Once upon a time, if you wanted to mix a serious cocktail with a caffeine kick, options were limited to an Irish coffee or espresso Martini. The coffee-infused spirits landscape was equally sparse, consisting primarily of Tia Maria and Kahlua.
Those times have passed. As Americans have become more particular about our morning cup or afternoon cold brew, the coffee liqueur category is thriving. Options range from artisanal liqueurs to surprisingly tasty coffee-infused vodka. Here are five of our favorite coffee-infused spirits, and how to use them.
Part of Skyy’s “Infusion” series, this vodka has an expressive nose with citrus and vanilla notes blending with cold brew coffee. There’s a sweet note on the palate, though it’s not cloying. Tasters were pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed this infusion. We tried it on its own, then enjoyed it in a cold brew Martini, mixing five parts vodka to one part dry vermouth (we used Martini & Rossi). For added complexity, switch out the vermouth for Cynar, and garnish with a lemon twist. Average price: $17.
This Australian cold brew coffee liqueur mixes Arabica coffee and Australian wheat vodka. It smells more like instant coffee than cold brew, but this liqueur comes to life on the palate, where it’s a well-balanced blend of roasted, creamy notes, and citrus, coffee, and booze. Tasters enjoyed Mr. Black mixed into a Negroni, with 1 ½ ounces gin, 3/4 ounce Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, 3/4 ounce Carpano Bianco vermouth, and 3/4 ounce Campari. Average price: $35.
For this coffee liqueur, Kentucky-based brandy company Copper & Kings infuses pot-distilled brandy with Arabica cold brew coffee, vanilla, cardamom, and honey. The grape-based distill is the dominant aroma, and the nose is reminiscent of gin or grappa with just a suggestion of coffee. An off-dry palate will entice bourbon or aged rum drinkers, making this an ideal spirit for a coffee-spiked Old Fashioned. Average price: $35.
First released in 2014, St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur takes inspiration from New Orleans-style coffee, blending vodka with French-roasted chicory root, vanilla, and cane sugar. Tasters enjoyed the nutty and tart berry notes and chicory spice of this layered liqueur. Stir with bourbon, dry vermouth, and bitters for a spiced alternative to a classic Manhattan. Average price: $35.
Added to Patrón’s lineup in 1992, this coffee-spiked tequila is agave-forward with notes of coffee beans, bitter chocolate, and spicy red chilies. It’s complex enough to enjoy on the rocks, but also shines in a coffee-infused Paloma. Add to a salt-rimmed glass, top with pink grapefruit soda and ice, and garnish with a slice of fresh grapefruit. Average price: $27.