Spanish Coffee

Spanish Coffee

Combining coffee with alcohol has been around almost since the advent of coffee on the world stage. This is evidenced by the fact that the coffee liqueur was invented in the 16th century.

Today we will discuss one such drink – Spanish coffee in detail. Do you know the Spanish coffee recipe originated in America?

What is Spanish coffee?

Also known as Flaming Spanish Coffee, this spiked coffee drink is the American adaptation of the Spanish liqueur coffee beverage, the Carajillo. As you undoubtedly know, liqueur coffee drinks consist of hot coffee mixed with a shot of coffee liqueur, usually accompanied by cream and sugar, a very famous example being Irish Coffee.

Spanish Carajillo

The American version is characterized by the use of heated sugar-rimmed glass or mug and contains about 22 ml (3/4 fl oz) rum and 15 ml (1/2 fl oz) of triple sec. Flaming the drink results in a caramelized sugar rim. The addition of 2 ounces of coffee liqueur like Kahlua puts off the flame, and 3 to 4 ounces of brewed coffee is then topped up with the lightly whipped cream.

Liqueur coffee drinks are often classified as cocktails or digestifs and taken as an after-meal or dinner drink. The liqueur has the qualities of syrup and provides flavor and sweetness to the drink. The coffee liqueurs are made with different types of alcohol with a large variety of additives but usually contain rum bases, vanilla flavorings, sugar, and coffee.

The roasted coffee gets steeped in alcohol in the presence of sugar and other ingredients to produce a coffee liqueur.

History of Liqueur Coffee

The coffee liqueur is thought to have been first produced in the 16th century. Carajillo, the original drink from which Spanish coffee has been adapted, is popular in Spain and other Spniash-influenced areas like Latin America. Brandy is commonly used in these areas to prepare the drink.

It is believed that the troops in Cuba started combing the strong coffee with rum to give them courage. Corajillo is the diminutive form of the Spanish word coraje, meaning courage, which got later modified to carajillo.

In Mexico, a carajillo is made with espresso and Licor 43, a liquor that has vanilla and citrus flavorings in it.

The current Spanish coffee with its caramelized sugar-rimmed glass is thought to have originated in the 1970s at the famous Huber’s cafe in Portland, Oregon, where it is their signature drink. James Louie, the co-owner of the bar, invented it. Some people think otherwise and claim that James Louie was inspired by the now-closed Fernwood Inn in Milwaukie, who further stole it from a bar in Mexico.

Spanish coffee recipe

The preparation of Spanish coffee is very easy if you do not want to have the flaming version. Just preheat your glass before pouring the contents. But if you want to enjoy the fireworks, make sure to use the thin tempered glass. You can go in with the Irish Coffee mug or a long-stem wine glass.

Spanish coffee ingredients and Equipment

The main ingredients for preparing Spanish Coffee at home are:

  1. Any strong black coffee of your preference (4 ounces).
  2. Coffee Liqueur (2 ounces) – Kahlua or Tia Maria.
  3. Rum (3/4 ounce) – 151 proof rum.
  4. Orange liqueur (1/2 ounce) – Triple Sec.
  5. A lemon wedge and sugar – To prepare the rim.
  6. Lightly whipped heavy cream.
  7. Freshly grated nutmeg.
  8. Kitchen torch.

Choice of The Alcohol

The common choices for alcohol to make this coffee cocktail are listed above. You are free to choose any brands you like or have at your home. But have a look at the main considerations behind our selection first.

You need a high-proof rum, also known as overproof rum, with a much higher alcohol content and will flame easily. Kahlua is an inexpensive coffee liqueur and is readily available in most areas. You can try Tia Maria if you are a vegan.

Triple Sec is another inexpensive orange liqueur that adds a subtle orange aroma to your delicious drink. You can try other high-end orange liqueurs like the Grand Marnier and Cointreau, but they are considered more intense by some coffee lovers.

Homemade whipped cream

While you can always purchase whipped cream, fresh homemade whipped cream can do wonders to enhance the feel and taste of your Spanish Coffee. Take a pasteurized heavy cream with 32 to 36% fat content.

Don’t go for an ultrapasteurized heavy cream, as it is difficult to whip and brings out fewer flavors. Put the heavy cream into the bowl, add sugar to taste, and whisk it with your hand for about two minutes till you get soft peaks. It is better to have soft cream that easily mixes into your drink.

If you want a dairy-free alternative, go in for coconut milk or coconut cream instead of the heavy cream.

How to make Spanish coffee

Collect all the ingredients listed above in one place to start preparing the Spanish coffee.

How to make the caramelized rim of the glass

You can follow this step if you want your Spanish coffee flamed like the traditional ones. All you need to do is to rub the lemon wedge on the rim of your selected glass to make it wet and allow the sugar will stick to the rim. Next, pour some superfine sugar into a shallow bowl and rub the rim of the glass in a circular motion till you have an even coating of the sugar on the rim.

Addition of the Rum And Triple Sec

Add rum and triple sec in the above-mentioned quantities.

Firing it Up

Tilt the glass at an even angle and light the liquor using a long kitchen torch. Hold the glass by its stem and slowly rotate it as the sugar begins to carmelize. Take care, as the middle and top portions of the glass will get really hot. In addition, do not over-caramelize the sugar to avoid a burnt taste.

You can use a certain plate to cut off the fire if that does not happen naturally, as is shown in this video.

Add Liqueur And Coffee

Next, add 1.5 to 2 ounces of the coffee liqueur and the brewed coffee.

Topping And Garnish

Add the whipped cream and the fresh nutmeg grating to garnish your drink. Serve immediately and enjoy your drink. A mixture of burnt caramel, the bitterness of the coffee, citrusy notes from lemon, and sweet cram will all combine perfectly to give you a heavenly feel.

Preparing Carajillo

Variations of the Spanish Coffee

You can try the different combinations of alcohol, Licor 43, like in the carajillo, or different types of strong coffees to come out with a combination that suits your taste.

When to serve Spanish coffee

Spanish coffee is normally preferred after meals as it is considered to aid the digestion process. It can double out for dessert too. However, there is nothing so hard and fast about consuming it after a meal only. You can have it as a cocktail or happy hour drink or with a group of your close friends in the evenings.


Did you try to prepare the Spanish coffee at home? We urge you to be careful and take all necessary precautions before trying to caramelize the rim. Do share your experiences with our readers in the comment section below.

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