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Coffee liqueur is an integral part of some classic cocktails, like the White and Black Russian. There are also many different options available, including bottles that have been around for decades and newer craft distillery expressions. What they all have in common is providing a boost of caffeine with roasted chocolate and espresso flavors, combined with a bit of sweetness and even some herbal notes. Here are the best coffee liqueurs to drink now.
Best Overall: Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
"Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur is legit,” says Darnell Holguin, co-host of the Azucar y Limon podcast and co-founder of Silver Sun Group. “This Australian brand uses quality arabica coffee that is carefully brewed and blended with Australian wheat vodka and cane sugar to give it a nice kick and great level of sweetness for cocktails or enjoying on its own."
Reniel Garcia, the bar director of Havana 1957, Espa?ola Way in Miami Beach, is also a fan. “Expect big flavor along with the taste of the coffee and sweetness from the Australian wheat vodka,” he says.
Best for Espresso Martini: Kahlúa Original
"This very classic Mexican coffee liqueur is widely used worldwide for cocktails and cooking because of its great coffee notes, versatility and balance,” says Pablo Guerrero, the food and beverage manager of Azabu Miami Beach.
Kahlúa has been around since the 1930s, combining arabica coffee beans and Mexican-grown sugar in this liqueur. It's also a must-have ingredient for an Espresso Martini, adding a sweet and roasty boost of flavor to the alcoholic bite of the vodka.
Best for White Russian: Tia Maria Liqueur
"Tia Maria [used to be] made with Jamaican coffee beans,” says Carlos Lopez, the bar manager of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami Beach. “That gave it a distinct and more genuine coffee taste compared to other options out there.” Even though it’s now made in Italy, Tia Maria still uses high-quality coffee beans, along with Jamaican rum and sugar.
Nestor Marchand, the director of food and beverage at Plunge Beach Resort, recalls that this liqueur was one of his mother’s favorites. “The exotic fusion of natural vanilla, combined with the finest coffee roasted to perfection,” he says, “it's hard to only have one.”
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Best for Black Russian: Leopold Bros. Coffee Liqueur
Colorado distillery Leopold Bros makes an impressive variety of spirits, including this coffee liqueur that was first released in 2002. Freshly roasted coffee beans are added to a water press, then the coffee is added to a base spirit along with raw cane sugar. This is an excellent choice for a Black Russian if you really want fresh coffee notes to shine. And don’t be alarmed if there’s some sediment in the bottle—that just proves the distillery is using real coffee beans in its process.
Best for Old Fashioned: St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
If you've never had a bit of coffee liqueur in an Old Fashioned, you're missing out. The earthy, roasted notes play nicely with the sweetness and spice of the bourbon or rye. Try using this coffee liqueur from California’s St. George Spirits, which is based on the flavors of New Orleans-style coffee. This means that chicory root is part of the recipe, along with sugar cane, vanilla beans and Yirgacheffe coffee beans.
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Best Digestif: J?germeister Cold Brew Coffee
Germany's J?germeister is known for its intense herbal flavor, often served as an ice-cold shot from a machine behind the bar. In 2019, the brand released this new expression, combining the liqueur’s 56 botanicals with the flavors of cold brew coffee. The results are quite pleasing, as the chocolate notes work well with the signature floral bouquet. Try this one ice cold as well for the full effect.
Best for Sipping: Patrón XO Cafe
"Patrón XO is an excellent choice for sipping on its own and [it's] very smooth to drink," says Frederic Najem, the director of food and beverage at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. “It has a nice fresh coffee aroma balanced with chocolate and vanilla, and the taste of fresh-roasted coffee with a note of chocolate, vanilla and light tequila.” This low-proof coffee liqueur is handcrafted in Jalisco, Mexico.
Best Budget: Kapali Coffee Liqueur
Kapali is a Mexican coffee liqueur made using coffee beans grown at high altitude, along with locally grown vanilla beans. This is not the most complex spirit out there, but its affordable price, pleasant sweetness, and notes of chocolate and roasted coffee make it a good bottle for any cocktail that calls for coffee liqueur.
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?Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has been covering spirits and traveling the world visiting distilleries for many years. His work has appeared in many different national outlets covering trends, new releases, and the stories and innovators behind the spirits. His first love remains whiskey, but he is partial to tequila, rum, gin, cognac and all things distilled.