Saving Money On Alcohol: DIY Kahlua

diykahluaOne of the many downsides to drinking is that it is expensive, especially when you start to get to that point in your life where you don’t want to settle for cheap liquor and beers anymore. As a cook and someone who has been called a foodie before, becoming a better bartender is definitely something I’m interested in, but as a broke college student I can’t exactly deck out my liquor cabinet with expensive and diverse options.

Something I’ve done to get around this is be very conscious as to the versatility of what alcohol I get when I do purchase it. Since I’ve reached a point in my life where I can no longer down a shot of vodka like its nothing, I’ve started experimenting more in the realm of mixed drinks. This poses two small problems though:

1. You actually have to think about the compatibility of whatever you’re mixing (no Baileys and mango juice).

2. You often have to chose between drinking more of something that taste like complete shit in order to get the same amount of drunk or end up drinking something that actually tastes good and not even getting a buzz.

Everyone differs in what they want out of a drink, but for me there are three main components:

1. High alcohol content

2.  Great taste.

3. Not feeling terrible the next morning

It can be very difficult to achieve balance in these three things. Too much alcohol and you lose the great taste. Too much sugar, and a hangover is inevitable.  If it’s too watered down you’ll have to either drink more or just be drinking alcohol all night with no affect. While some people don’t mind that, for me personally there is no point in drinking something that is more expensive and tastes worse if it does nothing different to me than a delicious, cheap non-alcoholic drink.

In my endeavor to find something that would taste good, have a reasonable alcohol content, could be mixed into many different drinks, and was also cheap I came across the idea of taking a base alcohol (in this case vodka) and making my own liquor out of it. I decided to start off this adventure in bartending as simple and safe as possible. I’d never had Kahlua before I made it for this post, but I knew I loved coffee, sugar and I knew I could make a lot of drinks with this recipe.

After looking through pages of recipes on google, I decided to go for it.


4 cups of sugar

2 cups of vodka

3/4 cup instant coffee

2 cups water

2 tbs vanilla extract


Large pot

Container to hold mixture

The first thing I did was get out a big pot. You’re definitely going to need to use something pretty sizable for this, since you’re going to have over 8 cups of liquid, sugar and coffee in it. I combined the sugar, water and instant coffee into the pot. Make sure you get enough instant coffee, mine ended up being exactly 3/4 of a cup which is what I suspected it would be when I bought it at the store. This is perfect because I’ve never drank instant coffee in my life, so I wasn’t looking to have leftovers.

The use of instant coffee and vanilla extract means you don’t have to wait for weeks before being able to drink your kahlua!

Put that mixture on medium low heat and keep on stirring it the entire time until it is completely dissolved. I set up an episode of SNL and watched it while I stirred just to make sure that I had it completely dissolved. It should be a thick syrup when you’re done with it. It’s important to stir the whole time because you don’t want this mixture burning. It defiantly doesn’t need to be brought to a boil, you don’t want it to turn into caramel.


After you’ve done this, you’ll want to remove the pot and set it aside to cool to room temperature. If it is too hot it could result in it cooking off some of the alcohol when you added it. I finished watching the episode of SNL while I waited for this to cool because personally my favorite part of cooking is being able to watch or listen to entertainment while I do it. After checking to confirm the mixer was at room temperature, I added the vodka. Before adding the vodka there was a significant amount of foam but I found that right once I added it and stirred it in the mixture lost all of its foam and turned into normal kahlua. This is also where you should add the vanilla extract.

Because this recipe makes quite a lot of kahlua you could either break it up into smaller bottles or find one large bottle that will hold it. I chose to wash out a nearly empty simply lemonade container I had to store it in. The container I used is supposed to hold about 60 oz of liquid, and judging by how full it is I would say the recipe makes a little over a quart of liquid. In order to pour it into your container, you can either use a funnel or if you don’t have a funnel you can do what I did: cut the bottom off an empty plastic water bottle and turn it upside down to act as a funnel. This is a really easy fix, just get your best serrated knife and it should cut through the water bottle easily.



Warning: This is going to have a lot of caffeine in it! according the the container my instant coffee came in, that whole container of kahlua contains the same amount of coffee as 25 cups, so the caffeine is very strong in this. Also there is a ton of sugar in this recipe. Drink responsibly!

The finished product!

Conclusion: After making this, I only wish I had tried it sooner! It’s delicious, versatile and I personally love some caffeine in my drinks.

Looking for something to do with your newly made kahlua? Check out my blog post about spiked milkshakes! And be sure to let me know in the comments what you plan to make with yours!


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