The Story Behind The Spanish Coffee
From the Irish Coffee and Carajillo to modern marvels like the Espresso Martini, when a coffee cocktail comes to fruition, it's often here to stay. However, one particular cocktail, though not forgotten, hasn’t achieved the same household-name status of its cohorts, likely due to its somewhat risky preparation. That drink is the Spanish Coffee, a literal flaming blend of overproof rum, triple sec, Kahlúa, and coffee, dressed up to the nines with a caramelized sugar rim, whipped cream, and grated nutmeg.
Oddly enough, the Spanish Coffee bears no ties to Spain in origin or ingredients. Though many credit the cocktail to Huber’s Cafe — the oldest running restaurant in Portland, Ore. — it was allegedly invented by a bar in Mexico, and then adopted by the now-shuttered Fernwood Inn in the Oregon town of Milwaukie. Huber’s Cafe third-generation co-owner James Louis tried the Fernwood Inn’s version in 1975, and took the spec back to his restaurant where he added elements of theater to the drink’s preparation. Ever since, the Spanish Coffee has been the signature cocktail at Huber’s, hence why so many assume it to be the cocktail’s birthplace.
It’s tradition at Huber’s that the Spanish Coffee be served tableside. After all, watching a bartender set rum on fire, use the flame to caramelize the drink’s sugar rim, and then rapidly add the other ingredients from a distance (to not burn themselves) is pure theater.
Sure, the bartenders at Huber’s make it look easy, but this one takes some practice. Try mastering it solo a few times before showing it off in front of an audience. Make sure to have everything prepped ahead of time, and try to get a good handle on the speed required to make this cocktail, as caramelizing the sugar without burning it is easier said than done.
Once you’ve got it down, it makes for both a dazzling spectacle and phenomenal cocktail, perfect for entertaining guests at your next get-together. Plus, the combination of rum, coffee, triple sec, and a triple entendre of sweet and spicy garnishes makes this an all-around decadent treat with an ever-so-slight zip of acidity. Some say no good drinks came out of the ‘70s, but we assure you, this is an exception well worth exploring.