The Liquor Fairy recently brought me two bottles that individually and collectively packed a double-whammy. They were Kahlua Coffee Cream, and Amarula Cream. First, both were delicious; and second, they both gave me something interesting to write about beyond what they taste like. They each deserve their own review, and I will thusly deal with each separately below, but I want to start with what is cool about them collectively.
Liqueurs predate cocktails by a long, long time. Most of us modern cocktailians tend to treat liqueurs as mere ingredients, on the order of lime juice, or cinnamon syrup. At most, we employ liqueurs as a base spirit in our concoctions. But before people were mixing spirits and other things in glass or shaker to make them more palatable, they were mixing spirits and other things in bottles to accomplish the same goal. Liqueurs were historically created to be drunk straight, not as ingredients.
Now, to the modern palate this may seem a bit dubious. Take a swig of Benedictine, for instance, and you may challenge my assertion that it was formulated for drinking straight. Time changes tastes… in everything, not just drink. Also, many, if not most, modern liqueurs are formulated and produced exclusively for mixing in cocktails. Imagine leaning across a bar and asking for a glass of Blue Curaçao….
So, we modern mixers tend to treat liqueurs as we do because:
- We mix. It’s what we do.
- Modern distillers create products to allow us, the consumers, to do what we do. Ain’t capitalism grand?
But Amarula and Kahlua Coffee Cream don’t fit that paradigm. I’m sure that there are all sorts of ways you can mix great cocktails with these two products, but I only want to focus on how they taste by themselves.
Because that is how liqueurs as a class were originally intended to be drunk, and these two products fit that bill nicely.
And that is worth thinking about.
I honestly do not understand the manufacturing magic that allows distillers to bottle a product with so much real cream and have it last any length of time at all on the shelf. Nor do I know how they make such liqueurs so incredibly rich. If you mix spirits and fresh, heavy cream in any combination, you won’t get the same texture. But my ignorance of the production minutiae won’t keep me from talking about the results.
I’ll go with the bottles in the order that I received them.
Kahlua Coffee Cream Liqueur
Kahlua is one of the best known liqueur brands out there today, of course. They are introducing a new special run liqueur they call Kahlua Coffee Cream. You won’t find it on their website, since it is a limited-edition product, but you should expect to find it on shelves all over the US through the end of the year.
Everything Kahlua makes is coffee-based, of course, as is the new Coffee Cream. It is a cream liqueur along the lines of a Bailey’s or Castries. The base spirit is rum, and subtly brings the characteristic taste elements of that spirit to the party as well.
My initial thought before tasting was,
Isn’t this a White Russian? It is not. Kahlua actually produces pre-bottled White Russians as well, but even if you roll your own, White Russians are thinner in taste and texture, as well as higher in proof, than the Kahlua Coffee Cream.
The taste of the Coffee Cream is similar to an unflavored ice cream custard base. There are vanilla tones, as well as prominent flavors of caramelized sugar. The coffee is there, but not very in your face. For non-coffee drinkers like me, it is a beautiful balance. Imagine if you will, a sip of liquid Tiramisu, and you will have great idea of what you get in a bottle of the Coffee Cream.
As I said above, this liqueur is simply a great after dinner drink, served by itself on the rocks. If you simply must use it as an ingredient, I’ll send you to the wrap-up of the recent Thursday Drink Night, where the gang did a great job putting Kahlua Coffee Cream through its paces.
Amarula Cream Liqueur
Amarula is a brand I had never heard of until it arrived at my door. It too is a sweet-tasting cream liqueur, but has some unique elements in its creation and in its flavor.
Amarula was first marketed in the 1980’s in Zimbabwe, and I think it is now made in South Africa. It is made from an African fruit called the marula, which grows wild in South Africa’s Limpopo province (with its great grey-green, greasy river). Locals harvest the fruit and sell the takings to Distell, Amarula’s distiller. The other main harvesters of marula fruit are elephants, and this is why Amarula plasters them all over every bottle or piece of marketing material they produce.
The interesting thing about the Amarula is that the marula fruit provides not just the flavor, but the alcohol. They produce a brandy by fermenting both the juice and the pulp, then distilling. This brandy is then aged and combined with cream to produce Amarula. I see some mention that they first produced the brandy itself as a commercial product, but I guess it was not successful on its own, and now they make only the cream liqueur.
Regardless, the resulting liquid is delicious, and just a touch exotic. It is sweet, but not overly, and the marula fruit flavor is unique, at least to my palate. To return to my central theme, the liqueur is so nicely balanced that you need add nothing to it beyond a couple of nice cubes of ice. As with the Kahlua, I like this too much straight to bother much with fiddling with recipes. But if you’d like to expand your wings with a bottle of Amarula, I found an excellent page of both cocktail and dessert Amarula recipes at African-Tradition.com. On second thought, I may try my hand at the truffles….
The following products, Kahlua Coffee Cream Liqueur and Amarula Cream Liqueur, were recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss them.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the
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