May 8th, 2012 by DrinkUp

DIY Coffee Liqueur (Way Better Than Kahlua)


Continuing this week’s tradition of Steeplechase friendly items, here is something that is sure to knock the socks of your fellow tailgaters. Coffee(occasional espresso) & Alcohol are two of my favorite beverages on the planet, so combining the two of them makes perfect sense to me.  But I didn’t really understand the true genius of coffee liqueur until I went to Hawaii and noticed it in unexpected places—in old school fruity umbrella drinks like the Bahama Mama and new Tiki creations made with coconut, falernum and lime, on top of a tropical fruit salad, and even shaken up with cinnamon, chiles, and cream. I had been pigeonholing coffee liqueur as just a part of a White Russian, only to find out that its potent flavor actually blends well with a variety of ingredients.

What is out there: Kahlua seems to be the go to of choice for everyone who is grabbing something in this category.  The problem with Kahlua is it is just too damn sweet for a lot of people.  Yes, it can make a great White Russian but that is about all it is good for in my opinion.  Creating your own homemade coffee liqueur tastes rich and full without any syrupy sweetness.  Just like with coffee, not everyone takes their coffee liqueur the same way. If you’re picky about coffee, you can use your favorite beans in your own liqueur, and you have the option of playing with the spirit base as well. You can mix light and aged rums for more complexity. Not a rum person? Then try bourbon or vodka instead. Or follow Kahlua’s and flavor your concoction with cinnamon, hazelnut, or peppermint. The quick steeping time means no patience is required.

Now lets get down to business.  DIY coffee  liqueur tastes like like a fresh cup of coffee with added depth from rum and just enough sugar to make it great for sipping or mixing—or baking and dessert garnishing.

DO NOT HOT BREW: When hot coffee cools down, it loses some of its good qualities. Cold brewing the coffee keeps bitter and overly acidic flavors from taking over.


  • 1/4 cup fine ground coffee
  • 2 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups light rum (or dark or bourbon – you get the point)


  1. Cold brew the coffee by combining the grounds and 1 1/4 cups of the water into a sealable glass jar, shaking it, then refrigerating the mixture for 12 hours. Strain through a coffee filter into another sealable glass jar.
  2. Combine the sugar and 1 cup of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let this syrup cool to room temperature.
  3. Add cooled syrup, vanilla bean, and rum to the glass jar that contains the coffee. Let that mixture steep for 3 days, then remove the vanilla bean and bottle the liqueur.

And that is it – now you have the best damn coffee liqueur you could ask for.  Try an espresso version next.  Try different varietals of coffee.  The possibilities are endless.


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