Kentucky Coffee

Kentucky Coffee With Bourbon Whiskey

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  • Total: 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
  • Yield: 1 cocktail

It's correct to assume that Kentucky coffee combines bourbon and coffee. While it is a simple recipe, a little honey liqueur is tossed into the mix to sweeten things up. It's a tasty combination that was made with whiskey drinkers in mind and is sure to keep you warm on the coldest days of the year.

Bourbon is a perfect complement to coffee. The whiskey often features big vanilla and caramel overtones and some impart notes of cinnamon and spice as well. This recipe calls for the bold flavor and natural spiciness of Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon and the brand's American Honey Liqueur. It's an all-American spiked coffee that celebrates Kentucky bourbon at its best.

Dress up the drink with a little whipped cream if you like, which will soften the flavors a bit. Then again, it's fabulously robust when left as is, especially if you choose a strongly brewed dark roast or bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans.


  • 1 ounce bourbon whiskey (Wild Turkey 101)
  • 1/2 ounce honey liqueur (Wild Turkey American Honey)
  • 6 ounces hot coffee
  • Garnish: whipped cream

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a Kentucky Coffee Cocktail
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  2. In a pre-heated coffee mug or Irish coffee glass, pour the bourbon and honey liqueur.

    Pour the Whiskey and Honey Liqueur for a Kentucky Coffee
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  3. Fill with freshly-brewed hot coffee.

    Making a Whiskey-Spiked Kentucky Coffee
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  4. Garnish with whipped cream if desired. 

    Kentucky Coffee With Bourbon Whiskey
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  5. Serve and enjoy!


  • Avoid those last few sips of cold coffee by warming up your glass: Fill the mug with hot water while the coffee's brewing or heat a water-filled mug in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Dump out the water, then build your drink.
  • Your average coffee from that reliable drip coffee maker will create a nice drink. Yet, a better Kentucky coffee can be made by beginning with a thicker, richer coffee.
  • For cocktails, consider brewing with a French press or use a pour-over method. You could also start with fresh-brewed espresso and add hot water (caffé Americano style) to increase the volume.
  • Wild Turkey 101 is a very bold bourbon, as are other higher-proof options like Knob Creek and Bulleit. The higher the alcohol content, the stronger the flavors; a rather desirable element in coffee drinks.
  • If you prefer a more subtle whiskey flavor, choose one that's bottled at 80 proof and known for a softer profile. Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve are two well-known options. However, there are many excellent whiskeys in the category to explore, including those from small craft distilleries.

Recipe Variations

  • As an alternative to Wild Turkey American Honey, Evan Williams Honey Reserve is a nice liqueur that also has a bourbon base. Likewise, consider using Barenjäger, a rustic German honey liqueur that's equally impressive.
  • For a spiced twist, skip the honey liqueur and pour a cinnamon whiskey liqueur instead. Look for the "Fire" bottles from whiskey makers like Jim Beam or Jack Daniel's or pick up Fireball.
  • Instead of liqueur, sweeten the Kentucky coffee with a teaspoon or two of raw or brown sugar. Just be sure to stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Use your favorite coffee creamer instead of whipped cream.

How Strong Is the Kentucky Coffee?

The strength of your Kentucky coffee is going to depend on the amount of coffee you add to the liquor. For instance, if you were to fill an 8-ounce coffee mug and use the two spirits in the recipe, the drink's alcohol content will be right around 9 percent ABV (18 proof). It's relatively mild and that's why it's so soothing.

What Are Bourbon Coffee Beans?

Bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans are a trend in the coffee world. Offered by specialty coffee roasters, they make an excellent cup of coffee. By law, bourbon whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels. Since distilleries cannot reuse them, the barrels are often repurposed to age other spirits like rum and tequila. Coffee roasters caught on to the excess of bourbon barrels and started using them to age green coffee beans prior to roasting. Each has a different approach and the methods are often top-secret; some use a long aging process while others roll the beans in the barrel. Whatever the technique, the beans pick up the subtle oak, vanilla, char, and whiskey flavors trapped in the wood, and the flavors are enhanced when the beans are roasted. Though unlikely, if any alcohol is absorbed, only trace amounts will make it into the brewed coffee.

There is another type of Bourbon coffee. It comes from a specific variety of the Arabica coffee plant (Coffea Arabica var. Bourbon) that originated on the island of Réunion, which was formerly known as Bourbon. No whiskey or barrels are involved; it's simply a special coffee bean that makes a great cup of java.