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Alcoholic drinks and cocktails are a staple of many cultures and lifestyles all over the world. Cocktail bars are all the rave in big cities such as London and Los Angeles, and the art of mixing drinks has become so popular that mixology is studied by many people. Mixologists at home, or in a professional setting will have a stock full of a variety of mixers, liqueurs, and alcohols. One of the most popular ingredients for many cocktails is Kahlua. If you are buying and storing Kahlua, you may be wondering what the shelf life is like or if it spoils at all.

What is kahlua?

Kahlua is a Mexican coffee liqueur that was first made in the 1930s, although the recipe has undoubtedly been changed since then. Kahlua is made using rum, sugar, vanilla bean, and coffee which gives it a dark and full-bodied flavor with a slight alcoholic bitterness. The mixture is also reduced slightly which makes it have a thick viscosity similar to that of a slightly watery syrup.

Kahlua is completely dairy-free which surprises some people as they assume it to be creamy and include some dairy ingredients. Obviously, this is untrue and what gives the liqueur the creamy texture is the reduction that was done during its production process. While being entirely dairy-free, it is worth noting that Kahlua is not vegan-friendly due to the sugar refining process with which they are associated.

Kahlua is used in many famous cocktails that include a coffee flavor, or that require some extra bitterness. It is a staple in any mixologist’s stock, and can also be found in almost any bar’s collection. While a bottle of Kahlua is ready to drink, Kahlua is almost always served in a cocktail as an ingredient instead of being drank straight by itself.

What does Kahlua taste like?

As you can probably guess, Kahlua is heavily coffee-flavored and has a deep full-bodied rich, and sweet flavor profile with hints of both caramel and vanilla. These hints are more undertones found within the aftertaste as coffee is the first flavor you will taste. Compared to many alcoholic drinks, Kahlua is relatively low in ABV (alcohol by volume) so it does not have the strong alcohol taste that some people do not enjoy. However, it does have a rum spirit aroma due to white rum being used in the making of Kahlua.

There are other coffee liqueurs available on the market and they will work just as well. But none of them seem to nail the flavor quite like Kahlua does.

What is kahlua used in?

As mentioned, any cocktail that requires coffee or an extra touch of bitterness is likely to use Kahlua. There are quite a few cocktails that use the ingredient, but the three main standouts are;

  • A white russian cocktail
  • A black russian cocktail
  • Espresso Martini
  • Kahlua mudslide

The black Russian was the first of the three to be invented and is a simple mixture of Kahlua and vodka. It is an incredibly easy yet delicious cocktail that is famed for its bitterness. A few years after the black Russian gained fame, the white Russian was made by adding cream and a sweet flavoring to the cocktails predecessor. The bitterness was balanced, and sugar crystals were added to the rim of the glass as a garnish to make the drink more visually appealing.

The Espresso Martini is an insanely famous cocktail that was invented when a patron at a bar in London asked for a drink to wake her up. The drink was made on the spot but was later revisited to be perfected. The main ingredients are Kahlua (obviously) and coffee, typically a cold espresso, and vodka. An espresso martini can be garnished with raw coffee beans, but the rim is typically left untouched so it does not interfere with any of the flavors.

Kahlua can also be used to make a baby Guinness. This is a shot of different alcohols, typically Kahlua and Irish cream, that mimics how a pint of Guinness would look if it were smaller. The taste is nice but they are more of a novelty shot famed for their humorous appearance.

What is the shelf life of kahlua?

Despite being dairy-free, Kahlua still has a shelf life as not all of the ingredients are alcoholic. So to instantly answer any questions of “does Kahlua go bad?” The answer is yes, there is an expiration date on every Kahlua bottle that should be respected before being put into an alcoholic drink and cocktails.

The average shelf life for an unopened bottle of Kahlua is around 4 years. I specifically say this as unopened Kahlua is more likely to be new, and have a shelf life of that time. If this is an opened Kahlua bottle in your liquor cabinet then it is likely to have less than 4 years left. After this time period has concluded, the bottle of Kahlua will no longer taste good and could make you feel unwell if consumed as well as having an unpleasant texture.

Drinks such as rum and whiskey do not have an expiration date thanks to their incredibly high alcohol content. This means that they have a long shelf life even if they are stored with air exposure. Although it is still best if they are stored with their bottle tightly shut.

How do you store kahlua?

Whether you have high-quality Kahlua or regular Kahlua bought from any retailer, storing them properly should always be prioritized. The best way to store a bottle of Kahlua is in a dark place that does not get too hot. Some people enjoy their Kahlua chilled so it is an option to store it somewhere slightly cold. Avoiding direct sunlight is very important too as that can easily lead to spoiled Kahlua which can really ruin cocktail parties thanks to its bad taste.

How to make cocktails with Kahlua

If you’ve read this far then you either want to buy some Kahlua and make some delicious cocktails with it, or you have some old Kahlua expiring soon that you want to get some use out of. Either way, there are plenty of cocktails you can make but hopefully, this gives you some inspiration.

Black Russian

Making a Black Russian thankfully is not too difficult at all. All you will need is some of your favorite vodka, some Kahlua, ice, a single maraschino cherry, and cola if wanted although it is completely optional.

Firstly you will want to pour your vodka and Kahlua into a tumbler filled with ice and stir gently for a minute. For this cocktail a ratio of 2:1 vodka:Kahlua is ideal, and for a single serving I recommend the vodka being 50ml in quantity.

Once finished stirring, strain your liquid and pour it into a serving glass with ice, and garnish with a cherry. If you want a longer drink or a slightly weaker drink, you can pour this into a bigger glass and top it up with cola. Not only will this weaken the flavor of the Black Russian, but it will actually help the flavor and improve it.

White Russian

To make a perfect White Russian you are going to need mostly the same ingredients from a Black Russian. Vodka and Kahlua, a tale as old as time. Alongside your alcohol, you will want to have some cream. The cream is up to you but it is recommended to be heavy cream. Half and Half works well.

Once again we will be using a 2:1 ratio of Vodka to Kahlua as they perfectly complement each other. For a single serving using 50ml of vodka and 25ml of Kahlua will give you a nice strong drink. As for the quantity of cream, it is a more personal preference. Similar to adding creamer to coffee, it is all about how strong you want it. A nice middle ground would be a single tablespoon although you may want to add more or less depending on your palette.

Once you have your ingredients ready, it is time to put them in a tumbler and stir for a minute. Shaking is possible but it would introduce too much air into the cream which would give it a weird texture. Once stirred, pour through a strainer into a presenting glass and place a few ice cubes in there as well.

Espresso Martini

An espresso martini is an iconic cocktail that every bartender and mixologist will know how to make. Thankfully it is quite easy to make at home so you can make one too! You will want to make both the cocktail itself and also a syrup that goes with it for the best experience.

For the syrup, you will need 100g golden caster sugar. This needs to be heated in a pan on the stove at medium heat with 50ml of water until boiling. After it has begun to boil, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

After the mixture has cooled, it is time to grab your other ingredients. You will need vodka, espresso coffee, and Kahlua in a 2:1:1 ratio respectively. Using 100ml of vodka will make two nice and strong cocktails. With all of the ingredients ready, pour a tablespoon of your syrup into a shaker alongside your other ingredients and a handful of ice. Shake vigorously for a minute and a half, or until the shaker gets cold. After this, pour your cocktail through a strainer into presenting glasses and garnish with fresh coffee beans.

How long can you keep Kahlua once opened?

Kahlua does not go off a set amount of time after being opened, it goes off after a certain amount of time past production. It is still best to store it with the lid shut and in a dark place away from sunlight. Despite this, Kahlua should stay good for 4 years.

How do you know if Kahlua is bad?

The smell of Kahlua should change if it has spoiled, and so will the texture. The taste will also change but it is not advised that you test that theory.

Can you get sick from old Kahlua?

While you will not get poisoned or anything from old or spoiled Kahlua, it certainly won’t taste good and is not advised to be consumed after expiration.