Coffee Cocktails And Liqueurs – Best Alcoholic Combinations

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Popular Coffee Cocktails and Liqueurs

Have you ever had a cup of coffee late in the evening? Most people would probably answer no to this question because we all know that caffeine has the power to keep us awake. But what about coffee cocktails? Are you bored up with hot coffee drinks?

Today we will explore the history between coffee and alcohol and how their relationship has evolved to this day. We will talk about what happens when coffee is mixed with alcohol. Along with, we will also explore some of the most popular recipes of alcoholic coffee drinks.

Coffee and Alcohol: A Brief History

It all started with the establishment of the now famous Viennese coffee houses. Vienna was actually not the first location to open a coffee house. Such establishments were already popular in Mecca, dating as far back as the 12th century. In Europe, the first coffee house that opened was in Venice in 1647 and later in England during the 1650s. In Vienna coffee houses started opening as late as 1683. However, Vienna embraced the coffee house culture and tradition more than any other Western European city.

It was in Vienna that the first variations of coffee cocktails started gaining popularity. During the mid-19th century, drinks such as the Pharisäer and the Fiaker were served in Viennese coffee houses. Other entries on the coffee house menu included some cocktails such as Kaisermelange, Maria Theresia and Biedermeier-Kaffee. All these alcoholic coffee variations include ingredients such as egg yolks, honey, cream, rum, apricot liqueur and cognac.


Jump ahead a few decades and you are now in the 1950s when perhaps the most famous coffee and alcohol drink was invented: The Irish Coffee. This popular hot drink is a mix of hot coffee, whiskey, sugar and cream. Today, 70 years later, this drink is still popular and can be enjoyed by many people around the world. With the passing of times people kept experimenting with coffee and alcohol and today we can enjoy a few very popular coffee cocktails such as the Espresso Martini or the White Russian. But what does chemistry have to say about all this?

What Happens when Coffee is Mixed with Alcohol

Like we all know, caffeine’s most popular property is giving us a boost. It is classified as a central nervous system stimulant whilst alcohol on the other hand is classified as a central nervous system depressant. The main factor that plays a role in consuming the two is brain adenosine. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that exists in our brain and helps us sleep. As a normal day goes by, our adenosine levels also rise as the hours pass in order to let us know that our brain needs a rest. 

Caffeine manages to suppress the levels of adenosine in our brain, thus making us more alert and energetic. Alcohol on the other hand, is responsible for the rise of adenosine levels in our system, making us feel drowsy. Consuming it will slow our reaction time and cause imbalanced movement. Some people come to the conclusion that if they drink coffee before they go out or with their drink, they will be able to drink more without being affected. That’s simply not true as the alcohol will still enter our bloodstream. 

In fact, it’s more dangerous because it might lead us to have a wrong perception of how much alcohol we have consumed. The point here is that anything that contains alcohol must be consumed in moderation. Nothing is stopping us from truly enjoying a coffee cocktail but it is better to do it in small doses without endangering our central nervous system. If you are not sure which alcohol pairs best with coffee, don’t worry, as we have handpicked the best cocktail combinations along with their easy recipes.

Most Popular Coffee Cocktails and Liqueurs

Before we start introducing a few popular cocktails and liqueur recipes, it’s time to have a look at the difference between them. First, let’s have a look at some alcohol terminology. There is a difference between liquor and liqueur. Liquor is used to describe hard alcohol made through distillation which causes it to reach the 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) mark. Another popular name for it is spirit and it is usually unsweetened. Some examples of liquor are vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whiskey. 

Liqueur on the other hand, is made from liquor and it is usually flavored and sweetened. Examples include amaretto, campari, frangelico and kahlúa. A common use for liqueurs is to consume them before a meal (aperitif) or after a meal (digestif). Another use of them is as an ingredient in cocktails. Cocktails are basically a mix of alcoholic drinks and other ingredients such as juice, simple syrup and cream. A lot of coffee cocktails contain coffee liqueurs as their main ingredient in order to achieve that unique coffee flavor.

Liquor vs Liqueur

The 5 Most Popular Coffee Liqueurs

So, lets put aside the hot coffee and hold towards the cold ones. We have made a list of the most popular coffee liqueurs out there so make sure to try them out and create your own cocktails, sauces or desserts:


kahlua Drink

One of the most common coffee liqueurs in the market is the Mexican Kahlúa. It is inexpensive and has a mark of 20% ABV. You can use this by itself over some ice or make cocktails with it such as a white-russian. Ingredients include sugar, coffee, vanilla and corn or maple syrup. You can also make cold brew martini with Kahlua, and believe us, it’s amazing.

Tia Maria

This is a coffee liqueur from the Caribbean. Its ingredients include Jamaican rum, coffee and vanilla. It’s a dark liqueur that you can enjoy over ice or as an addition to cocktails such as an espresso martini. Its alcohol percentage is also 20%. Combine it with espresso coffee, vodka, some sugar to taste and some ice cubes.

Tia Maria

Mr. Black 

This cold press coffee liqueur has an ABV of 25% and comes from Australia. Its ingredients included Australian grain spirit and three coffee bean varieties. It has a unique black colour and is best consumed after a meal as a digestif. Its ingredients include a lot of herbs so its flavor can be quite bittersweet. Mix it with Stolen spiced rum, full cream milk and maple syrup (or some other simple syrup you like to experiment with). Shake them all and serve with a straw and some whipped cream, if you like!

Mr Black

Patrón XO Cafe

This Mexican concoction combines coffee with tequila with an ABV of 35%. Its unique ingredients result in a dry mouthfeel in comparison to other coffee liqueurs. The notes of vanilla and chocolate make it a perfect ingredient for desserts, sauces, simple syrups, whipped cream or cocktails. Or you can simply enjoy it over ice.

Patron XXO Cafe

Conker Spirit Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

Last but not least, this cold brew coffee liqueur comes all the way from the UK. It has an ABV of 25% and its ingredients include specialty coffee beans from Ethiopia and Brazil, demerara sugar and British wheat spirit. It has notes of chocolate and can be enjoyed over ice or as an ingredient in many coffee-based cocktail recipes. You can also just top up with whipped cream that gives a touch of dessert.

Conker Coffee Liqueur

The 5 Most Popular Coffee Cocktails

Irish coffee

Rumor has it that this popular cocktail was invented in 1947 by Joe Sheriddan in Shannon Airport in Ireland. Its main liquor is whiskey. Irish coffee is one of the most popular coffee forms which can be found in many menus.

Irish Coffee

You will need:

  • Irish whiskey
  • Coffee
  • Brown sugar
  • Whipped cream

Preparation method:

  1. Measure 25ml of Irish whiskey
  2. Pour it in a preheated glass
  3. Add 1 tsp of sugar and dissolved it in the whiskey
  4. Add a double shot of espresso and stir very well
  5. Whip some cream in a bowl
  6. Add it to your glass using the tip of a spoon. Make sure to do this slowly and let the cream land on top of the coffee. If you do this slowly the cream won’t sink in the mixture. Alternatively you can buy some whipped cream and use the dispenser to add it on top of the coffee.
  7. Enjoy!


This cocktail’s name was inspired by the new wave band The B-52s and was invented in 1970. It has three layers and is the size of a shot. This small cocktail offers its coffee flavour to the Kahlúa liqueur.

B-52 Coffee Cocktail

You will need:

  • 20 ml Kahlúa (or Chameleon Mexican Cold Brew On-The-Go)
  • Baileys Original Irish Cream 20 ml
  • 20 ml Grand Marnier liqueur

Preparation method

  1. In a shot glass add the 20ml of Kahlúa
  2. Place a teaspoon (or a bar spoon if you have it) on top of the shot glass
  3. Pour the 20ml of Baileys slowly over the back of the spoon in the shot glass.
  4. Do the same with the Grand Marnier liqueur. 
  5. Enjoy!

Coffee Negroni

This cocktail is a very popular variation of the classic Negroni. The original Negroni is an Italian cocktail consisting of gin, vermouth rosso and Campari. It is also thought to be an aperitif. Let’s see what happens when you add coffee into the mix. 

Coffee Negroni

You will need:

  • 20 ml Mr Black
  • 20 ml Gin
  • 15 ml Campari
  • 10 ml Sweet Vermouth
  • Ice cubes

Preparation method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a glass over ice
  2. Stir well 
  3. Garnish with an orange peel
  4. Enjoy!

Espresso Martini

This cocktail is much like the classic martini with the addition of your favourite coffee liqueur. A simple twist on a classic cocktail that will win over any coffee lover. It’s very much popular in New York and is available in most of the restaurants that serve drinks.

Espresso Martini

You will need:

  • 40 ml Vodka
  • 20 ml Kahlúa ( or Chameleon Mexican Cold Brew On-The-Go for non-alcoholic drinkers)
  • 20 ml Espresso
  • A few whole coffee beans
  • Ice Cubes
  • A shaker

Preparation method:

  1. Add some ice cubes in your shaker
  2. Add in all the ingredients
  3. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass
  4. Use the beans as garnish
  5. Enjoy!

White Russian

This coffee cocktail is a twist on its original Black Russian with the addition of heavy cream. It was invented in 1949 in Belgium and owes its name to the country that loves vodka the most: Russia.

White Russian

You will need:

  • 60 ml vodka
  • 2 tbsp Kahlúa ( or Chameleon Mexican Cold Brew On-The-Go for no alcohol people)
  • 1 tbsp heavy whipped cream or cashew cream
  • Ice cubes

Preparation method:

  1. Fill your choice of glass with ice (we recommend an old-fashioned glass) 
  2. Pour the Kahlúa and vodka in the glass
  3. Add the heavy cream on top
  4. Stir well and enjoy!

All the above recipes give you an idea on how to make some classic coffee cocktails. However, feel free to experiment with the liqueurs and come up with your own recipes and twists. All in all, coffee can pair very nicely with alcohol but must be enjoyed responsibly. We hope you enjoy making all these cocktails!