We don’t know why the coffee gods chose Oregon as the origin of this heavenly elixir called “Spanish Coffee”, but we are glad they did.
Spanish Coffee—a perfect mix of rum, spirit, and coffee topped with yummy whipped cream.
Good news! You don’t need to plan a visit to the northwest Pacific to savor this delightful cocktail.
With the right guide and ingredients, you can recreate this delicious drink right in the comfort of your own home.
Let’s get started.
What Is Spanish Coffee? A Brief Overview
Spanish coffee is simply a coffee spiked with a high-proof rum, orange-flavored liqueur topped with sweet whipped cream.
The high-proof rum is lit on fire to caramelize sugar on the glass rim, giving the cocktail its unique sweet yet tangy flavor. Yeah! It’s wild, and that’s why we love it.
Though it has “Spanish” in the name, it has little to do with anything Spain and is actually American.
The classic “Spanish Coffee”, served in Huber’s Bar in Portland, Oregon, was invented by co-owner James Loiuse in 1975.
What Kind Of Beans Are Used For Spanish Coffee?
When it comes to Spanish Coffee, you can use any kind of coffee beans and brew them with whatever method you like.
However, we recommend dark-roasted robusta coffee beans if you fancy an authentic Spanish taste. The bold flavor of robusta is closest to what Spanish coffee tastes like.
How To Make Spanish Coffee? 4 Easy Steps
Are you ready to make this delicious cocktail? Here is how you can make it at your home in a few easy steps.
Since we are going to play with fire, there are a few things you need to be cautious about.
- Do not make this cocktail under the influence of any drug
- Keep the lids of the liquor bottles closed.
- Tie your hair and roll up your sleeves.
- Use heat-treated glass
Step 1: Prepare Coffee
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, it’s time to make your favorite coffee. Use whatever method you like, pour-over or good old drip coffee machines to brew black coffee.
Step 2: Lit the Rum on Fire
Take a lime or lemon, and rub it around the rim of the glass.
Place the glass upside down on the plate full of sugar to get a nice coating on the rim. The citrus juice will keep the sugar stick to the boundary.
Next, we want to add booze to spike the coffee. Pour ¾ oz of 151 high-proof rum into the cup. Why 151 rum? Because it has a higher concentration of alcohol and easily catches fire.
However, it’s getting harder to get 151 these days since Bacardi discontinued it in 2016. Nonetheless, you can replace it with another overproof rum.
You can also use Brandy, as it’s more mellow and somewhat sweet. Next, pour a quarter of an ounce (¼ oz) of orange liqueur. Cointreau, Triple Sec, and Grand Marnier are popular choices.
How To Make A Caramelized Sugar Rim For Spanish Coffee?
Now tilt the glass a little bit and light the fluid on fire. You’ll get a nice flame on the surface of the rum.
Keep it tilted and start rotating it gently. This will cook the sugar on the rim and give it a sweet burnt caramel taste.
Stop the fire once the sugar becomes golden by placing a plate or cover above the glass. It’s going to cut the oxygen immediately, extinguishing the flame. That’s the traditional way of doing it.
However, there is another much easier way to caramelise sugar. Just use a torch or burner to cook the sugar before pouring the rum.
1 oz = 2 tablespoon = 29.5 ml
Step 3: Pour Liqueur and Coffee
Now add ¾ to 1.5 oz. of coffee liqueur to the mix. The classic recipe calls for Kahlua, but you can also add Tia Maria, a Jamaican coffee liqueur lighter than Kahlua. We recommend it as it keeps the coffee flavor from becoming too overwhelming.
Finally, pour coffee to your liking.
Step 4: Top It with Whipped Cream
One last step before you can enjoy this tempting cocktail—top it with some nicely whipped heavy cream. Make sure to use cream with the RIGHT consistency.
As a rule of thumb, we want soft to medium peaks. Lastly, sprinkle fresh ground nutmeg to give it that extra kick of spice and you are good to go.
Pro tip: Try making your very own homemade whipped cream.
Of course, you could simply go with store-bought heavy whipped cream. But will it do justice to this epic cocktail? Don’t know about you, but we like to whip it up by hand. Homemade freshly whipped cream gives it the taste and the thick, luxurious texture you can’t achieve with a ready-made one. Speaking from experience here.
All you need is fresh heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract (optional), and three minutes of your life.
Now you would think, “Oh, I don’t have an electric mixer or a blender.” Trust us, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Just take a whisk and a chilled bowl.
Instead of circles, whisk the cream in to-and-for motion for quick results. Stop once you reach soft, fluffy peaks. You don’t want to end up with curdled consistency.
Now carefully place the billowy whipped cream over your coffee or pour it over the back of a spoon so it doesn’t sink.
Spanish Coffee Recipe
Need to save the recipe for Spanish coffee for your next dinner party at home? Take a screenshot of this recipe card.
- Kitchen Torch
- Heat Treated Glass
- 0.75 oz. 151 Rum
- 0.25 oz. Orange Liqueur
- 1.5 oz. Kahlua
- 3 oz. Freshly Brewed Coffee
- Lightly Whipped Cream and Ground Nutmeg for Garnishing
- Granulated or Super Fine Sugar
- 1 Lemon or Orange Wedge
- Brew a cup of strong coffee.
- Take a lemon wedge and run the cut edge along the rim of a glass, coating it with lemon juice.
- Dip the rim of the glass into superfine sugar, pressing gently to ensure the sugar sticks. Shake off any excess sugar.
- In the sugar-rimmed glass, pour in the rum and triple sec.
- Carefully ignite the mixture using a lighter or match, rotating the glass slowly to warm the rim and allow the sugar to caramelize.
- Once the sugar has caramelized and the flame has subsided, add Kahlua to the glass.
- Now pour hot coffee into the glass, filling it to the desired level.
- To garnish, gently float whipped cream on top of the coffee.
- Finally, sprinkle grated nutmeg over the whipped cream for an extra touch of flavor and visual appeal.
When To Serve Spanish Coffee?
Spanish coffee is typically a nightcap cocktail served after dinner. But is there a hard and fast rule regarding serving Spanish coffee? Not really. After all, it has coffee, and you can enjoy a yummy cup of joe any time during the day. May it be brunch, lunch, or before dinner.
Why Is A Spanish Coffee Layered?
The layering of rich ingredients makes Spanish coffee an elite cocktail.
In just the first sip, you can taste the freshly brewed coffee, the tangy notes of orange liqueur, the sweetness of Kahlua, and of course, the creamy texture of whipped cream. Not to mention the caramelized sugar around the rim that gives your taste buds a rich sweet flavor.
How Much Caffeine Is In Spanish Coffee?
One cup of Spanish coffee has about 80 mg of caffeine in it.
How Many Calories Are In A Spanish coffee?
Spanish coffee contains about 188 calories per cup.
How Much Sugar Is In Spanish Coffee?
One cup of Spanish coffee contains 18-22 g of sugar.
What Is The Difference Between Spanish Coffee And Carajillo?
Carajillo originates from Spain, where it’s made using Brandy, and in Latin-American countries like Columbia, Cuba, and Mexico, where it’s served with Licor 43—a vanilla-flavored Spanish liqueur.
Spanish coffee is basically an American version of Carajillo. The difference is the use of rum which is lit up to caramelize the sugar around the rim of the glass. And the addition of triple sec, the sweet Kahlua, some whipped cream, and a dash of nutmeg for the heavenly flavor.
History of Spanish Coffee
The history behind Spanish coffee is the story of the American dream. It’s about how a stowaway Chinese immigrant found his calling in downtown Portland, Oregon.
Jim Louie, mainly credited for coming up with the famous “Spanish Coffee,” came to America with nothing but hopes and dreams. In 1891, Frank Huber hired him for his bar, Huber’s Cafe.
He was initially tasked with roasting a turkey for sandwiches to be served with drinks. It became an instant hit.
After Frank Huber died, Jim took over the manager role and eventually, his family owned the business, which is still thriving.
However, Jim’s biggest breakthrough came when in 1975, he introduced “Spanish Coffee” to his customers, which became the restaurant’s signature drink for years to come.
Surprisingly, Jim actually stole the idea from a bar in Milwaukee called Fernwood Inn. He added his own flare to the recipe by adding Triple sec and nutmeg to the drink and lighting the alcohol in a fiery tableside display. People loved it, and it became a classic.
Who invented Spanish Coffee?
We know that Jim Louie from Huber’s Cafe is known for Spanish Coffee, but its origin dates back to the Spanish occupation of Cuba in 1492.
The troops were served rum with coffee to keep their energy and morale high. This is probably why most Spanish coffees include rum as a base ingredient.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is It Called Spanish Coffee?
When Spaniard soldiers conquered Cuba in 1492, they were served coffee with rum to boost their morale. As a result, this cocktail started to make rounds as Spanish Coffee. A couple of centuries later, in 1975, Jim Louie, the owner of Huber’s Cafe in Portland, introduced his version of “Spanish Coffee,” which we all love and know today.
What Does Spanish Coffee Taste Like?
Spanish Coffee has different layers of rum, liqueur, coffee, and whipped cream, and combined with burnt caramel and citrus tang, it blends perfectly into a delicious cocktail.
Why is Spanish Coffee Bitter?
Spaniards like their coffee with an extra burnt and bitter flavor, which is achieved by preserving coffee beans with sugar and then roasting them. It’s called “Torrefacto” and is quite common in Spanish bars.
Does Spanish Coffee Have Milk?
No. The classic Spanish Coffee from Huber’s Cafe uses black coffee as the base ingredient spiked with rum and liqueur. However, it’s topped with whipped cream, which balances the flavor.
Is Spanish Coffee the Strongest Coffee?
Not really! The caffeine content in Spanish Coffee is not high enough to be considered the strongest. It’s a popular nightcap drink and won’t make you count the sheep like an espresso shot.
Spanish Coffee is a perfect drink to enjoy with your loved ones. This synergistic masterpiece gives you the kick of booze and caffeine that you won’t find anywhere else. On top everything, the mesmerising spectacle of fire makes the brewing process much more fun.
In this guide, I’ve shared everything from the origin and authentic recipe to the nutritional facts of this yummy brew.
Cheers to the wonderful world of Spanish coffee!