Kahlua is everyone’s favorite coffee liqueur! Here’s what to know about this Mexican liquor and the best ways to use it.
It’s rich, bittersweet, and it tastes like sweetened coffee. It’s everyone’s favorite coffee liqueur: Kahlua! This Mexican liquor stems back to the 1930’s, and is the key to famous drinks like the White Russian and Mudslide. What’s it made of, and what are the best ways to use it? We’ve got answers. Here’s what you need to know about this popular coffee liqueur!
What is Kahlua?
Kahlua is a coffee liqueur that’s made in Veracruz, Mexico with rum, sugar, vanilla bean, and coffee. It was invented in 1936 by Pedro Domecq. Contrary to what you might think, there’s no dairy! Kahlua is dark brown in color and not creamy at all, though many popular drinks that use it add cream.
Kahlua became popular after the invention of the Black Russian in 1948, and then the spin on it the White Russian in 1955. These classics catapulted Kahlua into the spotlight throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1980, it became the number one selling coffee liqueur worldwide.
Note: While it’s dairy-free, Kahlua is not 100% vegan; one of the company’s suppliers uses a sugar refining process that is not vegan friendly.
What does Kahlua taste like?
Kahlua has a full-bodied, rich and sweet flavor. It tastes strongly of coffee, with notes of vanilla and caramel on the finish.
How much alcohol is in Kahlua? Kahlua is 20% ABV (alcohol by volume), so it is relatively low in alcohol. Compare it to 40% ABV like whiskey, rum, vodka and gin.
Are there any substitutes? You can substitute any other coffee liqueur: the most popular substitutes are Tia Maria and Sheridan’s.
Why we like it
Kahlua is part of the historical cocktail lexicon, and we’re here for it! It’s very sweet, so use it sparingly. Famous for after dinner drinks like the White Russian and Mudslide, it’s also great as a shot in Kahlua coffee.
How much does it cost?
Compared to other liquors, Kahlua is mid-priced. It costs about $20 per 750 ml bottle. The shelf life of Kahlua is 4 years, so you’ve got a long time to use it.
Most popular Kahlua cocktails
Kahlua can be drunk on the rocks, but it’s best known for its use in drinks! It features in many great cocktails, most of them after dinner drinks.
This Mexican coffee liqueur is also included in the following drinks:
- B-52 Cocktail: Layer it with Irish cream and Grand Marnier
- Bushwacker: Mix it with ice, rum, coconut, and creme de cacao for a chocolaty pina colada
- Mind Eraser: A Black Russian with a layer of soda water
- Colorado Bulldog: A White Russian with a splash of cola
- Spanish Coffee: Add coffee, orange liqueur, rum and a caramelized sugar rim
- Kahlua Coffee: Add a shot in coffee and a drizzle of cream
Here’s how to make a mudslide: the real way! This mudslide recipe makes the classic drink starring vodka, Kahlua and Irish cream.
- 1 ounce* vodka
- 1 ounce Kahlua
- 1 1/2 ounces Irish cream (like Baileys)
- 1 1/2 ounces heavy cream (or 2 scoops vanilla ice cream and 1/2 cup ice*)
- For the garnish: Shaved chocolate (optional), chocolate sauce for the rim (optional)
- Classic Mudslide: If desired, spread the chocolate sauce on a plate and carefully dip in the cocktail glass rim. Place the vodka, Kahlua, Irish cream, and heavy cream in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 handfuls of ice and shake until cold. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with shaved chocolate if desired.
- Frozen Mudslide: Place the vodka, Kahlua, Irish cream, vanilla ice cream and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into a tall glass.
*1 ounce = 2 tablespoons
- Category: Drink
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Cocktails
More cocktail guides
Here are a few more guides to liqueurs, spirits and mixology:
- Grenadine Quick Guide It’s mistaken as cherry, but this bright syrup has a secret.
- Cointreau Quick Guide This popular orange liqueur is the best out there.
- Galliano Quick Guide Is this bright yellow liqueur worth buying?
- Aperol Quick Guide and Campari Quick Guide All you need to know about these Italian liqueurs.
- Orange Liqueur Quick Guide All you need to know about this somewhat confusing style of liquor.
- Chartreuse Quick Guide This pale green liqueur is worth adding to your collection…here’s why.
- Absinthe Quick Guide This formerly banned liquor is now in good graces.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.