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Kahlua is everyone’s favorite coffee liqueur! Here’s what to know about this Mexican liquor and the best ways to use it.

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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.

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.

Other cocktails

This Mexican coffee liqueur is also included in the following drinks:

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Kahlua Mudslide

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
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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 ½ ounces Irish cream (like Baileys)
  • 1 ½ ounces heavy cream (or 2 scoops vanilla ice cream and ½ cup ice*)
  • For the garnish: Shaved chocolate (optional), chocolate sauce for the rim (optional)


  1. 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. 
  2. 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
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More cocktail guides

Here are a few more guides to liqueurs, spirits and mixology:

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 and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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