Mug shots: a look inside the spirited world of liqueur coffees

Spice up your brew with Irish whiskey, Grand Marnier, dark rum, Kahlua or any other tasty spirit, add sugar and a generous pour of fresh cream and savour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 5:28pm

It used to be traditional in many cultures to serve a small, strong cup of coffee at the end of a dinner party – it was the host’s signal that the evening has come to a close.

Many countries have a signature after-dinner coffee drink, and most of the time, the drink is based on a liqueur from that country.

The French have a diverse range. Anything from cognac or brandy to Benedictine or Grand Marnier. The Monte Cristo is made with Grand Marnier and Kahlua, and the origin of the drink is not known – was it named after the Alexandre Dumas book, The Count of Monte Cristo, or the island of Montecristo, that gave the book its name?

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Irish coffee is coffee fortified with a shot of Irish whiskey and a cube of sugar (it’s really unpalatable without one in my opinion) before being topped with cream.

The Germans put a shot of schnapps in their coffee, and it can be anything from kirschwasser to cinnamon or butterscotch schnapps. Peppermint schnapps, with its palate cleansing taste, is popular; and if you don’t like coffee, a nip of the same liqueur in a hot chocolate is delicious (it’s called a Chocolate Polar Bear).

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There are many different drinks from the Caribbean – all based on dark rums, which are distilled from sugarcane or molasses. Jamaican coffee includes Tia Maria, a coffee-based liqueur made with Jamaican rum and sugar. Or try mixing coffee with dark rum and creme de cacao.

The Italians have their own coffee traditions. A cafe corretto is a shot of espresso with grappa, although they’re not drunk simultaneously. After sipping the espresso, you pour the grappa into the cup, give it a swirl then down it to cleanse the palate. Coffee can also be flavoured with Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) or Amaretto (almond). Adding a shot of sambuca is more of an acquired taste because its sweet, anise flavour is not for everyone.

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For those feeling under the weather, you’ll need to skip the coffee – after all, the caffeine in it might keep you from getting much-needed sleep. Instead, make a hot drink with honey and lemon in hot water or tea; and if you’re over the age of 18, add a good shot of brandy or rum, for that perfect, sleep-inducing nightcap.


Nellie Ming Lee is a food stylist and part-time sommelier studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers