What is Coffee Liqueur Used for? Your Guide to a Boozy Buzz

What is Coffee Liqueur Used for

Most people sip on coffee in the morning and alcohol at night, but what about the gap in between? Well, put the two drinks together and you got your answer: coffee liqueur! Combining two of most adults’ favorite drinks, coffee liqueur adds a boozy kick to a whole lot of things from delicious cocktails to mouthwatering desserts. So what is coffee liqueur used for?

Coffee liqueur is used to deliver the distinctly delightful flavor of coffee but in a more exciting way. We’re talking everything from cocktails such as White Russian and desserts such as Kahlua chocolate cupcakes to simply sprinkling some in your coffee or drizzling it over a couple of scoops of ice cream.

In this article, we’re here to explain what coffee liqueur is and discuss all the ways you can use it to enjoy a unique, rich flavor that gets your senses tingling. Let’s get started!

What is Coffee Liqueur?

Coffee liqueur is simply a coffee drink but with a shot of liquor added, which is why it packs a nice punch. To balance out the sharp (sometimes bitter) taste of alcohol, plenty of sugar is typically thrown into the mix. Coffee liqueur is often enjoyed as a dessert coffee drink after dinner.

Kahlua is one of the most well-known and widely sold coffee liqueurs in the world is Kahlua, but it’s not nearly your only option. In fact, there are more and more brands introducing commercially produced coffee liqueur nowadays that you may have a hard time choosing! Not to mention, you can always make your own version at home!

Author Note: We’ll talk about how you can make it yourself later on, but for now, let’s focus on the more popular type of coffee liqueur –  the commercially produced.

Commercially produced coffee liqueurs are generally divided into two categories:

  • Mass-produced coffee liqueurs, such as Kahlua (you can find this in just about any liquor store).
  • Micro-produced coffee liqueurs, which are made by smaller companies.

The two most popular mass-produced options are Kahlua and Tia Maria. There are even other companies that use their mainstay creation to make coffee-flavored varieties (for example, Bailey’s has a coffee-flavored Irish cream), but these two are regarded as the true coffee liqueurs. Starbucks also tried its luck and launched a line of coffee liqueurs, but it got discontinued only a few years later.

Kahlua is especially known for being extremely sweet and syrupy. This is why it’s more often worked into mixed drinks, mainly Black and White Russians. Still, some people might have them on the rocks.

What are Other Names of Coffee Liqueur?

Short glasses of Irish cream Liquor or Coffee Liqueur with chocolat and coffee beans

The following names sometimes refer to coffee liqueur or drinks that contain coffee liqueur. Some are widely used with an official recipe from the International Bartenders Association, such as Irish coffee, while others are just used locally.

  • Gaelic coffee, made with whiskey
    • Highland coffee or Cup o’ Evening, made with Scotch whisky
    • Irish coffee, with Irish whiskey
  • Irish cream coffee, also known as Bailey’s coffee or Sultan Special coffee is a variant served with Irish cream.
  • Whiskey coffee, made with whiskey
  • German coffee, with schnapps, such as Kirschwasser or Himbeergeist
  • French coffee, made with Grand Marnier
  • Brandy coffee, made with any type of brandy (any sort)
  • Parisienne coffee / French coffee / Cafe Royale, made with grape brandy (such as cognac)
  • Italian classico, made with amaretto
  • English coffee, made with gin
  • Calypso coffee / Spanish coffee, / Jamaican coffee, made with rum and Tia Maria or Kahlúa
  • Australian coffee, made with Bundaberg rum
  • Russian coffee, made with vodka
  • Mexican coffee, made with brown sugar, Tequila, and Kahlúa then topped with thick cream

How Can You Make Coffee Liqueur at Home?

You may be thinking that whipping a homemade version of Kahlua or Tia Maria is a complicated process, it’s actually surprisingly easy.

A simple coffee liqueur recipe requires instant coffee, a base liquor, a vanilla bean, sugar, and water. You’ll have tons of fun with this project and save money while you’re at it!

Author Note: To make a coffee liqueur, rum or vodka are the two most common liquors used. If you’re trying to get as close as possible to popular store-bought coffee liqueurs, you may want to stick to rum since it produces a slightly sweeter version thanks to its molasses base.

Another great thing about this recipe is that the initial liqueur doesn’t take much or effort time to prepare, but the real test of patience is having to wait about 10 days for the flavor to fully develop.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • 8 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 25.36 oz (750ml) bottle of rum or vodka
  • 1 piece vanilla bean
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of water


Here are the steps to making coffee liqueur at home:

  • Put the vanilla bean, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat to create a basic syrup. Bring to a boil while stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Reduce to a simmer. When the solution has been reduced by half (takes about 30 minutes), remove the pan from the heat.
  • Add 8 tablespoons of quality instant coffee. Stir then leave the mixture to cool.
  • In a sealable glass jar or bottle, mix the flavored syrup with your choice of liquor. Shake well and let the concoction sit in a cool, dark area for 10 days. Shake the bottle well every day or two.
  • After 10 days, strain the coffee liqueur through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to get rid of all the coffee granules and the vanilla bean.
  • Store your coffee liqueur in a sealed bottle. Enjoy!

What is Coffee Liqueur Used for?

Irish cream or Coffee Liqueur with coconut flakes

There are many delicious ways you can enjoy coffee liqueur. If you’re a fan of drinking and trying out new beverages, you’ll be glad to know there are dozens of cocktails you can make using coffee liqueur. But it doesn’t stop there; you can also use coffee liqueur in dessert recipes to give you a boozy yet rich kick.

Here are some of our favorite recipes that you can try for yourself:


White Russian

There are many amazing cocktails out there that feature coffee liqueurs, but the White Russian holds a special place like no other drink. This milky cocktail is made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream. It’s a great treat before going to bed or after a hearty meal to stimulate digestion.

This drink family is super fun and versatile – you won’t get bored. With a quick ingredient switch, you’ll be sipping on a totally new drink.

For example, the Black Russian in which you skip the cream. If there’s no cream in the house, grab your trusty bottle of Irish cream and you’ll have a mudslide to down.

Author Note: You can also trade in the vodka for the Smith and Kearns or switch to whiskey and whip up a sneaky Pete. If you want something with a bit of a fizz, try adding cola and enjoy the sparkling Colorado bulldog.

Long Island Iced Coffee

Similar to its more popular sister cocktail, the Long Island Iced Coffee is a strong drink that shouldn’t be taken lightly as it features no less than 5 types of alcohol.

The Long Island Iced Coffee is the sort of cocktail that you sip on slowly over a long while. Despite the complex list of ingredients, the flavors do work together to deliver a smooth and delicious creation.

You’ll need to mix equal parts of Baileys, Kahlua, Vodka, Rum, and Tequila with 4 parts of coffee (either chilled espresso or cold drip coffee). Place all the ingredients in a martini shaker, shake very well, and strain into a tall glass. Don’t forget the ice!


Short glasses of Irish cream Liquor or Coffee Liqueur with chocolat and coffee beans

Another cocktail that pairs up vodka with coffee liqueur is the tasty mochatini. While you may rush into using Kahlua like always, this martini recipe can be a great playground for you to explore options such as Tia Maria, Patron Cafe, and Firelit. You may just stumble upon a new favorite!

The mochatini features vanilla vodka poured with an equal amount of your chosen coffee liqueur. Get your hands on some chocolate liqueur, mix it in, and rim the glass with even more chocolate.


  • Espresso Brownie Bites with Kahlua Buttercream Kisses – you won’t be able to stop yourself from munching on these little bites of heaven. Top the brownies off with a frosting of boozy buttercream, and of course, keep them away from the kids!
  • Coffee Liqueur Tres Leches Cake Shots – what’s a party without shots? These boozy cake shots hit two birds with one stone – a yummy dessert and a nice buzz.
  • Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Drizzle – moist and oh so delicious, there’s nothing better than a cupcake with Kahlua in the cake and frosting – except when it’s drizzled with salted caramel of course.
  • Coffee Truffle – you know what would make truffles even yummier? Coffee and alcohol. These boozy truffles are a fun DIY dessert for parties and gifts.
  • Tiramisu – most Tiramisu recipes call for espresso, however, you can also use coffee liqueur if you’re in a pinch.

Wrap Up

What is coffee liqueur used for? Well, a whole lot of delicious treats! From cocktails to desserts, the possibilities are practically endless! And if you want a fun coffee quote to share with your friends after dinner, check out our famous coffee quotes article.

Stay caffeinated friends!

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