Kahlua is a coffee-flavored and sugar-based liqueur produced in Mexico. The liqueur is produced using several ingredients such as rum, vanilla bean, and corn syrup. Its mainly used as a cocktail mixer and an ingredient in desserts, ice cream, cakes, and cheesecakes.
Kahlua production was originally started in 1936 by Pedro Domecq before the Spanish Conquest. It went through many changes over the decades and in 2005, the company was acquired by Pernod Ricard.
In This Guide
Before 2004, the alcoholic content of Kahlua was 26.5%. After 2004, it was changed to be only 20%. There are several Kahlua product variations including the Original, Especial, Salted Caramel, Hazelnut, Mocha, French Vanilla Liqueur, Peppermint Mocha, Midnight, Cinnamon Spice, Pumpkin Spice, and Ready to Drink.
History and Production
The name, Kahlúa, was taken from the indigenous Nahuatl language and means “home of the Alcohua people”. Kahlúa first arrived in the USA in 1962, when liquor importer Jules Berman introduced it in California.
Kahlúa uses a rum base, along with sugar and arabica coffee to create a simple coffee liqueur. While Kahlúa is nut-free and technically gluten-free, it is not vegan. Kahlúa does not add any animal products during manufacturing, however, the sugar they use is processed using methods that exclude it from being considered vegan, such as using bone char.
Kahlua Main Products
- Kahlúa Original
Kahlúa Original is the classic coffee liqueur, bottled at 20% ABV. It’s good for adding a little coffee flavor to your drink and used in many classic cocktails like the White Russian. In addition, Kahlúa offers a coffee shop-esq array of flavors for the home bartender or barista. The frappucino crowd will love the flavored bottles, but those who drink their coffee black may prefer Kahlúa Especial or a rival product.
- Kahlúa Especial
A thinner, stronger, less sweet, and more flavorful version of the original Kahlúa, bottled at 36% ABV. Kahlúa Especial boasts a darker, deeper coffee and espresso flavor, and is generally a superior product to the original.
- Kahlúa Chili Chocolate
A limited-edition flavor, Kahlúa Chili Chocolate, as the name suggests, brings the heat of chili and the sweetness of milk chocolate together with the classic Kahlúa rum and coffee flavors. Pour a splash in a cup of hot cocoa or coffee to add a slight heat, or use it in a cocktail for the same effect.
- Kahlúa Salted Caramel
Like the original, Kahlúa Salted Caramel is bottled at 20% ABV.
- Kahlúa Pumpkin Spice
A seasonal edition of Kahlúa made with the same rum and coffee base, as well as added pumpkin spice flavors to cash in on the annual autumn trend. It’d be a nice addition to a pumpkin spice latte or you can use it for a seasonal cocktail. Unlike the original Kahlúa, this product is vegan friendly.
- Kahlúa Mint Mocha
The same classic Kahlúa, with added peppermint and dark chocolate flavors. Try it in a dessert cocktail like a grasshopper, or a cup of hot chocolate. Bottled at 20%ABV.
- Kahlúa Vanilla Liqueur
Bottled at 20%ABV, this is a combination of the classic Kahlúa with the addition of rich french vanilla beans to the flavor profile. Like most of the flavored Kahlúa offerings, it is another easy way to add something new to your after-dinner drink. It’s also not bad as a sweet sip over ice.
- Kahlúa Ready To Drink Cocktails
In addition to their liqueurs, Kahlúa also produces a line of ready to drink cocktails in cans and bottles. Available flavors include Kahlúa and Milk, Mudslide, White Russian, Vanilla White Russian, Nitro Cold Brew, and Espresso Martini. Most of the ready to drink cocktails weigh in at 4.5%-5%ABV with the exception of the White Russian which is available at 5% ABV and also as a White Russian Liqueur at 12.5% ABV.
Below are the latest Kahlua prices.
|Kahlua Original||50ml||From $8.68|
|Kahlua Mudslide||1.75L||From $15.99|
|Kahlua White Russian||1.75L||From $15.74|
|Kahlua Gingerbread||750ml||From $16.50|
|Kahlua Cinnamon Spice||750ml||From $19.99|
|Kahlua French Vanilla Liqueur||750ml||From $21.99|
|Kahlua Chili Chocolate Coffee Liqueur||750ml||From $21.99|
|Kahlua Salted Caramel||750ml||From $22.99|
|Kahlua Especial||750ml||From $23.99|
|Kahlua Pumpkin Spice||750ml||From $23.99|
|Kahlua Hazelnut||750ml||From $25.99|
|Kahlua Mocha||750ml||From $29.99|
Alternatives to Kahlúa
There is a very wide range of coffee liqueurs on the market, and while many are simply cheap alcohol, sugar, and artificial flavor and color, some are well crafted high-end products. I’ll mention Kahlúa’s biggest rival, as well as some classier alternatives below.
- Tia Maria
Originally from Jamaica, and bottled at 20% ABV, Tia Maria is Kahlúas biggest mass-market competitor. The main difference between the two is that while Tia Maria is also rum-based, it is slightly less sweet and includes the addition of vanilla as a flavor.
Out of Australia, Mr.Black just might be the best coffee liqueur on the market, and the price reflects that. Mr.Black is a high-quality coffee liqueur with a vodka base instead of rum. Bottled at 25% ABV, it is the cup of black coffee to Kahlúa’s frappuccino. It is less sweet, slightly bitter, and has a subtle note of caramel behind the cold brew coffee. Many cocktail bartenders swear by this stuff.
- St. George NOLA
Also bottled at 25% ABV, St.George NOLA seeks to capture the flavors of New Orleans coffee in a bottle. In addition to the expected premium coffee, they use toasted hickory root and vanilla bean in their flavoring process. This stuff is just as good as Mr.Black, with a slightly different style and flavor profile.
- Patron XO Cafe
Patron XO Cafe is a tequila-based coffee liqueur that weighs in at 35% ABV. It is a drier alternative to Kahlúa and makes for a great substitute in an espresso martini or other coffee cocktails. There are many tequila-based coffee liqueurs like Patron XO Cafe on the market, produced by brands such as Avion, Sierra, Cabo Wabo, Cazcabel, etc. Patron XO Cafe also comes in a chocolate chili flavored version called Patron XO Cafe Incendio and a dark chocolate version.
- Make your own
One of the best things about coffee liqueur is how easy it is to make. At its simplest, it is a mix of coffee, sugar, and a base spirit. Choose your favorite base, your favorite beans, and your preferred sweetener and you can easily make a Kahlúa replacement at home. In addition to saving money, this allows you to tailor the sweetness and flavoring to your own personal preference.
The White Russian
- 60 ml Vodka
- 30 ml Kahlúa
- Splash of Cream
Build in glass over ice and stir briefly.
The Favorite of “The Dude” is likely the most famous use of Kahlúa out there, but don’t let that stop you from experimenting with other brands. The recipe above is the simplest version of a white russian, but you can upgrade yours easily by swapping out the vodka base for your preferred spirit or upgrading your coffee liqueur. Don’t be afraid to adjust the ratio of spirit to liqueur to achieve your desired taste.
I also suggest whipping the cream separately and layering it on top, and if you’re really feeling adventurous you can flavor the whipped cream with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, or whatever you prefer.
- 30ml Espresso
- 30 ml Kahlúa (Original, Especial, or flavor of your choosing)
- 10 ml Fernet Branca
- 15 ml Lemon Juice
Build in Collins glass with ice and top with tonic water. Stir.
This one is a tall refreshing Kahlúa cocktail with enough caffeine to wake you up a bit. Fernet Branca adds a herbal depth to the drink, and using a flavored Kahlúa makes this a drink you can customize a bit.