Kahlúa is a coffee liqueur that is very popular with coffee lovers and is something I often use in baking to add an extra boost of coffee flavor to a recipe. It is made with rum, coffee, sugar and vanilla, and it has an intense coffee flavor to it. It’s easy to go out and buy a bottle, but it is just as easy to make your own at home – and I happen to think that my Homemade Vanilla Coffee Liqueur tastes even better than the stuff you can buy at the liquor store.
My coffee liqueur is made with instant coffee, sugar, a vanilla bean and vodka. Vodka is a more neutral spirit than rum is and, while you can substitute rum for the vodka, I just find that the vodka-based version is a little more versatile. The recipe starts with a very sweet coffee syrup that is infused with vanilla and later diluted with the vodka to make the finished liqueur. There are recipes that start with whole coffee beans, but because of the sugar and alcohol in this recipe, you won’t get a lot of the character of the coffee when you’re done, so I like to save the good coffee for drinking and use instant here. The other advantage of instant coffee is that this liqueur doesn’t need any aging time before it is ready to drink, which means you’ll get to enjoy it without too much wait time.
This liqueur will keep for a long time once you’ve made it and it’s nice to have on hand for use in recipes and drinks. Recipes that call for Kahlua or another coffee liqueur often call for a generous amount of it to infuse a strong coffee flavor into the finished product, so I find that I go through it quickly when I have a bottle around. It also makes a fantastic gift if you want to package it in attractive glass bottles and give it to coffee-loving friends. It can be stored in a cool place at room temperature or kept in the fridge.
Homemade Vanilla Coffee Liqueur
3/4 cup instant coffee
3 cups sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 vanilla bean
4 cups vodka
In a large bowl, combine the instant coffee, sugar and boiling water. Stir or whisk until sugar and coffee are completely dissolved. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and, using the back of a knife, scrape out the vanilla bean seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the coffee syrup. Allow to cool completely.
When the coffee syrup is completely cooled (the syrup can be stored, covered, in the fridge for 3-5 days), discard the vanilla bean pod and stir in the vodka.
Liqueur can be stored in glass bottles or jars until ready to use.
Makes about 8 cups
(Syrup recipe makes about 4 cups)