Recipe: Homemade Kahlua


kahluaAh, the potluck. Classic ski bum dinner material – an affordable and fun way to taste a variety of different foods coming from and enjoyed with your favorite of friends. And you know how it goes — some people bring their most extravagant original dishes, others bring the nachos and salsa. What each guest brings to the table says a little about their culinary taste (or, I guess you could argue, their wallet). But in the case of the ski bum dinner party, a little time goes a lot farther than a bunch of money, and I always find that the homemade, from-the-heart food selections to be my favorites at these events.

In a little twist of fancy, I thought that it might be fun to make some kind of homemade aperitif to take to my next party, because really, what’s better than, at the end of a night of dining, to bust out some unexpected cordial or sexy scotch for the group to enjoy over the last pieces of booze-lubricated, food-stuffed conversation? An after-dinner drink sipped slowly on top of a full and beautiful meal is one of my favorite, favorite things.

Enter stage: homemade dessert cordial, specifically, Kahlua. Per the suggestion of my friend, I looked up a couple recipes to find that it’s a surprisingly easy and, well, cheap to create said spirit. Just under 45 minutes of my time and around $25 out of my pocket produced around 3/4 gallon of this dessert beverage. and with Kahlua cashing in at around $25 to $30 per liter bottle, a homemade batch gave me three times the Kahlua for my dollar. So think: if you’re taking a liter of homemade Kahlua to each dinner party, you’re spending around $8.33 per party. But more important than your bargain dinner drink secret, you’ll be sharing a little homemade love with your sure-to-be-impressed friends.

As follows is a guideline to making homemade Kahlua. I sampled a variety of different recipes that I found over the internet, took what I thought to be the best from them all, added my own two cents. I suggest you do the same. As it stands, my attempt is aging for the next three weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out (so far, it’s tasting delicious!). In the meantime, try your own recipe, and let me know how your experimenting goes!

Homemade Kahlua


  • 8 cups water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups finely ground coffee
  • 750 ml vodka — I used the cheapest of the cheap, absolute bottom shelf. I’m sure using finer vodka will produce a finer batch.
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract (or, if you don’t have vanilla beans, use 5 tablespoons of extract)
  • 3 vanilla beans


  • Boil water.
  • Add sugar to the water, stir until the sugar dissolves, remove from heat.
  • Let the water stand for one minute, and then add the coffee grinds.
  • Stir them into the water, let the whole concoction cool to room temperature.
  • Once the liquid has cooled, add a liter of vodka, the vanilla extract and vanilla beans (slice the bean open, scrape out the innards, and then add the innards and the bean shell to your bottles --- basically, one bean per liter of finished Kahlua).
  • Store the bottles in the refrigerator.
  • “Age” them for 3 weeks, shaking twice daily.
  • When you’ve decided the Kahlua is aged to taste, pour it out, strain it and re-bottle.
  • Last, but not least, share with your friends, feel proud of yourself for your thrifty and creative ways, and enjoy!

About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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