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Try this Carajillo recipe, a Mexican after dinner drink! The mix of bitter coffee and sweet vanilla notes of Licor 43 is perfection.

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After mixing up all the classics, here at A Couple Cooks we’re sampling all the coffee cocktails. Here’s one that surprised us with its nuanced flavor: the Carajillo! This cocktail is popular in Spain and Latin America, but it’s probably most famous in Mexico where you’ll find it made with Licor 43. One sip and you’ll taste sweet vanilla, chocolate and citrus notes from the Licor and the bitter, rich notes of the coffee. It’s truly a match made in heaven! There’s Irish coffee, amaretto coffee and Kahlua coffee…but our favorite might be this one.

What’s in a Carajillo?

Carajillo is an after dinner cocktail of spiked hot coffee. It’s typical of Spain and some Latin American countries like Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico, and each country uses a different type of liquor. (Don’t ask what it’s slang for!) It’s become very popular as an after dinner drink in Mexico, where it’s most often served with Licor 43, a sweet Spanish liqueur. One sip of this two ingredient drink, and you’ll taste the magic.

The Spanish version of a carajillo uses brandy, and the American style is called Spanish coffee, a another seriously delicious spin with burnt sugar and rum (more on that below!). For this recipe, we’re going for the traditional Mexican carajillo. Here are the ingredients you need:

  • Espresso
  • Licor 43

Do you really need another specialty liqueur in your collection? 100% yes, if it’s Licor. Here’s why…

Licor 43

More about Licor 43

What’s Licor 43, and it is really worth a purchase? After making 200+ cocktails, our liquor cabinet is so packed it’s hard to decide whether to spring for another. But after tasting it, Licor 43 is absolutely worth it. Here’s what to know about this unique liqueur:

  • Licor 43 is a bright yellow, vanilla flavored Spanish liqueur, also known as Cuarenta Y Tres (43 in Spanish). It was invented in 1946 by the Zamora family, apparently based on an ancient recipe. The name comes from the 43 herbs and botanicals used to make it.
  • What does Licor 43 taste like? Licor 43 tastes sweet and aromatic, strongly of vanilla with notes of orange peel, spices, and cocoa.
  • How much does Licor 43 cost? It’s mid-priced. A 375 ml bottle costs about $15 and a 750 ml bottle costs about $25.
  • Is it worth buying? Yes, we think so! It’s perfectly paired with coffee. Use it for a Carajillo, or in Licor 43 cocktails like the Key Lime Martini or Mini Beer Shot.

How to make a Carajillo

With only two ingredients, it’s seriously easy to make a Carajillo! Here are a few tips on how to make this tasty after dinner drink:

  • Make espresso or very strong coffee. Espresso roast beans provide the darkest flavor. Use an espresso maker or your favorite method to make very strong coffee (we like the Chemex).
  • Add the Licor 43 to ice and stir. We like using clear ice to make it look the most impressive (you can make it in advance for cocktails!).
  • Slowly pour the coffee over a spoon: it should form a layer on top. Pouring it over a bar spoon helps to slow down the liquid, and it should settle on top forming a layer dark layer on top of the yellow Licor 43 layer.

Variation: try Spanish coffee!

The American variation on the Carajillo is called Spanish coffee. It’s not what you might think, a Carajillo with brandy like they’re served in Spain. Nope, it’s a theatrical presentation invented by Huber’s bar in Portland, Oregon! Rum is lit on fire to caramelize the outside of the glass, then the coffee is mixed with Kahlua and Triple Sec and it’s topped with whipped cream.

Sounds a little over the top, but we tried it and it’s goo-od. We also changed the method to be a little safer when you’re playing with fire. Go to How to Make Spanish Coffee.

More coffee cocktails

There are so many more tasty coffee cocktails to try! Many of them are each country’s variation on the Carajillo: spiked hot coffee! Here’s what to ty:

Licor 43

When to serve a Carajillo

A Carajillo is a fantastic dessert drink for sipping on after a meal! Serve it as a:

  • After dinner drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Signature drink
  • Girls or guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Carajillo Recipe

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Try this Carajillo recipe, a Mexican after dinner drink! The mix of bitter coffee and sweet vanilla notes of Licor 43 is perfection.


  • 2 ounces* espresso (or very strong coffee), cooled slightly
  • 1 ½ ounce Licor 43
  • Ice, for serving (try clear ice)


  1. Make the espresso.
  2. Add ice to lowball. Add the Licor 43 and stir. 
  3. Slowly pour the coffee over a bar spoon into the drink, which will settle on top. Serve immediately. 


*2 ounces = 4 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Jen P says:

    We had one the other night in Mexico and it was AMAZING!