach to the top shelf and grab a bottle of coffee liqueur. It’ll add a little extra flavor to that fresh cuppa Joe, just a little kick to fight off the cold outside.

So what’s coffee liqueur, you ask?

A coffee liqueur is simply a coffee drink with a liqueur added. Traditionally it is served in a special liqueur coffee glass with a little cream (not whipped cream) and sugar. What you have most likely heard of or thought coffee liqueur was called was Irish coffee. It’s the most common variation associated with the terminology.

What Flavors Mix Well With Coffee?

Most off-the-shelf coffee liqueurs fall into either a mass-produced or micro-produced category. The mass-produced liqueurs are usually sweet and syrupy. Kahlua is a brand that is probably the best representation of a big brand that fits into the category of sweet and mass-produced. It can be found at most liquor stores and other grocery stores that sell alcohol.

Of the smaller micro-batch coffee liqueurs out there, one to try and find is Firelit. It’s a cold brew mixed with brandy. The alcohol content is higher than Kahlua or Bailey’s, but it’s not overpowering. Firelit is made with premium coffee and not a lot of sugar or syrup to hide the bitterness that low-grade coffee could add to the flavor.

Make Your Own Micro-Batch

If you type in how to make coffee liqueur to a search browser, you’ll get a lot of results. I’m a chocolate fan, so making a competitor to Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream always catches my attention. After a few recipe reviews, this one seems like almost anyone can do it (even me):

4 cups of water
2 cups of brown sugar
2 cups of white sugar
¼ cup of dried espresso – you may have to search for this in the coffee aisle at your favorite store
3 cups of vodka – try to get something at 100-proof
2 vanilla beans (split)
2 shots of chocolate liqueur

Directions to Make:
1. Combine the water and both white and brown sugar, and dried espresso in a large sauce pan over heat.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer the mix a minimum of 1-hour. This will boil off the water and the mixture will turn into more of a syrup consistency. Stir the mix occasionally.
3. When the mix is good syrup consistently, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.
4. Add the 100-proof vodka, split vanilla beans, and chocolate liqueur. Gently stir to mix everything together.
5. After mixing, pour everything in the sauce pan into a storage container that will seal airtight.
6. It’s recommended to allow the mixture to age for 3-4 weeks, but it is drinkable earlier. Think of it like wine. It can be tasted immediately but it gets a better aged flavor after storage in a cool dark location.
7. When you’re ready to bottle the mixture, remove the vanilla beans. Then pour it into the final storage container (if it’s different from your aging container).

I Don’t Like Chocolate, What Else Can I Make?

First, if you don’t like chocolate I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. If you don’t appreciate the flavor of chocolate, there are a lot of options out there for different flavors of coffee liqueur. Here are a few I was able to dig up:

• Whiskey coffee (with whiskey)
• Gaelic coffee (with whiskey)
• Highland coffee or Cup o’ Evening (with Scotch whisky)
• Irish coffee (with Irish whiskey)
• French coffee (with Grand Marnier)
• Brandy coffee (with brandy, any sort)
• German coffee, (with schnapps)
• Italian classico, (with amaretto)
• English coffee, (with gin)
• Calypso coffee, Spanish coffee, or Jamaican coffee (with rum and Tia Maria or Kahlua)
• Shin Shin coffee (with rum)
• Australian coffee (with Bundaberg rum)
• Russian coffee (with vodka)
• American coffee (with bourbon)
• Mexican coffee (made with brown sugar, Tequila and Kahlua, topped with thick cream)

Beyond these flavors, I was able to find a lot more mixes with local liqueurs that will have to be found near where they are produced.

Simply put, coffee liqueur is just coffee with a liqueur added for a little kick. As with other spirits, liqueur can be made with complex flavors that added or detract from the mix they are put it. It’s up to you to experiment with flavors to suit your taste. Chocolate, fruity, and sour, are all obtainable. If you don’t have an off-the-shelf favorite you can purchase, you can always make your own flavor. It makes a great party favor or just when you come in from a cold morning. Enjoy your coffee with a kick!

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

Wait, Wait...There's More!