The Best Coffee Liqueurs For Espresso Martinis

The espresso martini is really having a moment right now. But legend has it, this boozy, caffeinated drink has been around since 1983, when a supermodel walked into the Soho Brasserie in London and asked for a drink that would simultaneously wake her up and get her sufficiently drunk (via Galliano). 

A simple concoction of espresso, vodka, coffee liqueur, and usually some type of sweetener, an espresso martini makes for a perfect brunch cocktail or after dinner drink (especially if you're trying to keep your night going!). And while the fresh espresso required for this cocktail helps make it the bane of some bartenders' existence, it seems espresso martinis are too trendy and beloved to get a last call anytime soon. 

But an espresso martini is only as good as its coffee liqueur — arguably the heart and soul of this drink. And there are tons of great options out there, each with their own slightly different flavor profile. Read on to see our recommendations for the best coffee liqueurs to keep on hand for the next time you need a buzz with a little extra buzz in it.

Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

If you search Reddit for "the best coffee liqueurs," one brand will pop up over and over again: Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. Distilled in Australia, Mr. Black liqueur is best known for having a strong coffee flavor with notes of caramel, chocolate, and vanilla (per Flavair). The liqueur is made using Australian wheat vodka and a blend of high-quality Arabica coffee beans sourced from Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, and Brazil (via Masters of Malt). 

Cold brewing coffee is a good way to produce a smoother drink with a more intense flavor than iced coffee, and that's likely why the coffee flavor is so prominent in Mr. Black. As a reviewer on Flavair put it, the drink "truly tastes like coffee first with liquor second," and has a "wonderful depth of flavor." With all that intense coffee flavor, Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur tastes great in an espresso martini, mixed in with some actual cold brew, or even sipped on its own.

St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur

Another coffee liqueur frequently mentioned on Reddit is St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur. Inspired by New Orleans-style coffee, this liqueur is made with chicory root, Madagascar vanilla, and some cane sugar for sweetness. But of course, the most important ingredient in a good coffee liqueur is the coffee, and St. George has placed appropriate emphasis on what beans it roasts. The company uses Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans, specifically for their "bright raspberry and blueberry fruit notes balanced against dark and savory flavors." And it seems the choice is spot on. According to a Los Angeles Times review of St. George liqueur, "the taste of coffee lingers on the palate, along with notes of hazelnut and the earthy bitterness of chicory. The result is fresh and sophisticated."

Like Mr. Black, St. George also uses a cold-infusion process to extract the most flavor from its coffee beans without all the bitterness. The result is an undeniably delicious coffee liqueur that is scrumptious when sipped by itself and would make any espresso martini extra special.

Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur

Another New Orleans-style coffee liqueur to try is from Bittermens. At around $27 a bottle, this version is slightly cheaper than its competitor, St. George's NOLA Coffee Liqueur (via Drizly). You might recognize Bittermens as a well-known purveyor of cocktail bitters, and that's actually how this coffee liqueur came to be. Fascinated by the bitter flavors of coffee and chicory, the folks at Bittermens set out to develop a New Orleans coffee-inspired cocktail bitter recipe. Along the way, a bartender in New Orleans encouraged them to create a liqueur with the same flavor profile. The result was a well-loved coffee liqueur made with Brazilian coffee beans, organic French chicory root, cacao nibs, vanilla, and some Belgian-style candi syrup (a form of simple syrup). It's basically an espresso martini in a bottle!

Despite the use of candi syrup, Bittermens New Orleans Coffee Liqueur is known for being on the dry, less sweet side. According to Bitters and Bottles, it's "recommended for those who seek a bracingly strong, earthy, and notably bitter taste to their coffee." This could make for a really interesting cocktail, especially for those who typically find espresso martinis too sweet.


When you hear the words coffee liqueur, most people think of Kahlúa, and for good reason. Relatively affordable and easy to find, it was actually the world's top coffee liqueur as of 2019. It's brewed with 100% Arabica coffee beans and the recipe also includes rum, which makes Kahlúa stand out from other coffee liqueurs. Made from sugarcane, rum is a naturally sweet spirit that gives Kahlúa its signature flavor. 

Fun fact: It takes up to seven years to make one bottle of Kahlúa, between growing, harvesting, and drying the coffee beans, distilling the rum from sugarcane, and slowly blending the ingredients. But each bottle is proof that patience pays off. With its strong coffee flavor and rum base, Kahlúa makes for a great espresso martini. And the company is so confident of this, it even features its own recipe online, which calls for one part Kahlúa, one part vodka, and one part espresso. 

Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee

Jager isn't just for frat parties anymore! Now you can add this college-favorite herbal liqueur to your weekend brunch or after dinner espresso martinis. Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee is made with the classic, liquorice-tasting herbal liqueur you know and love (or hate), plus some strong Arabica coffee and a little bit of cacao. If you are a frat dude looking to transition into the espresso martini game, then this is the spirit for you.

While this could make for a really herbaceous martini, a word to the wise — if you're not a Jager fan, you probably won't like their Cold Brew coffee liqueur. According to a taste test over at Delish, "the thick, black licorice-y taste that I have so often experienced was very front and center here. You do get notes of the coffee but it's pretty subtle." So it's safe to say this drink is Jager first, cold brew second — which might be why the brand recommends drinking it as an ice cold shot rather than sipping it in a cocktail.

Leopold Bros. French Press-Style American Coffee Liqueur

This popular coffee liqueur from Leopold Bros. is made using a French press-inspired method, where coffee grounds get pressed through hot water, leaving a full-bodied cup of joe behind. Except in this case, the folks at Leopold Bros. use a giant, 25-liter waterpress to brew their coffee, which they blend with their spirit and a little bit of organic raw cane sugar for a touch of balancing sweetness. In fact, the company even warns their bottles may contain some coffee  sediment, which is how you know they are using actual coffee and not the artificial stuff.

The result is a coffee-forward, slightly sweet liqueur that makes for a great espresso martini. Leopold Bros. French Press-Style American Coffee Liqueur is described as having "​​delicate chocolate soufflé aromas"  that "follow through to a brisk light-to-medium body of fresh coffee, cocoa powder, and mineral water flavors," according to Total Wine. And if you ask us, chocolate soufflé feels like the perfect flavor profile for a delicious dessert cocktail.

Skip Rock Distillers Coffee Liqueur

The Pacific Northwest, and specifically Seattle, is known for its coffee. The birthplace of Starbucks, Washington state is also home to Skip Rock Distillers Coffee Liqueur, an award-winning coffee spirit. The team at Skip Rock Distillers teamed up with Vista Clara Coffee Roasters to source the best PNW beans they could find for their liqueur. And apparently it worked, because Skip Rock's coffee liqueur was named the Best Coffee Liqueur of 2021 by the Beverage Tasting Institute. 

Skip Rock coffee liqueur was also awarded a Gold Medal by Their reviewer called it "a very savory, umami-driven, and substantial coffee liqueur that will excel in cocktails." Beyond the classic coffee and chocolate flavors that come through, you also get hit with hints of teriyaki and smoked paprika. What more is there to say? Skip Rock Distillers Coffee Liqueur is an essential addition to any home bar, and a key ingredient for an excellent espresso martini.

Tia Maria

Like Kahlúa, Tia Maria is another popular rum-based coffee liqueur. But according to some liqueur lovers, like the folks at A Couple Cooks, Tia Maria is even tastier than its arguably better-known competitor. It's made with Arabica coffee beans that are cold-pressed for a smoother taste, and the rum adds a rich depth of flavor. Plus, look out for unique notes of citrus, vanilla, caramel, and of course, coffee. 

Tia Maria comes with an impressive backstory. The brand claims that its journey began when a Spanish aristocrat fled war-torn Jamaica back in the 1800s. Her trusted maid, Maria, saved one family heirloom: a jewelry box containing black pearl earrings and the recipe for a delicious, coffee-based liqueur. It was apparently rediscovered in the 1940s by Dr. Kenneth Leigh Evans and the rest is history! Tia Maria also claims it was the main ingredient used in the very first espresso martini over 40 years ago. Whether that's true or not, it's easy to see why this liqueur has been an espresso martini staple for decades.

Caffè Borghetti Espresso Liqueur

According to the myth, Caffè Borghetti espresso liqueur was developed in 1860 by cafe owner Ugo Borghetti. His Caffè Sports Bar was located near the construction site of Italy's famous Pescara-Ancona railway line, and he supposedly developed the recipe to fuel the rail workers and celebrate the infrastructure achievement. Today, this robust liqueur is produced by Branca, the Italian brand behind other bar staples like Fernet-Branca and Antica vermouth.

Caffè Borghetti's espresso liqueur is made with a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans which are roasted, ground, and brewed in giant, specially-designed coffee pots. The coffee is then combined with alcohol and sugar, and the result is a sweet but coffee-forward liqueur that makes for an Italian-style espresso martini. 

No time to thoroughly enjoy this liqueur in a proper cocktail? We've got some good news: Caffè Borghetti has become a stadium favorite among European football fans thanks, in part, to its to-go sized bottles, called Borghettinos. Phone, wallet, keys, Borghettino? You're good to go.

Galliano Espresso Liqueur

You know the old saying, "good things come in sleek bottles" ... or something like that, right? Either way, Galliano Espresso Liqueur is another slam dunk espresso spirit that will also look pretty on your bar cart. Made from a blend of two different types of coffee, Arabica and Robusta, this liqueur has a dark chocolatey taste and a slightly pepperminty finish. The unique flavor makes Galliano a true standout among its coffee liqueur brethren and a great choice for any espresso martini.

But don't just take our word for it. Galliano's espresso liqueur is the spirit of choice for celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian when making his espresso martinis at home. Zakarian says Galliano tastes like, "coffee on steroids" (via Instagram). Galliano has also racked up its fair share of accolades over the years, scoring 91 points from Wine Enthusiast and 93 points from Beverage Testing Institute, to name a few. 

Make your own coffee liqueur

Clearly there are lots of great options when it comes to choosing a bottle of coffee liqueur. But if you're the type of person who never makes a cake from a box, prefers to roll out their own pasta dough, or just likes dabbling in low-stakes mixology, then why not make your own coffee liqueur at home? It's surprisingly easy and requires just three ingredients: coffee, booze, and sugar. And possibly two more added ingredients — time and patience.

In this recipe developed by Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, Illinois, medium-roast coffee beans are ground up and then soaked in some Armagnac brandy for a few days. Next, the coffee grounds get strained out and the coffee-brandy liquid is added to a saucepan with demerara sugar. Finally, the mixture gets heated and stirred until the sugar melts and then voila! You've got your very own coffee liqueur that will keep in the fridge until the next time you've got a hankering for an espresso martini.