Commonly known as Kahlua, coffee liqueur is a widely used ingredient in many cocktails today, adding a kick of caffeine and bitter taste to the drinks.
Kahlua began production in 1936, and it has been a fundamental addition to many drinks cabinets and bars ever since. From the iconic espresso martini to the class of the white Russian, it is one of the most diverse ingredients nowadays. Known for keeping you awake on big nights while allowing you to loosen up, coffee-based cocktails are extremely popular.
Let’s not forget the role that the film industry plays when it comes to deciding what is classy and sophisticated. Iconic movies like James Bond and The Big Lebowski feature tall glasses of fancy drinks being chosen by esteemed ladies and gentlemen.
As viewers, we feel more inclined to try what they are drinking, as it makes us feel like we possess some element of their class and sophistication. The elite nature has always been a part of coffee-based cocktails, which is why bartenders have developed their own spin on iconic drinks while maintaining the elitist air about the cocktails.
This is a guide to some of the most iconic coffee liqueur cocktails and how you can make them from home (also be sure to check out our resource on the best coffee liqueurs).
Most coffee-based cocktails are served traditionally using three coffee beans placed delicately on top of the drink. They float on top, and according to Italian tradition, represent health, prosperity, and happiness. Different versions are of course available, including your favorite dairy-free alternative or even replacing cream with coffee creamer.
Alternatively, you could change it to Irish cream for a more boozy experience. There are more options than ever before, so it’s really up to you to experiment with flavors, presentation, and alcohol content.
Coffee Liqueur Cocktails
Starting off strong is a cocktail that has always screamed power and sophistication for those who drink it. The White Russian is a versatile cocktail because you can easily substitute the ingredients based on what you have.
The fundamentals of this drink are equal parts coffee liqueur, vodka, and cream or milk. Some people replace the cream with Irish cream, or even use coffee creamer or half-and-half, depending on personal preference and what you have.
A white Russian is normally poured over ice in a shallow whiskey-style glass and made by combining vodka and coffee liqueur, then pouring into the glass followed by the milk or cream. This is what makes the well-known gradient color seen in the cocktail.
This is a more modern twist on coffee liqueur and is a newer addition to the cocktail game but no less popular than some classics. A widow maker features equal amounts of vodka, coffee liqueur, and Jagermeister herbal liqueur. Combine in a glass-half-full of ice, and carefully add 2 drops of red grenadine that will create the hourglass symbol if done correctly that represents the widowmaker spider.
The focus of this drink tends to be more on the presentation, and it can easily be customized with vanilla, sugar syrup, or even introduce a nutty element like hazelnut syrup if you have any. Of course, the caffeine content is relatively high in this drink, so be careful that you don’t have too many otherwise you won’t be able to sleep that night.
One that emphasizes the coffee flavor is an espresso martini. Historically consumed by young ladies wanting something that will wake them up, the espresso martini was developed in the 1980s by a bartender whose coffee machine was placed very close to his cocktail-making equipment.
For extra class, the drink can be served in a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with three coffee beans on top. Vodka, coffee liqueur, a strong espresso shot, and sugar syrup are shaken together and served. This drink has been featured in many iconic movie and TV scenes and remains one of the most popular coffee-based cocktails in the world.
Although this drink is widely known for being refreshing and tropical, traditional Bahama mama recipes feature coffee liqueur, which is typically omitted by modern bartenders. Combine rum, coffee liqueur, coconut cream, lemon juice, and pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds and pour over ice into a hurricane glass.
While this might seem like an unusual combination, the bitterness of the coffee is balanced with sweet pineapple and adds a level of richness and depth that would otherwise be unattainable. Coconut combines sweet and bitter wonderfully and offers a very well-balanced cocktail in the end.
As the name might suggest, this drink can get the party kickstarted in no time. It’s really simple to make too and presents wonderfully.
All you need for a mind eraser is coffee liqueur, vodka, and club soda. Instead of using a shaker, you pour the ingredients in a particular order, layered over one another, for a layered finish in your glass.
Wake The Dead
If you’re determined to be the last one standing and don’t want the party to end, you might want to try this double shooter drink. Shake tequila and coffee liqueur together with half a shot of espresso to make an invigorating combination that certainly feels like it’s going to wake the dead.
The drink is then usually poured into a shot glass, which just feels right for the ungodly combination. If you don’t plan on sleeping, try this cocktail for a pick-me-up sure to keep you going until sunrise.
The addition of vanilla flavor really helps bring out the profile in this cocktail, not to mention the intense anise aromas that play with the coffee flavors to create an interesting drink. This is considered more of a dessert cocktail because of the sweetness that is achieved and can be appealing to both young and old who are wanting to try something new.
Recipes combine coffee liqueur, vodka, Irish cream, and half-and-half to make a nutty and rich chilled drink. While some have focused on Galliano L’Autentico liqueur, others add chocolate vodka for a sweeter taste and even serve with cocoa powder on top. This is a great option for those with a sweet tooth, wanting something strong to wake them up.
To summarize, cocktails have always been seen as drinks consumed by society’s elite and are symbols of class and status. There are certain beliefs about those who opt for coffee-based drinks at the bar, as they usually have a sophisticated palette.
Nowadays, most people are simply trying to stay awake during parties and experiment with the bittersweet creamy combinations. Whether you enjoy the added element of class or want something that will keep you going but also get you drunk, a coffee liqueur-based cocktail has never been a bad option.
There are many more renditions of the famous cocktails that can be experimented with from the comfort of your own home, or even the next time you are at the bar. Why not use up the ingredients you have and try something new. You can be creative with combinations, amounts, and even how you decide to serve each drink.
Fundamentally, a great deal of coffee-inspired cocktails is cold drinks that combine liqueur, vodka, and cream with some kind of extra flavoring or syrup.
There are so many flavors of syrup as well as vodka to play around with and find different methods of shaking, blending, and straining. Have a little fun and get creative. This acts as a great basis to experiment with and have fun with different additions. Always drink responsibly and enjoy your new sophisticated, classy taste for the finer things in life.