Coffee liqueur combines two of our favorite drinks: coffee and alcohol. While Kahlua and Tia Maria are probably the most well-known and widely sold, they are hardly the only option. Mr. Black leads the pack as it set the bar world buzzing with its laser-sharp coffee focus. Founder Tom Baker and his team roast and distill their product themselves; while other brands create a variety of spirits and liqueurs. Another company making headlines is Licor 43, with their extensive new Spanish line that contains coffee from the Canary Islands. Parent group Zamora Company said Licor 43 Baristo will not be marketed as a coffee liqueur due to its “complex and sophisticated” character that offers a flavor of freshly roasted coffee with the “botanic, citric, floral and vanilla notes of Licor 43 Original.” For some creative bartenders, coffee has become almost as versatile a cocktail ingredient as tonic water. A key reason for this upsurge is the emergence of cold brew coffee, which has contributed a lot to the improvement of coffee cocktails. If you thought that Jäger was simply get-me-drunk-quickly shots, think again. Pairing it with this herbal liqueur with equal parts vodka and coffee liqueur and adding a bit of grenadine results in a very tasty treat. This may come as a surprise, but coffee liqueurs are also quite useful in tropical cocktails. It is a key ingredient, along with pineapple juice, coconut liqueur and dark rum, in that symbol of tropical bliss, the ethereal Bahama Mama.
While a signature cocktail is a defining element of the best home bars, making your own coffee liqueur takes you to a whole new level of impressing family and friends. The basic recipe starts with vodka or rum, vanilla, sugar and either coffee grounds or instant coffee. Melt 10 oz of sugar in 3 oz of water. Prepare 7 oz of coffee and add it to 7 oz of alcohol. Mix the latter to the sugar syrup and keep in an airtight container. Let it sit for 15 days. If you’re ready to get sipping now, there’s a rapid, 24-hour infusion that consists of 8 oz aged rum, 4 oz. turbinado syrup, 1 cup whole-bean coarsely ground coffee, and seeds from a vanilla bean. Combine the ingredients in a 16 oz jar. Seal and shake to combine. Refrigerate and infuse for 24 hours. Strain. Refrigerate for up to 3 months. There’s absolutely no excuse to further delay your first sip!