How to Make Carajillo: Spanish Coffee Recipe

Updated on December 9, 2019
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Lena is a foodie and home cook from the SF Bay Area with a passion for Spanish flavors and traditional cooking with a modern touch!

What Is a Carajillo?

This tasty beverage is a Spanish coffee cocktail made with brandy or rum, coffee liqueur, and freshly brewed, hot coffee. It was invented during the Spanish occupation of Cuba, where soldiers began putting liquor in their coffee to give them courage, or "coraje." Thus, the drink was named "corajillo," and later changed simply to "carajillo," the name by which we now know it.

The Americans have taken the basic recipe and expanded upon it, adding a caramelized sugar rim to the glass, which is produced by lighting rum in the glass on fire. The coffee liqueur and coffee and poured over top, extinguishing the flame before you drink it. Sometimes, you'll see it served with a dollop of whipped cream on top, which you would never see in Spain.

In the video below, you see a bartender from Besaw's American restaurant in Portland, Oregon, where she takes it to the next level by shaking nutmeg and cinnamon over the flame, creating sparks!

Below, you will find easy, step-by-step instructions for making this delicious after-dinner beverage, both with and without fire. I've also included a more traditional Spanish version, as well as a recipe for Mexican carajillo, which is a different drink entirely. Try them all and let me know your favorites in the comments at the bottom!

Spanish Coffee Recipe

Prep time: 5 min
Ready in: 5 min
Yields: 1 coffee cocktail


  • sugar and lemon wedges, for rimming the glass
  • 1 oz high-proof rum, like Bacardi 151
  • 2 oz coffee liqueur, like Kahlua or Tia Maria
  • 1/2 cup freshly-brewed coffee

Rim A Glass With Sugar

Instructions for Flaming Spanish Coffee

  1. Rim your glass with sugar, using the same technique you see in the video above.
  2. Pour rum into the glass, tilt it, and use a long-stemmed match or barbecue lighter to set the liquor on fire. Set it upright on a flat surface and gently grip the stem, swirling the flaming rum until the sugar around the rim caramelizes.
  3. As soon as the sugar is caramelized, pour in the coffee liqueur, then top with hot coffee and serve immediately.

Safety First!

Before you light the fire, clear your counter of anything flammable, clean up any spilled liquor, and move the rum bottle far away from where you are working.

Would you try flaming your cocktail?

See results

Make It Without Fire

  1. Rim your glass with sugar. (I think dark sugar looks better, but it's totally up to you.)
  2. Pour in rum.
  3. Add coffee liqueur.
  4. Pour hot coffee last.
  5. Serve.

A classic carajillo cocktail
A classic carajillo cocktail | Source

Spanish-Style Carajillo

  1. Pour in rum in an Irish coffee or wine glass.
  2. Add coffee liqueur.
  3. Pour coffee over top.
  4. Serve.

There are almost infinite variations to experiment with, if you're feeling adventurous. Try substituting orange liqueur for the coffee-flavored spirit, or adding a splash of triple sec like Huber's Cafe, Portland's oldest restaurant.

You can also add sweetened condensed milk for another drink entirely, or change the rum out for brandy, which is also traditional in Spain.

Cafe asiatico, also known as zaperoco or barraquito
Cafe asiatico, also known as zaperoco or barraquito | Source

Other Spanish Coffee Drinks

Literal Meaning
What It Is
Café Solo
"just coffee"
a shot of espresso
Café Doble
"double coffee"
a double shot of espresso
Café de Maquina
"machine coffee"
a filter or drip coffee
Café Cortado
"cut coffee"
an espresso "cut" with a little steamed milk
Café Con Leche
"coffee with milk"
equal parts espresso and steamed milk
Café Manchado
"stained coffee"
mostly steamed milk with a shot of espresso
Café Con Hielo
"coffee with ice"
an espresso over ice
Café Bombon
"bonbon coffee"
espresso over sweetened condensed milk
Café Belmonte
"Belmonte coffee"
a carajillo with sweetened condesnsed milk
Café Asiatico
"Asian coffee"
an espresso with sweetened condensed milk and Licor 43
espresso diluted with hot water
Just like everything in Spanish cuisine, names for coffee drinks can vary by region. If you are traveling in Spain, check with a local (like your hotel concierge) about the particular vocabulary you will need to order your favorite drink.
Mexican carajillo
Mexican carajillo | Source

Mexican Carajillo Recipe

In Mexico, if you are offered a carajillo it is actually a completely different drink than the Spanish version. The recipe is very simple:

  • Ice
  • 1 shot Licor 43 (a popular Spanish vanilla/citrus liqueur)
  • 1 shot espresso
  1. Add the ice to your glass first, then the liquor.
  2. Serve alongside a fresh, hot espresso.
  3. When ready to drink, pour the espresso into the glass with the liquor and ice.

© 2017 Lena Durante


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    Post Comment
    • Spanish Food profile imageAUTHOR

      Lena Durante 

      3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Thank you, Beverly Jean! I love the look of the zaperoco, but it's just too sweet for me. I find a Spanish carajillo just the right amount of sugar and liquor for an after-dinner treat.

    • Happy Vegan profile image

      Beverly Jean 

      3 years ago from Denton

      What great coffee drinks! You have done a very good presentation on this article. I'm a coffee drinker and will try some of these. Thank you.

    • Spanish Food profile imageAUTHOR

      Lena Durante 

      3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      That's too bad, Glenis. Maybe you can work up a coffee "mocktail" with espresso, coffee-flavored simple syrup, a twist of lemon, and a bit of milk!

    • Glenis Rix profile image


      3 years ago from UK

      Looks like these deliver a powerful punch. Would love to try them but sadly my tum can't tolerate alcohol nowadays


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