The 11 Absolute Best Coffee Cocktails

Coffee and cocktails hold valuable positions in the world of drinks. Although coffee is an everyday routine for most coffee drinkers, it plays a more significant role than you might think. A cup of coffee not only helps you start your day, but it also helps you keep it going and maybe even prolong it. Meanwhile, a well-made cocktail can function as an early evening lift, a meal enhancer, or a stimulant for a night out or spent at home with good company.

In this age of craft cocktails and increased attention to quality coffee, there has never been a better time to take advantage of a marriage between the two. There are already well-known, coffee-flavored cocktail classics out there, but new ones continue to pop up in this revitalized cocktail scene thriving today. The world of coffee cocktails includes timeless classics, modern revelations, and recipes that have been right before you this whole time — without you knowing it.

Espresso Martini

This first cocktail is a clear no-brainer. Since its creation in the 1980s, the espresso martini has become the signature drink of the cocktail renaissance. Of all the modern classics to emerge over the past few decades, this is the clear-cut queen.

The origin of the espresso martini traces its invention to legendary bartender Dick Bradsell at Fred's Club in London. One night, a model walked into the bar, sat down, and requested a drink that would "wake me up and then f**k me up," and Bradsell obliged. He shook together vodka, coffee liqueur, simple syrup, and a shot of fresh espresso. He strained the dark, frothy goodness into a cocktail glass, dropped some espresso beans atop the foam, and a star was born.

Initially, Bradsell referred to his new creation simply as a vodka espresso. That was because this drink truly isn't a martini at all, which is traditionally a combination of gin or vodka and vermouth. In the years following its creation, the vodka espresso was renamed the espresso martini to fit the craze of calling anything served in a cocktail glass a martini.

Regardless, the espresso martini is the quintessential cocktail that can help kickstart the evening with a bang or keep reigniting it when the afterburners need some fuel. It's both straightforward and potent yet complex and elegant. It's everything you want in both a cocktail or an espresso, the perfect matrimony of the two.

White Russian

There is no doubt that the White Russian owes much of whatever popularity it holds today to the cult-classic film "The Big Lebowski." According to Focus Features, the iconic main character drinks nine of them throughout the film.

This movie was released in 1998, but "the Dude's" favorite cocktail had actually been around for decades prior (via Chilled). In the 1950s, sweet, milky cocktails were all the rage, and the White Russian was a direct result of the craze. The drink is a riff on the original Black Russian, created by a Belgian bartender named Gustave Tops in 1949.

The Black Russian was made with equal parts vodka and coffee liqueur and was created by Tops to honor a visit from the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta. In the years following, when heavy cream began being widely utilized in cocktails, it was added to the Black Russian and so became the White Russian.

The White Russian has since, large in part to The Big Lebowski, become an undeniable classic cocktail. It is a rich, decadent, easy-sipping treat. The coffee liqueur and cream are naturally symbiotic, and the vodka underlies with stiffness and strength. There have been many variations of the White Russian to pop up since its revival in the 1990s, such as the White Mexican, which swaps out cream for horchata, or the White Cuban, which subs in rum for vodka. However, it is only the classic White Russian of which the Dude abides.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee is one of the most simple cocktails on this list and one you can surely rely on whether you're in an upscale cocktail lounge or a humble pub. It's also one of the most common dessert cocktails out there, made up of nothing more than coffee and whiskey.

Irish whiskey is distinct from other whiskeys like Scotch whisky or anything American whiskey. Irish whiskey is often triple-distilled, so its character is much softer and more delicate than other whiskies, which makes it a very mellow, easy-drinking addition to fresh coffee and an abundant topping of cream. Whenever you are unsure of what to order, Irish Coffee is your old reliable friend. It's simply a hit every time.

The exact origin of Irish Coffee is unclear, as adding whiskey to coffee is not the most inspired creation and is more of a natural one. The most widely accepted theory, however, is that it was invented in 1943 by Joe Sheridan, a bartender at Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland, per KQED. After a flight to New York was turned around due to bad weather, frustrated passengers sat at the Foynes terminal bar where Sheridan was working.

In order to warm them up, he presented each of them with the very first Irish Coffees. When one satisfied customer asked him, "What is this, Brazilian coffee?" Sheridan replied, "No. It's Irish Coffee."


The Carajillo is another super simple coffee cocktail with just two ingredients. However, this drink's original form is different from what it is recognized today, according to Punch. The first known renditions of the Carajillo were made of coffee and rum and were originally from Cuba. The Carajillos recognized today are made by combining espresso and Licor 43. This updated version was born in Spain but has since become the drink of Mexican youth.

In Mexico City's nightlife, the Carajillo has become young drinkers' alternative to more dangerous energetic drinks like vodka-Red Bull. It's a more refined jolt of energy, yet accessible to everyone. There is some etiquette should you order a Carajillo; you must specify if you want it puesto, meaning the coffee is layered neatly on top of the liqueur, or shakeado, where the ingredients are shaken together into a delicious, homogenous froth.

Licor 43 is a liqueur that gets its name from the number of its ingredients. True to that, it is its own thing, incomparable to others. The best way to describe it would be that it is sweet, as there is no distinct or dominant flavor, just a concentrated saccharine that requires balance from an even stronger shot of espresso. The Carajillo is a fantastic example of simple pleasure as just two ingredients combine for a rich, sharp pick-me-up fit whenever you need one or as a refresher when you want a tasty cocktail.

Cold Brew Negroni

The Negroni is arguably worthy of a place if there was a Mount Rushmore for cocktails. The iconic, timeless combination of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari is the exemplary aperitif cocktail. It is fit for brunch, the early evening, before dinner, or after it. The simple addition of cold brew coffee, however, takes this all-time great to another level of flavor and function.

Count Camillo Negron invented the first Negroni in Florence in 1919. He requested a bartender to strengthen his Americano, to which the bartender replied by replacing the soda water with gin, and the Negroni has remained unchanged since. This sophisticated, long-lasting aperitivo has inspired countless bartenders to whip up their own Negroni variations since the original invention; the Cold Brew Negroni is one of the best yet.

A Cold Brew Negroni combines everything you love in a Negroni with everything you love in a strong cup of coffee. The Negroni's digestive benefits remain, and a punch of caffeine from the cold brew strengthens its firm alcoholic kick. Meanwhile, the cold brew naturally compliments the already harmonious balance of flavor of the three original ingredients.

You can make a Cold Brew Negroni any way you want, but the easiest method is to dial back the gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari and make up for the difference with your favorite cold brew or a cold brew liqueur. The result is an immensely layered, complex, tantalizing cocktail that will perk you with every single sip.


Of all the dessert cocktails, the Mudslide reigns supreme in excess. This cocktail is almost not even a cocktail but rather a full-scale sweet treat that happens to have booze in it. Regardless, it's a classic coffee cocktail for a reason.

According to Wine Enthusiast, the Mudslide came about in the 1970s at the Rum Point Club's Wreck Bar during a trend full of White Russians. Apparently, with the popularity of the White Russian looming large, the bartender ran out of cream. So, in improvisation, they replaced the normal cream with Bailey's Irish Cream, blended the three ingredients, and the Mudslide came to fantastic fruition. This is the most fundamental origin story of the Mudslide, which is usually not made today in the same way it was originally.

Since its creation, the Mudslide has also gone on to include ice cream, making it a sort of boozy milkshake, but better. You can easily alter this drink by swapping out the vodka for another liquor, such as your favorite whiskey, which can add flavor and stand up to the other rich ingredients without getting overpowered. This cocktail is an especially fun one to make yourself right at home. With the right Mudslide recipe, you can craft your own by homemaking the Irish cream and infusing the coffee liqueur with bourbon.

If you ever finish a meal at can't decide between an after-dinner cocktail or a rich dessert, the Mudslide achieves the best of both worlds.


The Dominicana is one of the more modern classic cocktails on this list and is wonderfully complex despite its basic makeup. The drink is credited to the legendary bartender and one of the forefathers of the modern cocktail rebirth, Sasha Petraske. Petraske was the founder of the Milk & Honey bar in New York City, regarded as the ultimate template for the modern bar program. His other creations include the Fall Back and the Oaxacanite, to name a couple.

The Dominicana is made using the same ingredients as a White Russian, except the vodka is replaced by an aged rum, hence the cocktail's name. However, this drink is more of a riff on the Brandy Alexander than it is on the White Russian.

The Dominicana is neither shaken nor served on the rocks, however. Instead, it is made by stirring together one-and-a-half ounces each of aged rum and coffee liqueur, straining it into a coupe glass, and then layered lightly whipped cream on top. The result is a concoction showcasing some of the best the tropics offer. The rum and coffee liqueur are the true companions, and the creamy head makes this cocktail decadent without weighing you down. This one is simple, delicious, and well worth a try.


This next cocktail is another modern innovation and another minor riff on a classic drink. The Revolver was invented by John Santer, a San Francisco-based bartender who came up with it in 2004, according to Punch.

The inspiration behind the Revolver came from Santer's friend, who preferred his Manhattans with the addition of creme de cacao. After experimenting, Santer eventually settled on coffee liqueur for this addition and lost the sweet vermouth altogether. Also, Santer replaced the traditional Angostura bitters in his Manhattan with orange bitters and finished the cocktail by expressing the oils of an orange peel through a lighted match.

The name "Revolver" does not come from this stylish, firey finish, however. It comes from the whiskey Santer used to craft this drink, Bulleit, Punch continues. Santer found himself with a full case of the just-released whiskey and had to find a way to sell it, and the Revolver became his means to do so. The name is also an homage to The Beatles' 1966 album.

If you like Manhattans and want to delve into the wide array of variations on the classic cocktail, the Revolver is an excellent place to start. The whiskey and coffee liqueur combine for a harmonious, complex, mellow cocktail that is brightened up by the orange bitters. This drink is a classic example of how one slight alteration makes for an entirely new cocktail and one that can sustain on its own merit.

Mezcal Coffee Cocktail

This next coffee cocktail is another wonderfully simple drink easily mixable in your home. The Mezcal coffee cocktail recipe is credited to bartender Brandon Paul Weaver of the Liberty Bar in Seattle. The bar, which doubles as a coffee shop, combines an Oaxacan mezcal with an Oaxacan cold brew coffee, the two coming together for a cocktail equals parts roasty and smoky.

Cold brew is a preferred coffee used in cocktails because the flavor is more concentrated. Regular drip coffee, for example, is not strong enough to stand up to other common ingredients in a coffee cocktail unless it is used in larger proportions, such as in Irish Coffee. This is why most coffee cocktails either call for cold brew, freshly made espresso, or a coffee liqueur — especially when pairing the cold brew with a spirit as bold and robust as mezcal, an intense flavor coffee is required to stand up to it.

While this particular cocktail is made with a specific cold brew coffee from the Oaxaca region of Mexico, it can be replicated with any cold brew. Along with these two uniquely complimentary ingredients, a rhubarb amaro, peach liqueur, and angostura bitters are used to create something truly nuanced. The earthiness of the mezcal plays beautifully with the rhubarb's flavor, and the concentrated coffee flavor is a match made in heaven with the spirit's smoke. Meanwhile, the dash of peach liqueur is there to keep everything vibrant and fruity.

Tiki Coffee Cocktail

Tiki cocktails being unique, voluminous, and made up of various ingredients is always a given. The typical ingredients of fruit juices, orgeat and other syrups, and eye-catching garnishes are typical, but what is not typical is the inclusion of coffee.

This tiki cocktail coffee recipe by Kevin Beary was invented for the bar Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. Beary, like any modern and resourceful bartender, made his own coffee liqueur for this drink, but it can easily be made with your preferred store-bought option.

This cocktail clocks in at a whopping volume of nearly six ounces. The ingredients include one ounce each of Black Strap rum, Madeira wine, lemon juice, pineapple juice, and coffee liqueur, a quarter-ounce each of spiced rum, dark Jamaican rum, and Falernum, and three dashes of tiki bitters. These ingredients are shaken with ice, strained in a tiki glass large enough to hold it all, and garnished with pineapple prawns, a pineapple wedge, and coffee beans.

Madeira is a fortified wine made in Madeira, Portugal, and ranges in dryness and sweetness, but a drier bottle is best for this cocktail. Falernum is a common cocktail syrup used in tiki drinks and is usually regarded as a spice-forward version of orgeat. These two ingredients, along with the three different rums, the juices, and the coffee liqueur, combine for a cocktail that is not too sweet or bitter, with the right amount of kick in every department necessary.

Affogato Martini

By now, most people will surely have had at least one espresso martini. In recent years, the cocktail has exploded in popularity and become many people's go-to drink. It is fair that everyone has their favorites, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but settling for the same thing time and again leads to missing out on something more exciting or just an occasional break from routine. The affogato martini is your call to turn an espresso martini into a decadent dessert cocktail.

Essentially, the affogato martini is an espresso martini with the addition of vanilla ice cream. Affogato has long been a common dessert, including the simple combination of espresso and ice cream, so why not combine an espresso martini with ice cream? It seems only natural. Adding grappa to a traditional affogato, known as an affogato corretto, or "corrected affogato," is also becoming a common accent to this beverage.

Subsequently, if you like other dessert cocktails, such as a Mudslide, the affogato martini is calling your name. This dessert sipper is another creation that blurs the lines between dessert and cocktail and one that triumphs in both realms. If you like espresso martinis (who doesn't?) and ice cream (who doesn't?), the affogato martini is sure to satisfy both cravings.