Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur that’s smoother and more refined that Kahlua! Here’s what to know and the best Tia Maria drinks.

Tia Maria

Want the best coffee liqueur? Skip the Kahlua and opt for Tia Maria! This smoother, refined spin on Kahlua is absolutely worth adding to your liquor collection. Originating from Jamaica, it’s got a sophisticated nuance in flavor with vanilla, caramel and citrus notes. It makes a stellar White Russian and a super sophisticated Mudslide. You can even sip it straight: it’s s smooth and refreshing on the rocks. Here’s why to grab a bottle!

What is Tia Maria?

Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur invented in Jamaica in the 1940’s, made with Arabica coffee, Jamaican rum, bourbon vanilla and sugar. It was manufactured in Jamaica until it was bought in 2005 by the Pernod Ricard company. It’s now manufactured in Italy.

The back story to this liqueur is fairly improbable: in the 18th century, a Spanish aristocrat fled a colonial war to Jamaica and her maid saved the secret liqueur recipe in a jewelry box. The name of the maid? Maria. (Tia is Spanish for “aunt”). A more likely story links Jamaican lawyer Morris Cargill and Dr. Ken Evans to the liqueur in the 1940’s, who claimed to be influenced by the recipe Cargill’s aunt used to make.

What does Tia Maria taste like?

Tia Maria is sweet, with bitter coffee and strong vanilla notes, and hints of caramel and citrus. It has more depth and tastes smoother and more refined than Kahlua, with a stronger coffee flavor.

How much alcohol is in Tia Maria? It is 20% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is similar to Kahlua and other liqueurs.

Are there any Tia Maria substitutes? Kahlua is the best substitute, but you can also use other coffee liqueurs like Sheridan’s.

Why we like it

Tia Maria is like Kahlua, but better! Take a sip and you’ll get a nuance in flavor that’s not present in the more straightforward Kahlua. Notes of caramel, citrus and vanilla swirl into the bittersweet coffee. It makes a killer Espresso Martini and a next-level White Russian.

How much does it cost?

Compared to other liquors, Tia Maria is mid-priced. A 750 ml bottle costs about $25.

Best Tia Maria drink recipes

You can use this classy coffee liqueur in any way that you use Kahlua: it’s fantastic in an Espresso Martini or in the modern classic, the Revolver. Here are some of the top Tia Maria drinks to try:

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Tia maria

Top Tia Maria Drinks

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


Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur that’s smoother and more refined that Kahlua! Here are the top Tia Maria drinks to try: the Revolver, White Russian and Espresso Martini.



For the Revolver

  • 2 ounces* bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce Tia Maria
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

For the White Russian

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Tia Maria
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) heavy cream

For the Espresso Martini

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • ¾ ounce Tia Maria
  • 1 ounce warm espresso or strong coffee


  1. For the Revolver: Combine the bourbon, Tia Maria and orange bitters in a mixing glass (or cocktail shaker) with a handful of ice. Stir until cold, then strain into cocktail glass. Express the orange peel onto the glass by squeezing it to release the oils. Or if desired, flame the orange peel (taking fire precautions as necessary!): Cut a piece of orange peel in a 2-inch circle. Hold the peel about 2 inches from the cocktail glass and warm it with a lit match. Then, quickly squeeze the peel to express the oils, causing it to flame briefly as the oil hits the glass.
  2. For the White Russian: Add the vodka and Kahlua to a low ball glass. Fill it with ice.
    Top with the cream. Stir until cold (or stir just a bit to get the swirl effect).
  3. For the Espresso Martini: Make the espresso or make very strong coffee. Add the vodka, Kahula and espresso to a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Shake vigorously until cold. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with coffee beans if desired.


*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Tia maria, tia maria drink

More cocktail guides

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About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. The 1st time I remember drinking Tia Maria was in 1955… I was 7. My mom and dad would drink Tia Maria with a hot cup of coffee after dinner most lights. Small antique sterling silver filigree aperitif glasses with glass inserts. Back then the bottles were special, the beautiful label, shape of the bottle, and a wonderful lead cap. Tia Maria had no rival. My mom always told me if I didn’t have anything good to say about something not to say anything at all… so let me just say this, Tai Maria still has the special taste. I drink it one of two ways, either straight and as hot as you can take it, or mixed 50/50 with Kracken rum. – https://photos.app.goo.gl/h8FRnyAFtq21LDT38

    Note: Just in case I was being too subtle… I HATE the new bottle and look. If it’s only about profit they should have just charged a little more rather than cutting corners.

  2. Back in the late ’70s / early ’80s I used to drink Black Russians but back then they were made with vodka and Tia Maria. I’ve noticed over the decades that it’s now mainly made with Kahlúa which I find horribly sweet. I haven’t had one in about 40 years since I’ve always been a beer drinker have have never developed a taste for liquors (except a Tia Maria and when flying, vodka and orange/cranberry juice. I just decided to Google the original ingredients in a Black Russian and found this site and wanted to say I’ve never understood why the one ingredient went from Tia Maria to Kahlúa.