Liquors for Coffee: Go Beyond The Baileys

These GREAT liquors for coffee can give your coffee beverage the KICK you're looking for.

Glasses of amaretto liqueur on a table surrounded by almonds

Last Updated on December 10, 2023

Coffee is already a delicious beverage by itself, but you know what makes it even better?


Coffee and liquor go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s the perfect combination when you want a quick pick-me-up while also feeling a bit loose and relaxed. However, not all liquors are for coffee, and some of them can make your brew taste downright terrible.

We’ve compiled a list of the top liquors that pair perfectly with coffee. Whether you’re into cold brew, espresso or instant coffee, these liquors will elevate your beverage game and deliver a tasty treat.

Side Note: Before diving into this list, be aware that we’re talking about types of liquor, not specific brands. So you’ll need to do some research to figure out which brands you’ll like best when you’re ready to pair coffee with liquor.

10 Best Liquors for Coffee

1. Amaretto

Bottle and glass of amaretto liqueur that can work as a liquor for coffee

Amaretto is typically an almond liqueur, so it has a delicately nutty taste that works great as a pairing for coffee. However, some brands use apricots or peaches as their base, so their flavor profiles may clash with your brew. Be sure to sample your amaretto before mixing so you can be sure it will create a smooth blend.

As a rule, nutty liqueurs are best for bitter coffees since they can cut through the bitterness of coffee and deliver a richer, fuller cup.

2. Butterscotch Schnapps

As you’ll notice, most of the best liquors that pair well with coffee are flavored liqueurs. Schnapps is a clear liqueur that comes in a wide variety of flavors. Several types of schnapps can work with coffee, such as peppermint, cinnamon, apple, and blackberry. However, for our list, we’ve chosen butterscotch schnapps for coffee. If you’re a butterscotch lover, you’ll appreciate the delicate balance of sweetness that mixes into your cup.

Typically, schnapps uses artificial flavoring, so you don’t need much for it to shine through. We recommend adding half a shot and working your way up from there.

3. Cognac

Glass of cognac that works as a liquor for coffee

If you’re into the fancy lifestyle, you know that cognac is an expensive and classy type of brandy. Depending on where you are, brandy in general can be seen as a ‘poor man’s drink,’ similar to moonshine in the U.S. Since brandy can be distilled from virtually anything, it’s easy to make, and most brands are pretty cheap.

However, the distillation process for cognac is much more involved, which is why it’s pricier and smoother. So adding a little to your coffee gives you a shot in the arm without overwhelming your hot beverage.

When searching for cognac, you’ll notice letters underneath the brand name: VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), and XO (Extra Old). These letters represent how long the spirit was aged, with the youngest being VS (two years) and the oldest being XO (six or more years). VSOP is aged between four and six years. The longer the aging process, the smoother the flavor.

4. Cream Liqueur

Glasses of cream liqueur that can work as liquors for coffee

There are a few different types of cream liqueur, with some options having unique flavor combinations. The most famous cream liqueur is Baileys Irish Cream, but you can find a couple of others at the liquor store if you know where to look.

Obviously, adding something so rich and creamy to your coffee will make it taste better, but this liquor works best for dark coffee roasts that don’t have much bitterness. If you add cream liqueur to a light roast coffee, the combination may be more off-putting than pleasant.

You can also find other variations of cream liqueur, such as chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch, to up your coffee game and deliver a bolder flavor profile.

5. Dark Rum

Technically speaking, any kind of rum should work well with coffee. In case you’re unfamiliar with this spirit, it’s distilled from sugar cane, so it often has a slightly sweet taste no matter what. However, light rums haven’t been aged, so their flavor profile is milder. If you’re looking for a kick that doesn’t overwhelm your coffee beverage, light or clear rum is the best option.

That said, we prefer dark rums, such as those from Jamaica. Since they’re barrel-aged, they have more complex and sweeter flavors. As a rule, the darker the rum, the more robust the taste. So you might want to start with a light brown version and go darker as you see fit.

6. Hazelnut Liqueur

Hazelnut liquor that can work as a liquor for coffee

As with amaretto, adding a nutty liqueur to your coffee can give you a rich and flavorful experience. Hazelnuts offer a somewhat roasted and smoky taste, so they’re better for light and medium roasts. While you can add hazelnut liqueur to a dark roast coffee, it might be too much of the same thing.

Frangelico is the most famous hazelnut liqueur, but you might be able to find a couple of other varieties in your liquor store.

7. Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur

Glass of Kahlua liqueur that can work as a liquor for coffee

Generally, you don’t want to mix items with the same flavor notes. This is why we recommend hazelnut liqueurs for lighter roasts since the tastes can compound each other.

Adding a bit of coffee liqueur to hot coffee may be a bit like putting a hat on a hat. However, if you’re really into coffee flavoring, doubling your pleasure might not be such a bad idea. Plus, Kahlúa offers a unique coffee flavor that can pair well with some milder blends. We suggest sampling a little bit of your mixture before committing to a whole cup of coffee, just in case.

8. Orange Liqueur

Typically, citrus and coffee don’t mix. However, since orange liqueur doesn’t have true citrus elements, it can work well with some roasts. One of our favorites is Grand Marnier, which is an orange-flavored cognac. You can also get a similar experience by mixing Cointreau, although it’s not quite as smooth or flavorful as Marnier.

9. Whiskey

Cup of coffee next to glass of whiskey that can work as a liquor for coffee

Whiskey comes in different varieties, but all of them are suitable for adding to coffee. Irish whiskey and American whiskeys are smooth enough to add to almost any type of coffee without creating an unstable mixture.

We don’t recommend Scotch whiskeys because they can often have a peaty flavor. Unfortunately, this complex taste usually isn’t fit for coffee, no matter what roast you use. That said, smooth brands such as Johnny Walker are good to use, albeit costly.

10. Vodka

Vodka is one of those liquors that pairs with everything. Since vodka distillation aims to remove all the flavor, it won’t significantly change the flavor of coffee. That said, you can still tell there’s alcohol in there, so don’t go overboard.

Pretty much all vodka works well, but high-end brands won’t have that sharp liquor aftertaste.

The Bottom Line

If you want to mix liquor and coffee, any of the above options can be an excellent choice for your next cup. Feel free to experiment with different coffee blends and liquor brands. With the right choice of alcohol, you may just discover a new favorite drink!

In cups of coffee, dark and deep,
A secret lies in flavors steep,
With spirits that in shadows creep,
Their essence in the brew they seep.
Amaretto's almond kiss,
Butterscotch, a sweetened bliss,
Cognac, with its aged grace,
In every sip, its trace.
Cream liqueurs, like velvet dreams,
Dark rum's tales, in moonlit streams,
Hazelnut's earthy call,
Coffee liqueur, over all.
In each drink, a story spun,
Coffee and liquor, merged as one.

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