What is Coffee Liqueur

Coffee liqueur combines two of the most popular drinks: alcohol and coffee. To even out the sharp taste of alcohol, plenty of sugar is usually added.

A liqueur is a beverage made from a distilled alcoholic spirit flavored with herbs, spices, fruit, cream, nuts or flowers. It’s then bottled with additional sugar or some other type of sweetener like high-fructose corn syrup.

In some parts of the United States, coffee liqueurs are referred to as schnapps or cordials. Throughout Spain, they are known as carajillos. Typically, liqueurs are quite sweet and are usually not aged for long after mixing the ingredients. They may, however, have resting periods to allow the flavors to marry.

Types of Coffee Liqueurs

There are two main mass-produced selections of coffee liqueurs; Kahlua and Tia Maria. Although Kahlua is the most commercially lucrative, it’s certainly not the only available choice. Other companies and brands are also producing different varieties of coffee-flavored coffee liqueurs. Bailey’s, for example, has the popular Irish Cream.

There are, however, both large and small scale liqueurs that you can easily find in any corner liquor store. If you want less widely produced liqueurs, a good choice would be Firelit. Although it may not be widely available in some location, areas, Firelit is worth checking. Created in 1880, Grand Marner is another option that has remained popular since then.

There are several other choices available, depending on your personal preferences. You can even make your own homemade coffee liqueur.

How Do They Differ?

Kahlua coffee liqueur is particularly known for being syrupy and excessively sweet. Although some people might prefer it on the rocks, more often, it’s worked into mixed alcoholic drinks.

Kahlua coffee liqueur

Tia Maria coffee liqueur is made with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans. On the other hand, Firelit is made using freshly roasted, small batch coffee and is brewed as brandy and cold-brew. It’s much stronger, both in alcohol content and flavor than Kahlua or Tia Maria, an attribute liked by many people.

The uniqueness of Firelit is derived from the high-quality coffee and brandy used in its making.

Interesting Facts about Kahlua

This is a rich sugar based and coffee flavored liqueur from Mexico. Since Kahlua was introduced in 1936 by Pedro Domecq, it has remained among the top-selling global coffee liqueurs. It is ranked as the 2nd largest single liqueur brand globally. Besides the blend of fine Mexican coffee, it also has a rich mix of rum, vodka, and corn syrup.

In the Veracruz Nahuatl language, the name Kahlua broadly means, “House of the Acolhua people”. This language was spoken in the Veracruz area prior to the Spanish Conquest. It was only from 1962 that Kahlua became available in the United States.

Kahlua’s unique flavor has made it one of the most preferred liqueurs worldwide. It is a popular choice among many when making a broad range of cocktails. It’s because of this popularity that it’s now also available in a number of online liquor stores.

Interesting Facts about Tia Maria

Invented in Jamaica by Dr. Evans after the Second World War, Tia Maria is made with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans. Tia Maria can be used to make cocktails like Boston Ice Tea, Spanish Coffee, Velvet Hammer, After Eight, Blue Mountain, and Guinness Martini.

The main ingredients are cane spirit, coffee beans, sugar, and vanilla. These are fermented to a max of 26.5% alcoholic content although for the commercially sold Tia Maria this has been slightly reduced to 20%.

In 2005, the Tia Maria’ brand was acquired by Pernod Ricard through Malibu-Kahlúa International for distribution in France. This is a wholly owned Pernod Ricard subsidiary.

Recipes for Homemade Coffee Liqueur

homemade coffee liqueur

Usually, liqueurs are not aged although you might age their base spirit. During the production, they may, however, undergo resting stages in order to allow for the different flavor ingredients to “marry” into a rich and harmonious blend.

Homemade Kahlua Coffee Liqueur Recipe

Traditionally, Kahlua is made using 4-simple ingredients – coffee, rum, sugar, and vanilla bean. Its, however, surprisingly easy to replicate this tasty beverage at home.


  • ½ Cup instant coffee
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 25-ounces Vodka


  1. Mix the two types of sugars in a bowl. Pour over the hot water and stir until the sugars have dissolved, add the instant coffee, and allow the mixture to cool.
  2. Slice open your vanilla bean and scrape out the rich-creamy insides. Add these to the mixture in the bowl.
  3. Add the alcohol vodka and stir gently.
  4. Pour the coffee liqueur into clean/sterilized jars and then seal them.

Homemade Tia Maria Coffee Liqueur Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 25 ounces of alcohol
  • 1 cup of water
  • 11 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1⁄2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 cups dark brown sugar.


  1. Bring the ingredients (except the alcohol) to a boil. Allow it to cool.
  2. Skim & put through cheesecloth or strainer.
  3. Allow complete cooling.
  4. Add the alcohol and stir very well.
  5. If you can, store for 30 days. This is simply to make it taste better.

If you want to make an all-around coffee flavored liqueur, follow the easy recipe as described below. This is a good recipe when you want a liqueur to be used as alone as a cordial or mixed with another drink like Vodka or even milk.


  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¾ cup instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups vodka


  1. Using a 3-quart saucepan placed over medium heat, mix the water and sugar.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.
  3. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes then remove from the heat.
  4. Put the coffee and stir, and allow it to cool.
  5. Pour in the Vodka and vanilla extract and stir. Pour into clean/sterilized bottles.
  6. Close them tightly and store in a dark, cool place.

Last Words on Coffee Liqueur

Besides the commercially available brands, you can also make your homemade coffee liqueur. The simplest homemade versions of coffee liqueurs involve combining rum or rum, sugar, vanilla, and either instant coffee or coffee grounds.

Coffee liqueur serves as a great base for some of the most popular beverages today such as Espresso Martinis, White Russians, and Espresso Martinis. Highly versatile, liqueurs work well when mixed within a broad range of warm and cold cocktails. They also add depth to the taste and flavor of pies, cakes, and cupcakes.

Frequently Asked Questions
Is Kahlua a coffee liqueur?

Yes, Kahlua is a coffee liqueur containing Arabica coffee as well as rum, vanilla and sugar. It is one of the best-selling coffee liqueurs in the world and is usually available in most places you can buy liqueur.

Is Baileys a coffee liqueur?

Original Baileys is not a coffee liqueur, it is an Irish liqueur made with cream and whisky. However, Baileys do have a coffee flavoured liqueur among many other popular flavors.

Can you drink coffee liqueur straight?

Yes, you can drink coffee liqueur straight as a shot, or simply poured over ice. There are also many cocktail recipes that use coffee liqueur.