Spanish Coffee

Try this homemade Spanish coffee recipe! The showy after dinner drink features Kahlua, rum, orange liqueur, and a caramelized sugar rim.

Spanish coffee

Have you tried the revelation that is Spanish coffee? Flaming Spanish coffee, that is? The name is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually an American spin on the Spanish concept of carajillo: spiked coffee. But this drink is extra-special. It’s got a caramelized sugar rim and is spiked with Kahlua, rum, and orange liqueur…and topped with hand-whipped fluffy whipped cream! The burnt caramel, citrus, bitter coffee and sweet cream all combine into a literal symphony of flavor. You’ve gotta try this one!

What is Spanish coffee?

Why’s it called Spanish coffee, when it’s really American? Well, the concept of spiked coffee spans cultures and liquors, from traditional Irish coffee to amaretto coffee. The Spanish version of spiked coffee is called carajillo, and it’s popular in Spain and Latin American countries like Cuba, Colombia and Mexico. Each country uses its own liqueur; in Spain it’s brandy; in Mexico it’s Licor 43, a bright yellow vanilla liqueur.

Spanish coffee is an American adaptation of the carajillo, invented at Huber’s Bar in Portland, Oregon in the 1970’s by co-owner James Louie. The drink is made tableside by lighting high proof rum on fire to caramelize the glass’s sugar rim. Then the glass is filled with coffee, Kahlua and Triple Sec, and topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. It’s a true dramatic spectacle designed to put on a show: and we’ll admit this drink is totally worthy of it.

Spanish coffee recipe

Ingredients & equipment for Spanish coffee

Here are the ingredients and equipment you’ll need to make a Spanish coffee recipe at home. We’ve created a method that’s easiest for home preparation of this flaming drink: but there are a few different options! The Spanish coffee ingredients are:

  • Coffee: any strong coffee will do, using your favorite brewing method
  • Kahlua or any coffee liqueur like Tia Maria
  • Triple Sec or any orange liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • Rum: use aged rum for the home method, or 151 rum for the bar method
  • Sugar and a lemon: to make the rim
  • Homemade whipped cream: you’ll need heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar, or use vegan whipped cream for vegan
  • Kitchen torch for home method (here’s a good one), lighter for bar method

How to make the caramelized rim… two methods!

This Spanish coffee recipe calls for lighting rum on fire to make the caramelized glass rim. Now, we’re always up for playing with fire at home (safely, mind you). But when we tried this trick using our thick glass Irish coffee mug, it shattered when the coffee was poured in! The flaming method also takes a bit of practice, and it’s not practical for a crowd.

Because of this, we prefer to use a kitchen torch for our method: like the kind you’d use to caramelize crème brulee. Here’s more about the two methods:

  • The best method for homemade Spanish coffee is a kitchen torch. This ensures your glass won’t break (like ours did)! It’s also safer, which is a big plus. And it’s faster and easier to make multiple servings for a crowd.
  • Don’t have a kitchen torch? Here’s the kitchen torch we use and it’s only $15. You can also just skip the caramelized rim altogether: it’s still extra delicious without it. Or, try the bar method…
  • The traditional bar method uses 151 rum and a lighter. If you want to try the traditional method, go for it! To get it to light you’ll need 151 rum, a higher proof alcohol than the standard. Go to the recipe below for our pointers! Use a thin glass so the caramelization happens quickly; thicker glasses take longer, get hotter, and then have the possibility of shattering like ours did.

Note: If you end up buying a kitchen torch, you can use it for so many things! Try it for caramelizing creme brulee, charring crust on a pizza to look like a wood-fired oven (our favorite trick!), or melting cheese on nachos (to add smoky flavor).

Kahlua

Homemade whipped cream: a few tips

Sure, you can buy Cool Whip. But if you’re going to the trouble of making a Spanish coffee recipe, homemade whipped cream takes it up a notch! You’ll just need heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar to sweeten it. it takes only a minute or two to whisk up by hand. Or, you can use coconut cream or coconut milk as a dairy-free option. Here are the various methods:

  • Classic whipped cream: Use this Homemade Whipped Cream recipe. Make sure to use the freshest of cream, which whips the fastest and has the best texture. (Old cream gets too dense.) Whip it to soft peaks, which makes just the right texture for floating on top of a drink. When you add it to the top, do so over the back of a spoon, which helps it to balance on top.
  • Dairy-free whipped cream: Use this Dairy Free Whipped Cream recipe. Keep in mind you’ll need to refrigerate 1 can of coconut milk overnight. Or, you can substitute coconut cream with no need for refrigeration.
Spanish coffee

How to make Spanish coffee

Now that you’ve got your kitchen torch and selected your whipped cream method…this Spanish coffee recipe is a breeze! Here’s the general outline of the steps (or jump to the recipe below):

  • Make your coffee.
  • Make the whipped cream, making sure to whip to soft peaks.
  • Rim the edge of the glass with a 1/2-inch band of sugar. This allows for maximum burnt caramel flavor. Or, skip this step: the drink will still taste delicious!
  • Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. It should take just a minute or so.
  • Add coffee, Kahlua, Triple Sec and rum.
  • Top with whipped cream. Again, adding it over the back of a spoon helps it to float on top. Enjoy!

Variation that’s even easier: the Carajillo!

If you like this Spanish coffee recipe, you’ll love a Mexican-style Carajillo. As we mentioned, Spanish coffee is actually an American adaptation of this Spanish invention. But Carajillo is also very popular in Mexico, where they spike the coffee with Licor 43 instead of brandy.

Licor 43 is a bright yellow vanilla liqueur made with 43 herbs and spices. Add it to coffee, and it’s got loads of nuance and intrigue. If you top with whipped cream like the Spanish coffee, the two taste very similar. We’d highly recommend giving it a try: or making it instead of this recipe if you’re scared off by the caramelized rim. Go to Carajillo (Mexican Spiked Coffee).

Spanish coffee recipe

More after dinner drinks

There are so many other tasty after dinner and dessert drinks to try in addition to Spanish coffee! Here are some favorites:

When to serve Spanish coffee

Spanish coffee is a showy 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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Spanish coffee

Spanish Coffee


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (7 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

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

Description

Try this homemade Spanish coffee recipe! The showy after dinner drink features Kahlua, rum, orange liqueur, and a caramelized sugar rim.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 ounces* coffee
  • 2 ounces Kahlua
  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec (or other orange liqueur)
  • 1/2 ounce aged rum (or white or dark)
  • Granulated sugar, for dipping the glass
  • Lemon wedge
  • 1 large spoonful sweetened whipped cream (or vegan whipped cream), whipped to soft peaks
  • For the garnish: grated chocolate or fresh grated or ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Make the coffee. Allow it to cool slightly while preparing the drink.
  2. Make the homemade whipped cream, whipping it to soft peaks.
  3. Use a lemon wedge to wet a 1/2-inch of the rim of the glass and dip the outside in sugar to make a 1/2-inch band. 
  4. Use a kitchen torch** to caramelize the outside of the glass until the sugar turns brown. 
  5. Add the coffee, Kahlua, triple sec and rum and stir once. 
  6. Gently float the whipped cream on top using the back of a spoon. Garnish with grated chocolate or nutmeg.

Notes

*If converting to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons.

**The traditional method is to place 3/4 ounce 151 rum in the glass first, light it on fire, and tilt the glass to allow the sugar to caramelize. This method doesn’t require a torch, but if you use a thicker glass like an Irish coffee mug it can shatter (which happened to us!). The torch method is safer and makes it easier to serve this drink for multiple people. You can also omit the sugar rim if you prefer; the flavor is still great. Or, you can try the traditional method at your own risk; if you do, add the 151 rum, caramelize the edge, then add the coffee, Kahlua, and Triple Sec (omit the aged rum).

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

Keywords: Spanish coffee

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

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

Cookbook Author and photographer

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.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Ramya
    February 26, 2021 at 5:29 am

    will be making this soon i never had spanish coffee before perfect for after office drink Thanks Ramya

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