It’s New Year’s Eve, and you want to stay up past midnight and party all night long. You’re drinking beer, champagne, cocktails … and coffee. Lots of it. Maybe you should change your strategy and treat yourself to booze that comes with an extra kick—decadent and invigorating coffee liqueurs.
Coffee liqueur combines the best of both worlds. Typically bittersweet with roasted chocolate and espresso flavors, it’s perfect for cocktails or by itself, as a dessert or digestif. Coffee liqueur is an integral part of classic cocktails such as the Black Russian and its milky alternative, the White Russian, as well as the Mind Eraser, B-52 and Espresso Martini, among others. This liqueur is also used to add flavor and caffeine to cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.
How is Coffee Liqueur Made?
Most coffee liqueur is made by adding natural coffee flavors and sugar to a distilled spirit such as vodka, rum or brandy using one of several methods. Kahlúa starts with rum that is infused with Arabica coffee beans, sugar and vanilla in a process that takes seven years. The Italian Tia Maria is made with mountain-grown Jamaican coffee beans that are fermented together with the grain used to make the base spirit. Made in Israel, Sabra starts as a neutral grain spirit that is then percolated through coffee beans, with sugar added later.
Does Coffee Liqueur Contain Caffeine?
Yes, there’s caffeine in coffee liqueurs because most of them are distilled with coffee beans. The amount of caffeine depends on the liquor. A 1.5-ounce shot of Kahlúa contains 10 mg of caffeine, while an 8-ounce cup of coffee has between 95 mg and 175 mg of caffeine, depending on how the coffee is prepared.
Best Coffee Liqueurs
There are many coffee liqueur options available along with the best known Kahlúa. Here are the five most popular ones.
1. Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur is produced with quality Arabica coffee that is carefully brewed and blended with Australian wheat vodka and cane sugar to give it a nice kick and a nice level of sweetness. The Australian brand uses a cold extraction slow-drip method, with no other added flavors (no caramel, vanilla or artificial flavors), to produce this sweet coffee liqueur. Mr. Black has the highest caffeine content of all coffee liquors: 1100 mg per liter, about 10 times more than Kahlúa. Its alcohol by volume (ABV) is 25%.
2. Kahlúa Original
Created in Mexico in 1936, award-winning Kahlúa (ABV 20%) is used worldwide for cocktails and cooking because of its excellent flavor and balance. Made with Arabica coffee beans and Mexican-grown sugar, this liqueur delivers enticing scents of bittersweet coffee bean and roasted chestnut and multilayered flavors of black coffee and sweet butter. Kahlúa is used to make cocktails or to drink neat or on ice. Some people use it in baked desserts or as topping for ice cream, cakes and cheesecakes. A 1.5-ounce shot of Kahlúa has about 5 mg of caffeine.
3. Tia Maria Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
Tia Maria is a sweet liqueur with a strong coffee character and a complex aromatic structure. The cold brew extraction process ensures that Tia Maria has a distinct taste due to three significant elements: Tia Maria coffee, which provides a distinctive roasted, full-bodied taste; Madagascar vanilla, which provides a pronounced but delicate, fragrant back note; and Jamaican rum, which gives Tia Maria its body, depth and structure. The brand claims that the recipe for the liquor dates back to the mid-17th century, when a young Spanish aristocrat brought it to Jamaica.
4. St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
With a recipe that includes organic sugar cane, Madagascar vanilla, French-roasted chicory root and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans, St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur offers the flavor of New Orleans-style coffee. The California distillery chose to use Yirgacheffe coffee beans—which are famously roasted in a 1950s Probat roaster—because of their bright berry, chocolate and fruity qualities. The beans are grinded on the distillery’s own grain mill, then brewed using the cold-infusion method. In cocktails, St. George NOLA (ABV 25%) provides a touch of sweetness, earthy depth and robust roasted flavor that coffee lovers crave.
5. Patrón XO Cafe
Patrón XO Cafe is a dry, low-proof coffee liqueur that is the result of a blend of Patrón Silvera, a 100% blue agave tequila, and coffee. Made in Mexico, Patrón offers the pleasant aroma of fresh coffee, chocolate and vanilla. Drinking Patrón is a rounded experience that takes you from sweet to bitter, punchy to creamy, delivering a roasted coffee flavor with notes of chocolate, vanilla and light tequila and a finish that is smooth yet dry. Patrón (ABV 35%) is excellent for sipping, mixed in cocktails or as a dessert ingredient.
This New Year’s Eve do yourself a favor: try one of these coffee liqueurs straight, over ice or in a cocktail. Your only regret will be not having done it before.