What Does Kahlua Taste Like?

Kahlua is a well known liquor commonly used in mixed drinks. Kahlua certainly has it’s own taste, though it’s often being used as a mask for a stronger alcohol. 

The flavor of Kahlua might be a bit unexpected compared to other drinks that have alcohol. 

Kahlua tastes like a combination of coffee, with a bit of vanilla and caramel. If that sounds really good to you, you are certainly not alone. Let’s go into more detail about how Kahlua gets its flavor and how it’s used.

Where does Kahlua’s taste come from?

The taste of coffee comes from a pretty clear source: Kahlua is made from 100% arabica coffee beans. Kahlua in particular uses cherry coffee beans that are grown in the shade rather than the sun. 

Kahlua also has rum. Rum is made from sugars, which adds a good amount of the sweetness which also offsets the coffee bitters. 

Vanilla is also added to Kahlua for some additional sweetness and part of the texture.

Finally, the caramel flavoring in Kahlua comes from coffee and sugar. 

While Kahlua is often thought to contain dairy because of it’s flavoring and vanilla taste, it actually does not have any dairy in it!

Kahlua does indeed have a bit of the sharp, bitter taste of alcohol. Given it’s relatively low 20% alcohol by volume, it isn’t that strong, and mixes well with the other sweet flavors.

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What is the texture of Kahlua?

Kahlua is a bit thick and syrupy. Given it’s consistent use as a mixer for drinks, the syrupy texture is welcoming and helps it balance well with what are often stronger alcohols.

Some expect Kahlua to be creamy. Kahlua is more sticky than creamy. Kahla is more of a syrupy drizzle than an effort to thicken a drink at all.

What does Kahlua look like?

Kahlua has a brown velvet color that comes from the use of coffee beans in brewing. When poured out, Kahlua has the color of a very dark beer with no head.

What does Kahlua smell like?

Kahlua smells like a blend of alcohol, vanilla, and caramel. As you might expect, the smell is actually quite nice and unlike harder liquors, is not overpowering  – unless you don’t like the smell of alcohol.

What varieties of Kahlua are there?

We were referring to the original Kahlua before, but there are multiple varieties of Kahlua available.

The original is called Coffee Liquer. Kahlua also makes:

  • Mint Mocha: With a lighter mint flavor. Sweet. 
  • Vanilla Coffee: As you might suspect, this adds some more vanilla flavor to the caramel and coffee.
  • Blonde Roast: Blonde adds a citrusy flavor to the original arabica
  • Chili Chocolate: A bit of chocolate and some peppery heat
  • Salted Caramel: Sea salt and additional caramel compared to the original
  • Especial: With a richer coffee taste than the original

Kahlua has made a nice variety for people who enjoy the original coffee flavor, but has adapted to modern espresso and coffee palettes.

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Does Kahlua taste like alcohol?

Kahlua original has 20% alcohol by volume. This is actually relatively low, so Kahlua is not considered a hard liquor. 

You will certainly taste alcohol in Kahlua because of it’s alcohol content, but Kahlua can be sipped by itself or within another drink.

How should I drink Kahlua?

Kahlua is commonly used in martinis. 

Kahlua is especially well known for it’s use in the White Russian. A White Russian combines Kahlua, vodka, and heavy cream. The drink is ultimately sweet with Kahlua and heavy cream, and strong with vodka. It works well for people who want the effects of vodka (or where it’s one of the only hard liquors available) without the rather harsh taste. 

Kahlso does give the White Russian one it’s distinctive visual features. While many mixed drinks are a solid color, the White Russian tends to have a creamy, white top from floating heavy cream and a brown or dark bottom from coffee in Kahlua.

For real coffee lovers, Kahlua can also be strengthed by adding it to coffee. Also consider Irish Coffee, which also tends to have Bailey’s Irish Cream – you could try Kahlua instead for a stronger coffee flavor and less cream.

Given Kahlua is also syrupy and sinks, it makes a great addition to ice cream drinks. Combine ice cream, vodka, Kahlua, and Irish cream for a sweet dessert with a bit of an alcohol kick.

To be fair, Kahlua can be mixed with basically anything so long as you like either the flavor of coffee or the reduction of the strong alcoholic flavor of another drink.

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Kahlua also has been known to be it’s own shot or sipper. Given Kahlua’s relatively low alcohol content, it can be downed slow or fast and the taste is relatively inoffensive compared to downing a shot of whiskey.

Where do I find Kahlua?

Kahlua is quite commonly found at more liquor stores. The bottle itself has a distinctive design with red, yellow, and black lettering. The overall design has Hawaiian and asian inspirations and it’s quite eye catching.


Kahlua is a great drink mixer and a mouth pleaser in it’s own right. With the taste of vanilla, caramel, coffee, and rum, Kahlua is popular amongst people who want the right balance for a mixed alcohol drink.

The best part is that Kahlua can be added to just about anything. Trying a new martini or cocktail? Consider trying a little Kahlua in it to stay in your comfort zone, then try it again with Kahlua later. It helps take the edge off. Try one of the new varieties too!