How to Make Imitation Kahlúa

Homemade coffee liqueur

Kahlúa is a rum-based coffee-flavored liquor that originated in Mexico. If you don't have any on hand, you can make your own Kahlúa substitute. You can also find other spirits and non-alcoholic ingredients to substitute for Kahlúa in mixed drinks.

Recipe for Imitation Kahlúa With Everclear

A bottle of Kahlúa isn't cheap, so unless you plan to visit Mexico and pick up a few bottles from the duty-free shop, consider making your own coffee liqueur for use in mixed drinks.


  • 1 cup instant coffee, any flavor and brand
  • 2 pounds light brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups Everclear
  • 5 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Pour the water, coffee, and sugar into the saucepan and heat the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Continue to heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat source and wait until the boiling ceases.
  4. Add the Everclear and stir.
  5. Add the vanilla and stir.
  6. Pour your drink into a mason jar and let it age for a month in a dark, cool place.


  • You can substitute light rum for Everclear.
  • Substitute two halved vanilla beans for the vanilla extract.
  • If you're feeling really ambitious, brew whole bean coffee instead of using instant coffee and water, for an extra rich flavor. The drink is safe to consume right away, but it tastes much better if you let it age.

Recipe to Make Imitation Kahlúa With Rum

Since Kahlúa is actually a rum-based liqueur, you can also make it with light rum.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla


  1. In a large pot, combine the water, brown sugar, and espresso powder.
  2. On medium-low, bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer, stirring, until the brown sugar and espresso powder are dissolved.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and vanilla.
  5. Pour into a clean mason jar and store, sealed, for at least one week. Shake daily.

Use this as a direct 1:1 substitution for Kahlúa in mixed drinks and recipes.

Recipe for Nonalcoholic Imitation Kahlúa

If you like the flavor of Kahlúa but don't want the alcohol, you can also make a tasty nonalcoholic Kahlúa substitute.


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract


  1. In a pot, bring the water, brown sugar, and espresso powder to a simmer.
  2. Cook, stirring, until the powder and sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and rum extracts.
  4. Store in a clean mason jar. Shake before using.

Using Imitation Kahlúa in Mixed Drinks

To use the imitation Kahlúa in mixed drinks, measure just as you would regular Kahlúa.

Other Substitutes for Kahlúa

If you don't feel like getting out your kitchen gadgets and stirring up a pot of Kahlúa, there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients you can substitute for Kahlúa in recipes and drinks.

  • Substitute any other coffee flavored liqueur, such as Tia Maria or Sheridan's coffee liqueur.
  • Use chocolate flavored liqueur such as crème de cacao.
  • For a non-alcoholic substitute, mix 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder, 2 tablespoons simple syrup.
  • Use equal amounts of brewed espresso and simple syrup to make a non-alcoholic substitute.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of instant coffee into ¼ cup of hot simple syrup for another easy non-alcoholic substitute. Add a drop or two of vanilla extract and stir. Allow it to cool before you use it.

Have Kahlua Available for Any Occasion

Get a few batches going at different times and you will always have some imitation Kahlúa on hand. Kahlúa drinks don't require special bartender skills, and they are sure to impress your guests.

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How to Make Imitation Kahlúa