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Spanish Coffee, a cold weather cocktail

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Here. Have a Spanish coffee.

It’s a warm, bittersweet coffee cocktail, perfect as a dessert drink when you’re staying up late on a cold night.

I don’t do dessert drinks very often. I’m more of a spirit-forward cocktail kind of girl.

(I tend to go for Brooklyns, and Sazeracs, and Torontos, and sometimes Walnut Old Fashioneds).

But this one is fun to make. You get to light it on fire. It’s high drama.

Dipping rim in sugar

It’s a drink that originated at Huber’s Cafe in Portland, Oregon in the 1970s, which was deep in the Dark Ages of the well-crafted cocktail. But this one is a rare bright spot from that dark era.

It’s a take on the traditional Spanish drink, the Carajillo, a combination of espresso and brandy or rum.

No self-respecting Spaniard would ever use American-style brewed coffee. Not even, like, third wave single origin pour over.

Pouring rum into glass

And they’d never add milk or cream to an after dinner drink. (The Italians wouldn’t either. They think Americans are uncouth for ordering cappuccinos or lattes or anything with milk anytime after breakfast.)

But this is an American take on the Spanish Coffee, and here most of us don’t have espresso makers at home and we haven’t found that a bit of cream in our coffee after a meal stops our digestive processes.

Also, we like a little bit of spectacle.

And this drink supplies that.

But really, while it looks complicated, it’s actually quite simple to make.

You sugar the rim and pour some overproof rum (which is any 151-proof rum, which catches fire easily) and some triple sec, strike a match or pull out one of those multipurpose utility lighters, and let the burning rum caramelize the sugar around the edge.

(Make sure you’re using a glass with a stem!)

Then you add freshly brewed coffee, some coffee liqueur, and some lightly whipped cream and grate some nutmeg over the top.

It’s a dessert drink, but not an overly sweet one tempered as it is by the bitterness of the coffee and the complexity of the caramelized-sugared rim.

If you’re one for high drama in the morning you could certainly do this for brunch. (Though you could also leave the matches in the drawer and opt for a classic Irish coffee instead.)

And if caffeine keeps you up at night, by all means use decaf for this one.

Adding cream

This year, for me, it’s just about the right amount of excitement for a New Year’s Eve.

We’ve reached an age where staying up until midnight sounds like more of a chore than a fun evening. We like to celebrate the New Year when it arrives in Newfoundland, which is 9:30 in Chicago. (I like to call it our happy Newf Year…) Then we can be in bed by a sensible 10:00 pm. Oof. We are old. 

Grating nutmeg over the top of the Spanish Coffee

I’m not much for writing down New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve been enjoying this list of Woody Guthrie’s “New Year’s Rulin’s” from 1943, which includes such gems as “dream good,” “change socks,” and “fight fascism.” All of which sound like good ideas for 2017.

Happy New Year everyone!

Spanish Coffee from Blossom to Stem |
Yield: 1 cocktail

Spanish Coffee

Spanish Coffee

Spanish coffee is a cocktail that originated in Portland, Oregon in the 1970s at Huber's Cafe. It remains popular in the Pacific Northwest, but hasn't spread far beyond that, which is a shame, because it's both delicious and fun to make. My version is adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler's excellent Bar Book. You need to make sure you have a tempered glass with a stem to hold onto (a standard wine glass should be fine, but no rocks glasses unless you also have fireproof bionic hands). You need a 151-proof rum (also called overproof rum) which you set on fire and use to caramelize the sugar around the rim of the glass. Morgenthaler moistens the rim of the glass with a lime wedge, but I typically just use water because I don't think the lime flavor comes through and I find it more convenient. You can use any coffee liqueur you like. Morgenthaler uses Kahlua, which is probably the sweetest of the widely available coffee liqueurs, but I think the drink also works well with Tia Maria and coffee liqueurs from smaller producers. 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes


  • sugar, for rimming the glass
  • water, for rimming the glass
  • 3/4 oz 151-proof rum
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 1 1/2 oz coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua or Tia Maria
  • 3 oz hot coffee, freshly brewed
  • lightly whipped cream, for garnish
  • freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish


  1. Put some sugar in a shallow bowl. Put some water in another shallow bowl. Dip the rim of the glass in the water and then into the sugar to make a band of sugar around the rim (both on the inside and outside). Add the rum and triple sec to the glass, and light with a match or lighter.
  2. Hold the glass by the stem at an angle and let the flame heat the sugar around the rim and twirl the glass until the sugar begins to bubble and caramelize. I like it dark and caramelly. It usually takes about a minute.
  3. Add the coffee liqueur and the coffee. Top with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:



Amount Per Serving: Calories: 247

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Elaine @ Dishes Delish

Sunday 1st of January 2017

I love coffee drinks and this one looks delicious. I also love all the ingredients and I can't wait to try it.


Saturday 31st of December 2016

I had totally forgotten about the Spanish coffee. I used to love them years ago although you make a much better Spanish coffee than I ever did. Certainly I never thought to flame the rum to create a caramelized rim. This one will be just the thing for New Year's day to knock the cobwebs off from the night before. Thanks!

Garlic + Zest

Saturday 31st of December 2016

Love that GIF! This looks like a really delicious sipper -- is this an evening aperitif, or will it keep you up all night? Better for brunch?


Saturday 31st of December 2016

I make it with decaf for evening, which is my favorite time for this one. But it would absolutely be lovely for brunch!


Saturday 31st of December 2016

This sounds like a really yummy and fun recipe. I can definitely relate to it being a chore to stay on New years eve..but I have fun trying:) Happy New Year!


Saturday 31st of December 2016

Happy New Year!


Saturday 31st of December 2016

Oh I've never had Spanish Coffee before! Looks delish!


Saturday 31st of December 2016

Thanks, Carmyy!

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