Visit most any cantina, restaurant or coffee bar in Mexico City and you’re likely to see tables full of people enjoying a “Carajillo.” The cocktail, a Spanish coffee drink, has become ubiquitous in Mexico and has now quickly found its way into home bars and drink menus in the U.S.
What began in Spain as a blue-collar cocktail that gained popularity among soldiers during the Spanish occupation of Cuba around the 19th century. Originally built from coffee spiked with brandy, whiskey, or rum, locals in Mexico began swapping in Mexican-made Licor 43—a saccharine, syrupy vanilla and citrus-flavoured liqueur—for the hard stuff.
Today in Mexico City, the Carajillo is anything but a working-class drink. With only two ingredients, Carajillo is easy to prepare and the perfect drink to add to your coffee cocktail rotation before National Coffee Day next week.
“A few years ago, nobody knew what this was, but now you see the Carajillo everywhere. It’s becoming a classic cocktail,” says Charity Johnston, the Los Angeles-based Director of Operations at The Madera Group which owns and operates the popular Tocaya Organica and Toca Madera collection of restaurants.
Her Carajillo 43 is a layered cocktail, then sprinkled with cinnamon and a sprig of thyme. “People love it. When they see a Carajillo go out, suddenly the entire restaurant wants one!”
In addition to the growing excitement for coffee and coffee cocktails, Johnston attributes some of the popularity of the Carajillo to the burgeoning interest among consumers to treat dining and drinking as a full experiential occasion, whether in a restaurant or at home. People are drinking more “European style” now, she says, giving more consideration to the entire experience of what they’re drinking before and after the meal.
“People are more adventurous, they’re willing to try new things, and the Carajillo fits perfectly into that trend,” Johnston says.
That’s a sentiment shared by James Mireles, founder of Pulp Coffee Roasters in San Antonio, who has worked closely with Licor43 to help identify different types of coffee that pair best in the Carajillo 43.
“People’s palates are much more mature these days – even for people who don’t typically drink alcohol, they enjoy coffee cocktails and they’re excited about the Carajillo,” he says.
- 1.75 oz. Licor 43 Original
- Hot espresso coffee
This is a cocktail that you can either shake or stir
Shaken – Pour Licor 43 into a cocktail shaker, and add a hot espresso and ice cubes. Shake and strain into a glass full of ice.
Stirred – Half fill a glass with ice cubes and pour Licor 43 over the top. Serve alongside the cup of hot espresso and, before drinking, pour the coffee over the liqueur and stir.