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Bourbon Carajillo

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The Carajillo, a spanish cocktail of coffee and liqueur, usually sticks to a lower proof liquor such as Licor 43 or other brandy, but you know I had to make my own whiskey version with this Bourbon Carajillo. This cocktail packs a caffeinated punch with almost two ounces of espresso. I tested with both cold brew I had in the fridge, and hot espresso. Both had their merits.

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What is a Carajillo?

The carajillo is a traditional Spanish cocktail of coffee and brandy or liqueur. You  may be most familiar with the carajillo version made with Licor 43 – a vanilla-citrus liqueur from Spain. One story is that it came from Cuban tradition of drinking coffee with rum to give soldiers courage. Another story has its origins in Andalusia where the name is a hurried form of carajo, a curse word meaning hell, damn, or ****. 

Whatever its origins, the basic components are coffee and brandy/liqueur. Some versions serve the cocktail hot. Others shake up the cocktail with hot espresso and ice cream for a more milkshake-like consistency.

I went for a chilled version,  but I added in a few extras for some complexity.

Flavors in a Bourbon Carajillo

While coffee and a sweet brandy are the two flavors always present in a classic carajillo, for this riff I chose to add pineapple and amaro flavors. I’m in love with the combination of pineapple and coffee. There’s something magical about the sweet citrus of the pineapple and the way it plays with the acidic bitterness of the coffee. I’ll add pineapple to anything with coffee in it to see if it works. 

But that would leave the drink too sweet, especially because I did want to hold to using Licor 43 as one of the main spirits in the drink. So I added both bourbon for a kick of whiskey flavor and heat, as well as amaro with its bitterness, to balance out the sweet flavors from the pineapple and the Licor 43.

If you’re not familiar with Licor 43, it has flavors of citrus and vanilla in it. It’s easy to add to cocktails for a vanilla flavor with a tad more complexity than a vanilla infused spirit. 

How to Make a Bourbon Carajillo

To make this fancy riff on the carajillo, I added pineapple syrup, amaro, bourbon and Licor 43 to the cocktail shaker. I added ice and topped it with almost 2 ounces of hot espresso. Give the cocktail a quick shake and pour into a fancy coupe to serve neat. For garnish I used a dried pineapple because it was beautiful and added aromas of pineapple to the top of the cocktail. 

If you use chilled cold brew espresso, the coffee won’t foam quite as much, but the coffee flavor ends up a little more robust. I made the drink both ways and preferred the flavor from the warm espresso rather than the cold.

Tips and Tricks to Make a Carajillo

Take a moment to make the espresso or strong coffee before assembling the rest of the cocktail ingredients. This will let the espresso cool just a tiny bit before you use it in the cocktail. This keeps the amount of dilution down just a bit, but still gives you the superior taste of using a warm espresso when creating the cocktail.

If you don’t have Cardamaro, the amaro I used to make this version, use an amaro with chocolatey, and slightly spicy notes to it, not one that’s heavy on coffee notes. You’ll be adding espresso, so you want the amaro to add both bitterness and some additional flavor notes for complexity aside from the coffee flavors.

Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy

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Carajillo in a tall coupe with dried pineapple slice and coffee beans

Bourbon Carajillo

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Add some punch to your carajillo with the addition of bourbon, Cardamaro and some pineapple syrup to make a slightly tropical and much more complex variation than coffee and Licor 43 alone.
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Course Drinks
Cuisine Dessert Cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1.75 oz warm espresso
  • 1/2 oz pineapple syrup
  • 1/4 oz @Cardamaro
  • 3/4 oz @Licor43usa
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • Garnish: dehydrated pineapple slice

Instructions
 

  • Shake everything with ice and fine strain into a coupe. If you weren’t staying up late before, now you are. Cheers!
Keyword amaro, bourbon, brandy, carajillo, coffee, licor 43, pineapple
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on January 10th, 2021
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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