The eye-opening aroma of coffee is not exclusively reserved for mornings. Coffee liqueur can be enjoyed on its own as a simple and stimulating after-dinner drink or added to a cocktail to provide a robust earthy flavor.
If you just like to make your own boozy concoctions or if you’re vegan this is the recipe for you. Many of the most popular on-the-shelf coffee liqueurs, such as Kahlua, use a bone char filtration process for their sugar that makes them unsuitable for people following a vegan diet.
You can make your own coffee liqueur right at home! With a little time and planning, making it only requires standing over a stove for a few minutes, transferring the liquid to a jar and gently shaking the jar every few days, for a few weeks. That’s it!
Then, from the fruits of your labor, you’ll be prepared to make a Vegan White Russian whenever you’d like.
What Is Coffee Liqueur?
A liqueur is a sweetened liquor that has added sugars and additional flavorings. Here, coffee beans are steeped in aged rum and then combined with a simple syrup and vanilla extract.
Ingredients and What Makes It Vegan
This vegan coffee liqueur is made with aged rum, arabica coffee beans, vegan dark brown sugar, water, and vanilla extract.
The specific type of sugar being used in this recipe is what makes this version of coffee liqueur vegan—all other ingredients listed also have no animal by-products. But wait! Sugar isn’t vegan?
Not necessarily; many sugars go through a filtration system of bone char, making them unsuitable for a vegan diet, which a lot of the time includes the sugars used in most store-bought coffee liqueurs. Bone char filtration is made, literally, from charred animal bones, and has been in use since the 19th century for sugar refining.
However, vegan sugar isn’t an unattainable ingredient—in fact, you might have some on your shelf right now and not even know it. A quick Google search will confirm whether your brand is vegan or not, and, if it’s organic sugar, then it’s highly likely that it’s vegan as well.
Vanilla extract is also used in this recipe instead of vanilla beans because it’s easier to control the flavoring and you’ll get more consistent vanilla flavor upon subsequent batches. Start with the minimum amount of extract in the recipe below and if you desire more, do so in 1/4 teaspoon increments.
When making the simple syrup, you don’t want it to be too rich or viscous when mixing it into cocktails. Remember, you’re making a liqueur, not a syrup! A one-to-one ratio for the syrup gives the final product a nice mouthfeel without being too heavy.
How Do You Use It?
Coffee liqueur is predominantly used in White Russians. A White Russian can easily be made vegan by substituting the cream in the recipe with coconut cream or an alternative dairy product that has a similar viscosity.
Many grocery stores have “barista” alternative milks that blend and whip up like cream, that might be a great alternative here. Coffee liqueur can also be enjoyed over ice as an after-dinner drink or digestif. But don’t stop there!
Try it in an Espresso Martini, in a Negroni by replacing the sweet vermouth or alongside some bourbon in an Old Fashioned cocktail—the coffee will introduce bold vanilla and caramel notes that make for an exciting drink.
Tips and Tricks for Making Homemade Coffee Liqueur
Don’t want to forget about your coffee liqueur as it sits out of sight in the pantry? Set a calendar reminder! This is the most effective way to remember projects that are brewing (especially if you’re like me, and possibly have several going at once).
You’ll also want to be careful with how you strain the beans from the rum. Think of straining this mixture much like you would a regular coffee—with a coffee filter!
You can also use a nut milk bag, which is my preferred method, or very fine cheese cloth that has been folded over a few times and used in conjunction with a mesh strainer. If you notice any beans floating in your strained rum, filter it again—no one wants to get a coffee bean in their mouth when drinking a cocktail!
Variations, Swaps or Substitutions
Dark brown sugar is used in the recipe as it gives the coffee rich caramel flavor with a hint of earthiness and just the right amount of sweetness.
Light brown sugar can also be used though the result has a softer caramel flavor. Granulated sugar is also an option if you cannot have molasses, but the resulting liqueur will be sweeter and may need an additional 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.
I store all of my homemade liqueurs and infusions in the refrigerator for a prolonged shelf life. This Coffee Liqueur can be stored for up to 1 year refrigerated in an airtight container.
More Perfect Coffee Recipes
Homemade Coffee Liqueur
Please note that the liqueur requires three weeks of steeping time before using.
- 1 1/2 cups arabica coffee beans, coarsely ground
- 2 cups aged rum
- 1 cup vegan dark brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place ground coffee and rum in container and shake:
Combine ground arabica coffee beans and rum in an airtight container with a tight seal, a large mason jar works perfectly.
Shake gently and store in a cool, dark place for three weeks, gently shaking the jar every few days.
Strain coffee liqueur:
After the infusion is ready, strain the mixture using a nut milk bag or coffee filter, squeezing the bag or filter to extract all of the liquid. Discard coffee beans and set aside.
Make simple syrup:
Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved and it barely reaches a boil, turn off the heat, and set aside to cool slightly.
Finish coffee liqueur and store:
Whisk the vanilla extract into the brown sugar simple syrup. Pour the coffee-infused rum into the simple syrup and stir to combine. Pour liqueur into a clean airtight container like a swing-top bottle. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.