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City That Drinks

Homemade Kahlua

Super Alcohoffee

Photo: Ben Claassen III, License: N/A

Ben Claassen III


One evening every Christmas, the kitchen would fill with the smells of coffee and vanilla as my parents made their annual gift batch of homemade Kahlua. Around this time, when I was 16, my dad called me into the kitchen. Despite the reindeer apron and the incessantly cheerful music blaring out of the stereo, he did not look happy. He had already ruined more than one batch of the coffee liqueur, when, instead of grain alcohol or vodka in the numerous bottles of white liquor stocked in his cabinet, he found water. I was grounded for the better part of the holiday season, but I did manage to swipe one of the little twist-off glass Coke bottles they sealed each year. It was terrible! But I had no taste for coffee yet.

A couple years ago, they found an ancient batch and gave me a bottle for the holidays. If you dig vanilla coffee or know someone who does, it is a super-easy and cool gift to help you all stay drunk and caffeinated. But I’d suggest going a little light on the vanilla and adding more coffee—so that, in effect, you have a super alcohoffee—and less sugar. And you can replace vodka with grain alcohol. This is all approximate. And it works better if you’re drinking while you make it.

Take a couple cups of sugar (most recipes suggest four cups, we use three), one whole vanilla bean, sliced open, and a cup (or more) of instant coffee. Pour in boiling water and stir it. Then pour in a fifth (or a liter) of vodka (or grain alcohol). Let it cool, pour it into bottles, put a ribbon on those fuckers, and you got some gifts to give. And if you don’t down it, it lasts, essentially, forever.

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