Coffee is an essential part of most people’s days, and it can give you even more of a kick with a little liqueur.
What is coffee liqueur? On its own, it’s perfect for sipping or as a digestif. But as an additive in a cocktail or martini, it’s even better. For example, a White Russian is a classic mixture of coffee liqueur, cream, and vodka; an Espresso Martini simply contains coffee liqueur (like Kahlua), vodka, and simple syrup for sweetness.
Basically, coffee liqueur makes for a slightly more sophisticated, grown-up, and most importantly, better-tasting version of a Vodka Red Bull.
What is Coffee Liqueur?
You’ve probably heard of or tried two of the most popular coffee liqueur brands, Kahlua and Tia Maria. Like most liqueurs, these are a sweet and syrupy combination of flavoring, alcohol, and sugar that can be used to enhance a specific beverage or enjoyed on their own.
Does Coffee Liqueur Have Alcohol?
Liqueurs contain a base of liquor, so coffee liqueur does contain alcohol. What differentiates liqueurs from straight liquors like brandy, whiskey, or rum, is that these bases are mixed with sweeteners, flavoring, oils, or other additives.
The additives lower the alcohol by volume, so while most liquors will fall between 37.5%-55% alcohol by volume, liqueurs usually average out around 15%-20%.
Can You Drink Straight Coffee Liqueur?
You can enjoy coffee liqueur in a cocktail, as a coffee additive, or straight.
When drinking coffee liqueur straight, it’s usually used as a digestif, which is typically enjoyed after a meal to aid in the digestion process
Here are 15 of the best coffee liqueurs we could find, arranged from least to most expensive– it was impossible for us to rank these on quality because they’re truly all incredible in the right context.
- Patron XO
- Bittermens New Orleans
- Galliano Ristretto
- Tia Maria
- St. George NOLA
- Mr. Black
- Marble Moonlight
Check out our list, and get sipping!
Coffee Liqueur Drinks You Should Try
15. Kapali Coffee Liqueur – $8.99
The low price point might make you nervous, but Kapali is widely considered to be even better than the old classic coffee liqueur, Kahlúa. Its flavor is deeper, but still sweet, and you can really taste the coffee.
Good enough to sip on its own, but you can try it in a Toasted Almond cocktail for a sweet and creamy treat.
14. Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee – $10
People tend to be divided when it comes to Jagermeister: you really either love it or you hate it. If you hate it, this won’t be the liqueur for you– but if you love it, you’re in for a treat.
The herbal taste of regular Jagermeister pairs surprisingly well with the taste of coffee.
13. Patron XO Café Tequila – $12
A coffee-infused tequila might sound unconventional, but it’s delicious.
It’s also very sweet, which means a cocktail made with Patron XO Café Tequila might be so delicious that you drink a lot more than you intended to. Beware!
12. Kahlúa – $15
Obviously, Kahlúa is the classic for a reason. It’s got a reasonable price point, and it tastes great. It’s probably best for mixing, rather than sipping, but it is a reliable choice for the perfect White Russian.
11. Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur – $15
This liqueur is made with chicory as well as coffee; chicory coffee is a New Orleans tradition based on the mixture served by the iconic Cafe Du Monde.
Don’t let the name throw you off, though – it also contains Candi syrup, vanilla, and cacao nibs that keep it from getting too bitter.
10. Galliano Ristretto (Also known as Galliano Espresso) – $25
Delicious for sipping, or a wonderful addition to a cocktail.
More than just coffee, Galliano Ristretto contains subtle, roasted flavor notes like blackberry, chocolate, and even anise. For coffee snobs, it’s made from Arabica beans to add creaminess and Robusta beans for bitterness.
Neither too sweet nor too bitter– the perfect blend of flavors, with a toasty, not-quite-burnt flavor reminiscent of your favorite cup of coffee.
9. Tia Maria Cold Brew – $26
Perfect for fans of a very sweet coffee-flavored liqueur. This one’s slightly too sweet and thick to comfortably sip by itself, but it’s excellent in cocktails.
It tastes less like a cup of coffee and more like something coffee-flavored, like a hard candy or ice cream. One of its flavor notes is frequently described as “Tootsie Roll”, so whether you’ll like this liqueur or not might be determined by your stance on Tootsie Rolls.
8. Rieger Caffè Amaro – $27
For those invested in aesthetics, Rieger Caffè Amaro comes in a beautifully designed bottle.
It was created by J. Rieger & Co., a Kansas City, Missouri distillery, and Thou Mayest Coffee Roaster (also located in Kansas City, Missouri).
This truly is a digestif, with plenty of herbal notes present to keep things interesting. Flavors include anise, cardamom, orange peel, spearmint, vanilla, and juniper berries. “Amaro” literally means “bitter” in Italian, but it’s not completely bitter; it’s sweetened with cane syrup.
7. St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur – $28
Another liqueur that comes in a stunning bottle that will be a lovely addition to your liquor shelf.
Much like Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur, this one contains chicory and coffee to get that classic Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans flavor profile.
It’s rich and luxurious and very well-balanced: not too bitter, not too sweet. It lets the flavor of the coffee beans truly shine, and it’s definitely good enough to sip on its own.
6. Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur – $30
Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur is a product of Australia, and is naturally made from Australian craft coffee (one hundred percent Arabica beans) and wheat vodka. Cane sugar balances it out and prevents the coffee and vodka from dominating the flavor.
It’s earthy, and has a roasted flavor. If you sip carefully, you’ll notice subtle and delicious notes like roasted coconut, spices, and tobacco. Try it in a Cold Brew Old-Fashioned!
5. Jameson Cold Brew Coffee + Whiskey – $33
The beverage known as Irish Coffee is really just a combination of coffee and whiskey, so Jameson’s decision to make a Cold Brew Coffee + Whiskey just seems logical.
Not all coffee liqueur drinks have significant caffeine content, but this one absolutely does– a shot contains 17 milligrams of caffeine, which is insignificant on its own, but it can add up if you’re enjoying a little too much of this liqueur.
It’s not particularly sweet, which means you’ll really get the full effect of the coffee and whiskey, with a delicious, subtle charred aftertaste.
4. Somrus Coffee Cream Liqueur – $35
You might guess from the “cream” in its name that this liqueur is more like a latte, or a cappuccino, than a shot of espresso. It’s very sweet and smooth, with a flavor profile comparable to coffee-flavored gelato more than coffee itself.
3. Lyre’s Coffee Originale – $36
Non-alcoholic spirits are becoming more and more popular, which is helpful for people who’d like to cut back on alcohol but still enjoy a delicious cocktail. People looking to catch a buzz will be out of luck with this one, but its flavor makes for an incredible mocktail. For example, this non-alcoholic Espresso Martini!
It’s got roasted coffee and caramel notes, with subtle fruity undertones reminiscent of blueberries. Lyres makes a wide range of high-quality non-alcoholic spirits that come in bottles with beautiful illustrations on the labels, making for a delicious treat for the non-drinkers in your life.
2. Marble Moonlight EXpresso Coffee Liqueur – $40
Yes, in this case, it is spelled “expresso”.
This liqueur is made at the Marble Distillery, located in Carbondale Colorado (a gorgeous town with a stunning view of Mt. Sopris – definitely worth a visit!)
Like many craft coffee liqueurs, it features coffee from a local roaster. The overall effect is sweet enough to be appealing but definitely not sickly. The flavor profile contains chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon – you really can’t go wrong with the classics. There’s no overly-pronounced alcoholic taste; it’s just a delicious digestif.
Marble Distilling offers two compelling recipes on their website: one for “The Dude” (no list of coffee liqueurs would be complete without a Big Lebowski reference, although this one’s a little fancier than your average White Russian) and one for a Moonlight Expresso Liqueur cheesecake.
1. Sesión Tequila Coffee – $80
This price point might seem intimidating, but you just have to trust that it’s worth it.
Sesión, which is created by master distiller Francisco Quijano, has won numerous awards for good reason. It’s sweet, chocolatey, and full-bodied, tasting clearly of cold-brew coffee. The flavors aren’t too complex; it’s sweet and perfectly balanced, with subtle almost-yeasty notes reminiscent of bread.
It’s like breakfast, at a bakery, but in a liqueur that might not be ideal for drinking first thing in the morning. Instead, try Sesión’s recipe for a perfect Espresso Martini.
Ingredients do make a huge difference in this particular liqueur– the agave this tequila is made from is sourced from one single agave farm, owned by Jose Fernandez and called Tierra de Agaves, located in Jalisco, Mexico.
It’s rich and luxurious, and worth every penny for what might be the ultimate high-end coffee liqueur experience.
Coffee liqueur: Conclusion
Coffee liqueur is a delicious addition to a cocktail or a great aid in digesting a well-cooked meal. It combines two of the world’s favorite indulgences, coffee and alcohol, to make for the perfect treat for any occasion.
If you’re a fan of the sweet syrupy liqueur, try a few of our top picks. Experiment with them using different cocktail combinations, or enjoy them straight. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
How should I drink coffee liqueur?
Many high-quality liqueurs can be sipped on their own, but you can also put them in your coffee, mix them with cola, or add cream and vodka to make a White Russian.
Does coffee liqueur have caffeine in it?
Of course, it varies based on brand and ingredients, but the amount of caffeine in the average coffee liqueur is negligible.
For reference, there are about 95 milligrams of caffeine in a cup of black coffee. A shot of coffee liqueur contains roughly 9mg. Unless you’re super-sensitive to caffeine, or you over-indulge in liqueur, you probably won’t feel an effect.
Can I make my own coffee liqueur?
You can! There are plenty of recipes for making your very own DIY coffee liqueur.
However, likely, something you brew up at home isn’t going to taste quite as good as the liqueurs. Since they’re created by master distillers and coffee roasters, the taste is second to none and worth paying for. Making your own coffee liqueur may be cheaper, but you will be compromising on taste.
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