For those seeking a boozy pick-me-up, cocktails like the White Russian and Espresso Martini are classic choices. Coffee liqueur takes center stage in these drinks, giving the tipples their signature sweet vanilla and coffee tastes.
Kahlúa, a coffee liqueur with origins dating back to the 1930s, has been around longer than many of the cocktails it’s now famously used in. The brand’s coffee-bean-infused rum spirit is one of the most well-known liqueurs on the market.
Read on for 10 more things you should know about Kahlúa.
Kahlúa calls Veracruz, Mexico home.
Veracruz, a port state in eastern Mexico, is where Kahlúa was first dreamed up in 1936. As the story goes, two coffee merchants, a financier, and a chemist decided to marry their home country’s abundant coffee, vanilla, and sugar cane supplies by making and infusing their own rum with coffee beans. Veracruz remains the production hub for Kahlúa today, with ingredients often growing in close proximity to one another on local farms.
Kahlúa’s name is a lesson in language.
There are two oft-told origin stories of Kahlúa’s name, which reference the brand’s ties to Mexican culture and coffee beans, respectively. The first translation is thought to come from a Veracruz language that originated in the 7th century. Kahlúa, according to this Náhuatl translation, means “House of the Acolhua People” — a reference to the indigenous Aztec populations who were early inhabitants of eastern Mexico.
The other translation, which has ties to ancient Arabic languages, is purported to be slang for coffee. This one’s a little less dense on the history side and, perhaps, a little less historically accurate. Regardless of its true origins, the name Kahlúa stuck, and the word is now best known for the beverage that bears its name.
It’s the sixth best-selling liqueur brand in the world.
The liqueur category is massive, and flavors can range from different nuts to fruits to spices and more (including some pretty unique concoctions — artichoke, anyone?). Given the breadth of competition, Kahlúa is all the more commendable for its high ranking in global liqueur sales. It was the sixth biggest seller in 2020, according to a Spirits Business report. Kahlúa sold upwards of 1.6 million cases in 2020, with a 3.2 percent increase in volume sales bolstering the brand’s popularity. Still, the brand remains several million cases steadily behind other liqueur giants like Baileys and Malibu.
One bottle takes up to seven years to produce.
Kahlúa breaks down its coffee liqueur production process into five key steps: growing, harvesting, drying, distilling, and blending. By far the most time-consuming part of this process is growing coffee beans, which can take up to six years. Once harvested and dried, Kahlúa distills its rum, roasts its beans, adds them to the rum, and bottles the final product. The result is a bottle of liqueur seven years in the making.
Kahlúa dessert recipes can satisfy any sweet tooth.
Cookie, brownie, and cake lovers can all find a Kahlúa-filled dessert fit for their palates. There are recipes for drinks, baked goods, and more that incorporate the liqueur. If a Kahlúa hot chocolate or decadent Mudslide drink doesn’t strike your fancy, a spin on rum balls might.
Kahlúa even sells its own liqueur-infused chocolates for those craving a quick sweet treat. For inquiring minds, one VinePair contributor ran an experiment of her own to see how many booze-filled Kahlúa chocolates it would take to get a buzz.
A leadership team of women led Kahlúa to media fame in the 1960s.
The Kahlúa ladies, as they were dubbed, were a group of six women that made up Kahlúa’s executive leadership team in the 1960s. Their story began when Maria del Pilar Gutierrez Sesma secured the position of general manager and operations manager for the company. Eventually, the leadership team grew into a group that was entirely female — a rarity at the time (not to mention by today’s standards).
The old-school brand isn’t afraid to modernize.
In 2021, Kahlúa launched its first bottle redesign in over 10 years. The new design aims to honor the brand’s Mexican heritage and show off additional information about its coffee content. Kahlúa’s classic red and yellow colors are still central features of the label, but there’s a new minimalistic look and modern font that nods to contemporary Aztec design. Plus, one scan across a label will give drinkers a quick education on the coffee beans inside, including information about their harvest methods and origins.
Kahlúa is investing in a sustainable future.
In 2019, Kahlúa launched an initiative aimed at sourcing 100 percent of its coffee from sustainable communities by 2022. The brand announced its threefold approach to address environmental, social, and economic issues at the start of that year. This includes providing education and monetary incentives for Veracruz coffee farmers to encourage the increased use of sustainable agricultural techniques and premium coffee production.
“With this program, we have the opportunity to engage with communities we rely on for our ingredients and work together to ensure a strong and more sustainable future for us all,” says Billy King, Kahlúa’s director of sustainable development, of the initiative.
You can drink Kahlúa from a can.
In 2019, Kahlúa took its first step into the RTD sphere, launching a canned version of a cocktail commonly crafted with its product — the Espresso Martini. The cans are 4.5 percent alcohol by volume, serve two per 200-milliliter can, and include the cocktail’s classic ingredients of Kahlúa, coffee, and vodka.
One year later, Kahlúa expanded its canned offerings to include a Nitro Cold Brew. Like the Espresso Martini, the cold brew is 4.5 percent alcohol per volume and packaged in a 200-milliliter can that serves two. This can features an ingredient list including Kahlúa, rum, and, of course, cold-brew coffee.
Kahlúa has its very own holiday.
There’s a nationally recognized day for just about every topic you can dream up, so why not coffee liqueur? The Kahlúa brand and its enthusiasts celebrate on Feb. 27 with cocktail-making livestreams, giveaways, and more on social media, all under the hashtag #NationalKahluaDay. As to when (and why and how) the holiday began? That much remains a mystery.