What Is A Carajillo? Explained

Are you intrigued by alcoholic coffee drinks but wondering what is a Carajillo and how to make it the right way? Well, read on and find out.

What Is A Carajillo
Carajillo is served as a dinner cocktail using hot coffee as the backbone

Have you heard of Carajillo? If not, let’s find out.

Carajillo is famous for its nuanced flavor with a strong and rich body. It’s served as a dinner cocktail using hot coffee as the backbone. Carajillo was invented in Spain and soon made its way to the other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico.

Carajillo thrived on being one of the most incredible pairings using strong coffee like espresso and Licor 43, a sweet Spanish liquor. Not all Carajillo recipes are the same; the variance of the ingredients changes by country. But  Carajillo always goes by its sweet vanilla and citrus notes blended beautifully with the bitter and rich-tasting profile of coffee.

 The Story Behind Carajillo

Carajillo is gradually taking the world by storm, but Spain is the birthplace of this incredible drink. In the initial years after Carajillo was invented, it became an early-morning fixture in the working-class neighborhood bars.

They paired a shot of espresso with either brandy, anise, rum, or aguardiente. And this robust and energetic drink acts as a wake-up call that makes you feel energetic, alert, and active.

Coffee and rum became the most common pairing for Carajillo. The drink was brought to the Cuban plantations, where indentured laborers used it as a “courage” and energy to get them through the day.

How To Make Carajillo

Licor 43, an ice, and a coffee
Carajillo’s main ingredients are espresso, Licor 43, and ice

There are different ways to make Carajillo depending on what type of bar you’re going to and which bartender you meet. But despite the difference, Carajillo uses two essential ingredients; espresso and licor 43.


  • Espresso or strong coffee
  • Licor 43 
  • Ice

Step 1: Brew The Espresso

If you don’t have espresso, opt for any other strong coffee that preserves the richness and bitterness with a distinctive aroma. I recommend espresso because this type of roast is known for its darkest flavor. If you have a Chemex at home, that’s the best way to develop a perfect espresso shot.

Step 2: Mix Licor 43 With Ice

Now, after espresso, you need Licor 43 and some ice. Pour Licor 43 slowly over ice and finely stir. There are many types of cocktail ice out there in many shapes and sizes to give your glass an awe-inspiring look. If you make it at home, crystal-clear ice cubes also work.

Step 3: Add The Coffee

Slowly add the coffee over a spoon and wait for it to meet the liquor in the glass. Be patient because you want to see a dark layer on top of the yellow Licor 43 layer that’s slowly settling.

You’ll love our round-up of the best Carajilo recipes.

Is Spanish Coffee The Same As Carajillo?

Yes and no. You can say that the name “Spanish coffee” is the American version of Carajillo. Huber’s bar invented Spanish coffee in Portland, Oregon. They light high-proof rum on fire to caramelize the glass’s sugar rim before mixing coffee with Kahlua and Triple Sec and finally topping it with whipped cream.

Is There Any Other Way To Make Carajillo?

Carajillo is a medley of coffee and alcohol. As long as you have these two ingredients at hand, you can develop your own Carajillo recipe.

Licor 43 may not be available by the time you find it. Or let’s say they don’t sell it in your town. Feel free to swab it with dulce de leche liqueur

Dulce de leche will be a great alternative to Licor 43 for those not into strong alcohol flavor. If you’re hanging out with the girls, they can have it with whipped cream on top of the drink to enhance the creaminess. 

If you like Carajillo, you might also find our guide on the best options for a coffee drink with rum useful. 

What Is The Best Time To Serve Carajillo?

two cups of Spanish cocktail
Carajillo was initially served in the morning but you can have it any time of the day

Carajillo was initially served in the morning. But you can have it any time of the day, even though it’s most common for people who like to spice up the night after a hearty dinner.

Why not have it in the afternoon if you do not want to consume caffeine late at night? This way, you don’t have to sacrifice a good sleep at night and still get some energy kicking in for later events in the day. Don’t forget to pair it with some authentic churros, sweet banana ice cream, apple cake, or a Tortilla dessert cup.


  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing about everything drinks-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea. Find Oanh on LinkedIn.