This Kentucky coffee is an after-dinner drink is actually a smoother, sweeter, subtler cousin to traditional Irish coffee, which consists of strongly brewed fresh coffee, sugar, cream, and whiskey. Whatever your usual brand of bourbon, whether Maker’s Mark or otherwise, will work quite nicely in this recipe. It’s brought together in a stylish old-school technique that ensures the cream floats quite elegantly atop the coffee.–David Leite

Kentucky Coffee FAQs

What type of bourbon should I use for this recipe?

The type of bourbon you choose is going to be dependent on your taste buds and budget. The best advice we have is to make sure to use good coffee and decent bourbon.

Also, it’s a good idea to taste your bourbon before adding it to your coffee. It should be a bit sweet – perhaps with hints of vanilla or caramel tones. Paired with a rich roasted coffee will bring out other notes in your bourbon, but also will enhance the smokey flavor of your coffee.

Not into nuances, notes, and hints? Use what you like. If you’re trying to stay true to Kentucky-made spirits, try Makers Mark, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, or Wild Turkey.

Can I use decaffeinated coffee?

Absolutely. If you’re making after-dinner drinks and are concerned about caffeine keeping you and your guests awake all night, absolutely opt for really good quality decaf coffee.

Two glasses half-filled with Kentucky coffee and an open bottle of bourbon between them.

Kentucky Coffee

5 from 1 vote
Kentucky coffee is an after-dinner drink made with strongly brewed coffee, cream, sugar, and bourbon. It’s a superb holiday sipper, and so easy to make.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories240 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 8 sugar cubes, or 8 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
  • 4 cups freshly brewed, strong, hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped


  • Place 2 sugar cubes (or 2 teaspoons sugar) in each of four 12-ounce coffee mugs.
  • Add 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) bourbon to each mug. Using a muddler or the end of a heavy long-handled spoon, muddle the sugar and bourbon until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour 1 cup hot coffee into each mug. Rest the back of a clean, dry teaspoon against the inside of the glass and slooooooowly pour the thickened cream down the back of the spoon and into the glass. (This way the cream will float on top of the coffee. It's a boss presentation, trust us.) Serve immediately.

Adapted From

Mississippi Current Cookbook

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Serving: 1 drinkCalories: 240 kcalCarbohydrates: 9 gProtein: 1 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 41 mgSodium: 17 mgSugar: 8 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Regina Charboneau. Photo © 2014 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What a lovely after-dinner drink this Kentucky coffee is! Warm coffee lightly sweetened with sugar and whipped cream and flavored with the unique taste of bourbon. Similar to an Irish coffee but with bourbon instead of Irish whiskey. I liked the slightly sweet flavor of bourbon here.

I used Four Roses bourbon, but any of your favorites would work just fine. Yes, the slow pouring of lightly whipped cream down a spoon on top of each drink did work, but I think it would also work poured from a measuring cup with a pour spout as well. Overall, this is a perfect ending to any meal or a nice warm drink for the colder months of the year.

Assuming one loves coffee, fine Kentucky bourbon, and heavy cream, this is a fabulous and fail-safe, recipe. It takes no longer than the time to brew coffee and whisk a bit of cream. Make the coffee strong and use a good-quality bourbon. Use a spoon that you haven’t used to stir the coffee and place the back tip of the spoon on the opposite side of the cup, above the coffee, tip the handle toward you, and pour the cream down the dome of the spoon. This will allow the cream to float, creating a nice head, akin to a beer. Perfect for brunch or after dinner. Enjoy!

This Kentucky coffee recipe is definitely worth trying. It took me about 10 minutes to brew the coffee, get all the ingredients out, lightly whip the cream, etc. The trouble with this Kentucky coffee is that it’s tasty and you’ll be tempted to have another…okay, so maybe that’s no trouble at all really.

In order for the cream to “bubble” to the top to make the dramatic presentation, it needs to be smooth and not frothy at all, so be careful how much you whip it. If you get it right, the cream slowly bubbles up and creates little bursts of cream on the surface of the coffee. It looks pretty neat.

These are delicious, so try one before you head out to dinner—or after dinner if the coffee won’t bother you.

Quick and delicious! I didn’t have sugar cubes, so I used 2 teaspoons granulated sugar per cup. When I poured the cream down the back of the spoon, most of the cream floated to the top. This Kentucky coffee was not only delicious but beautiful. Definitely a keeper.

Smooth and lovely. It goes down way too easily. I thought as I was making it that it might be too sweet, but it was just right.

If you have a pot of coffee going, this Kentucky coffee can be made in a matter of just a few minutes. I thought that it would be good with Sunday brunch, but it made me a bit sleepy. I am thinking that this will end up being a very good dessert in a mug for dinner guests. Actually, there is no need to wait for guests to enjoy this.

By the way, the trick of pouring the thickened cream down the back of a spoon worked beautifully. This looked great in a clear glass mug with the fluffy cream in a thick layer on the top.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hi David! You’ve got a typo in Step 1 of the Instructions, the bane of all writers. It should read: (or 2 teaspoons…), not the 4 as listed. Oops!

    Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holidays!

  2. Just a word of caution, I seem to recall that sugar cubes are about 3/4 tsp, so the conversion listed might not be quite accurate. That being said, I’m about to try this.

    1. Tyler, a typical sugar cube equal 1 teaspoon. For example, 1 Domino sugar cube dots = 4 grams, according to their packaging. And 1 teaspoon = 4 grams.

  3. 5 stars
    It might be worth pointing out that if one wants to do this in clear glasses like in the photo—which makes a nice presentation—either preheat the glasses or (preferably) be sure they are made of tempered glass. Nothing can ruin a good dinner like glass shards from a too cool glass coming in contact with hot coffee. Below zero temps tonight and I happen to have just enough Woodford Reserve on hand to do this. Ah, serendipity!