The Essence of Kahlua

The end of Ramazan holidays are over and today it was back to work. On Monday I made some coffee liqueur, a.k.a.: Kahlua. I followed 3 different Kahlua recipes and added my own touches. One of my touches was enforced: using vanilla powder instead of the vanilla essence required by all 3 recipes.

I looked for vanilla essence (or vanilla beans) everywhere but could not find it. Cetinkaya, the 4 storey department store/supermarket did not have it, neither did the mega store Carrefour, where I twice walked to after it wasn’t open the first time. I eventually settled for pure vanilla powder from a spice shop in the bazaar. How much per kilo? 250 new lira or 250,000,000 present day lira. I decided 20 grams was enough and forked over the 5 million for it.

In Mersin the only vanilla ingredient for sale in almost all shops is vanilla sugar, sold in 5 gram sachets. Vanilla sugar is very commonly used for cooking.

The method I used to make Kahlua on Monday is below. All the ingredient measures are imprecise as I use taste and feel to guide my cooking, not science.


100 grams instant coffee
1-kilo brown sugar (also hard to find in Mersin)
50 grams cocoa powder
1 litre water
20 grams pure vanilla powder
700 ml vodka


1) Add the coffee, sugar, cocoa and water to a large saucepan (or in my case, a flat-bottomed wok).
2) On low heat, gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring every now and then.
3) Once cooled, add the vanilla and vodka and mix until thoroughly integrated.
4) Bottle and store, occasionally shaking, for 1 month before use.

    To Serve

a) With milk and ice
b) On the rocks
c) Pour on ice cream
d) In your favourite coffee liqueur cocktail

Some advice when making the coffee liqueur: do not taste the coffee-sugar-cocoa mix too many times. Pure coffee, sugar and cocoa lead to a caffeine and sugar ‘high’. It was not a pleasant feeling!

I will write again in mid December, once the product has matured and give you my thoughts on how the homemade Kahlua worked out.

UPDATE: The Kahlua brew is not perfect but still very good, particularly added to Turkish coffee. With all the cocoa, the drink has a chocolate-coffee aroma. Next time I would probably use half as much cocoa and add the vanilla powder to the mix earlier.
If one has liquid vanilla escence it should still be added at the end.

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