All products were chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more and read about how we write BBC Good Food reviews.


Kahlúa (20% ABV)

Star rating: 4/5

In a nutshell: This Mexican mashing of sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and coffee is an affordable, reliable and thoroughly satisfying tipple that can be enjoyed equally over ice or in a white russian cocktail.

Read our full review of the best coffee liqueurs

Kahlúa has a fabled history that holds a special place in the annals of coffee liqueur. It was born in Mexico in 1936 when a group of optimists actually followed through on one of those small hours, end-of-the-night plans. A chemist dreamed up the idea with the Alvarez brothers, who farmed the precious coffee beans in Veracruz from which he could perform his alchemy. They called it Kahlúa from an ancient slang for coffee.

More like this

Four years after launch, they headed to the USA and the brand soon went global. In Brussels, in 1948, the black russian cocktail was born with Kahlúa behind the bar at parties thrown by a famous socialite. In 1955, in Oakland, California, the white russian shook things up. In the 1960s, the company made headlines with its all female leadership, then in 1977, the iconic B-52 shot (a blend of Kahlúa, Baileys and Grand Marnier) was first concocted in Calgary.

In 1980, Kahlúa became the world’s best-selling coffee liqueur. There have been plenty of landmarks along the way, but at every juncture, Kahlúa has been nothing short of delicious. On the nose, this bottle whacks you with coffee and chocolate, each competing for attention and matching one another for bitterness while vanilla relaxes behind those stronger flavours.

The palate is thick and syrupy with chocolate remaining prominent, before coffee and vanilla follow through with a touch of brown sugar. The finish is milky, comforting and satisfyingly long with vanilla, cream, cocoa and coffee continuing to linger.

The perfect pour

It just has to be the B-52. This iconic shot is much adored for its complex flavours, textures and striking appearance with the ingredients layered atop one another. The recipe requires a steady hand as you pour Kahlúa, Baileys and Grand Marnier into a shot glass in equal measures and in that order, each over the back of a spoon. It may take a few attempts to get right, but when you’ve mastered the technique, it's a great party trick.

Read our full review of the best coffee liqueurs

The best tequila
The best mezcal
The best flavoured gin
The best flavoured vodka
The best coffee machines
The best coffee beans

Coffee recipes and tips

Coffee & cream cocktail
Dark & stormy coffee cocktail
Espresso old fashioned
Espresso martini
5 ways with coffee cocktails
Different coffee types explained
The best coffee recipes, products and tips


This review was last updated in December 2019. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at For information on alcohol guidelines, read our guide to drinking responsibly.

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post