15 Best Spirits to Pair With Coffee

Coffee cocktail

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Coffee and liquor are a perfect match, which is why there are many tasty coffee cocktail recipes to explore. Whether it's a warming cup of hot coffee, a quick shot of espresso, or an iced coffee drink, some distilled spirits work better with coffee than others.

When you want to spike your coffee, dark liquors like brandy and whiskey, and sweet nutty or creamy liqueurs are among the best choices. There are also some fascinating flavor combinations to be found in herbal and fruity liqueurs. Some of these picks already have drink recipes for you to explore, or you can simply add a shot to your coffee and add sugar or cream if you like.

  • 01 of 15


    Original Irish Coffee Recipe

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    The dark, robust taste of whiskey is an ideal match for coffee, whether black or with a splash of milk or cream. Some styles of whiskey work out better than others. Pick up a bottle of either Irish whiskey or bourbon to spike your coffee.

    Some recipes prove these two whiskeys are particularly well-suited to coffee. Irish coffee is the most famous, enhancing the drink simply with brown sugar and heavy cream. For a complex bourbon, Kentucky coffee is a great choice. It uses honey liqueur to soften and sweeten the drink, though regular honey works well, too.

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    Brandy and Coffee
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    Both brandy and coffee are popular after-dinner drinks. Why choose between the two when you can enjoy them in a single glass? This could be as simple as pouring a shot of brandy or cognac into freshly-brewed coffee, or you can add a little dimension. The French connection, for instance, is a soothing and stimulating cocktail that adds the nuttiness of amaretto to the mix.

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    Traditional Italian drink, the Espresso Martini
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    Rum is one of the most versatile liquors. It can handle fruits, tropical drinks, and martini-style cocktails, and it can also work wonderfully with coffee. Rum's natural sweetness plays well against a dark roasted coffee, and the darker the rum, the better.

    One example of this is pharisäer kaffee. The German coffee drink uses dark Jamaican rum and a whipped cream topping (a great addition to any hot coffee cocktail). Rum—particularly vanilla rum—also makes an excellent espresso martini when paired with coffee liqueur and chilled coffee.

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    Cream Liqueurs

    Irish Cream Liqueur With Coffee
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    Whether it's Baileys, another brand of Irish cream, or RumChata, cream liqueurs do double duty in coffee: add a gentle boost of alcohol and replace standard creamer or milk. Use them alone or mix and match these liqueurs with the other coffee-worthy spirits in warm or iced coffee for a delightfully creamy drink.

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    Panettone and bottle of Disaronno amaretto liqueur
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    Nutty liqueurs add a wonderful nuance to coffee, and amaretto is an ideal start to that tasting experience. Amaretto's sweet almond flavor with a hint of bitterness is particularly well suited in hot coffee if you enjoy it on the lighter side, whether that's a light roast or a weaker brew. It also does well with cold brew coffee and spiked almond lattes.

    If you want to mix spirits, amaretto is a great companion for coffee liqueurs, brandy, and rum. For instance, in the café Caribbean, it bridges the gap between light rum and dark coffee admirably.

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    Hazelnut Liqueur

    Frangelico Hazelnut

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    Hazelnut liqueurs are an equally nice match for any style of coffee. Nuttier than amaretto, brands such as Frangelico naturally have additional notes of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla. It can also stand up against darker roasts and stronger brews. Add a splash to a cup, or pair it with Irish cream for a delicious nutty Irishman.

  • 07 of 15

    Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur

    Kahlua Coffee Liqueur With Coffee Beans
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    The general flavor pairing rule is to avoid an exact match. Sometimes, you simply have to break the rules, and in this case, that requires a shot of Kahlúa. This particular brand of coffee liqueur is made with rum, which is an ideal foundation for the rich coffee taste, and hints of chestnut seal the deal. In fact, it's the lone spirit in the café royal recipe, which makes it easy to taste the effect.

    Of course, you can stray from this brand and explore other coffee liqueurs. Besides the coffee flavoring, there are unique qualities to be found in each new bottle, and they're worth exploring.

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    Chocolate Liqueur

    Chocolate Liqueur For Coffee
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    All of those yummy mocha drinks combine chocolate with coffee, so it's only natural that chocolate liqueurs are a great choice. There are many varieties available, though creamy dark chocolate liqueurs are among the best. Dorda and Godiva are made by chocolatiers that bring their sweet craft into the adult beverage world. Mozart is another excellent option. When you want the extra sweetness of dark crème de cacao, spend a little more on a premium brand like Tempus Fugit to fit the high-end coffee beans you've diligently selected.

    Chocolate liqueurs can also help marry coffee with harder liquors. The café Brasileiro is a perfect example in which dark chocolate and vanilla cream offset the vegetal taste of cachaça, making it a better fit for coffee.

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  • 09 of 15

    Butterscotch Schnapps

    Butterscotch Schnapps

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    Similar in taste to caramel, butterscotch schnapps is a fun addition to hot and cold coffees. The liqueur's richness can easily replace caramel syrup in any coffee drink, transforming it into a dessert-worthy beverage with a single pour.

  • 10 of 15


    Coffee Sambuca

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    A variety of herbal liqueurs create fascinating cups of coffee as well. Each brings a unique flavor to the cup, and one of the best is sambuca. This anise-flavored liqueur adds a zing to coffee that's sure to please an adventurous palate.

    Italians have a particular fondness for this flavor pairing. It's showcased in the incredibly easy coffee sambuca, in which three coffee beans slowly infuse a glass of sambuca as you drink. Another favorite in Italy is caffè corretto alla sambuca. To try it, drizzle a little sambuca into a shot of espresso.

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    Strega Liqueur For Coffee
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    Similarly, the Italian coffee cocktail combines freshly brewed coffee with Strega. Made in Benevento, Italy, this yellow liqueur is notable for its bright color and herbal bouquet. Among the 70 or so botanicals that give it a distinct flavor are saffron, mint, and juniper. Strega is called the "witches liqueur," and it certainly makes a bewitching cup of coffee.

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    Linie Aquavit

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    Caraway and dill dominate aquavit. The Scandinavian spirit a bit neutral in flavor, but unlike vodka (which only adds the taste of alcohol to coffee and is not a great match), aquavit has subtle herbal, floral, and citrus notes. Depending on which country it's from, you'll also get different flavors in the background, and aged aquavit adds a pleasant oakiness to coffee.

    In Denmark, there's an entertaining drink that explores this pairing. To make kaffepunch, place a coin in the bottom of a glass, cover it with a little coffee, then add aquavit until the liquid becomes transparent enough to see the coin. It's a unique method of measuring that results in a rather stiff drink.

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  • 13 of 15


    Fernet-Branca Facebook

    For the ultimate digestif after a meal, combine coffee and the amaro of your choice. These bitter liqueurs offer an array of herbaceous flavors, and many pair very well with coffee. One that is especially tasty is Fernet-Branca. A proprietary blend of 27 herbs, roots, and spices, its flavor profile is often described as bold and minty, though it's also bittersweet and has fascinating spice notes that are perfect for coffee.

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    Grand Marnier

    Grand Marnier With French 75 Cocktail
    Grand Marnier

    Fruits are not out of the question, though the liqueurs should have a darker profile. The cognac base of Grand Marnier will do just fine, and the orange flavor has a slight bitterness that creates an intriguing contrast to coffee. For a quick after-dinner drink, add a shot to your coffee, then sprinkle on a little orange zest.

    Its sweet taste can be deceiving, so keep in mind that Grand Marnier is a strong liqueur. It's bottled at 40 percent alcohol by volume (80 proof)—equivalent to straight brandy—and will add a kick to coffee.

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    Chambord Liqueur

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    The irresistible taste of black raspberries is a brilliant companion for hot coffee drinks and a fun, fruity sweetener for espresso. Chambord is cognac-based as well, and hints of sweet vanilla and citrus peel ensure a lively drink. It's also fantastic with cream, so create your own custom trio with a cream liqueur or splash of your favorite creamer.