Bottle #66: Coloma

Jun 4, 2024

Bottle #66 is Coloma Coffee Liqueur from Colombia. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because I talked about it way back in Bottle #27: Convier Menta. Convier and Coloma are part of the same company, and that episode was a rollicking good time, with paternity suits, death bed DNA tests, and international diplomatic scandals. Go read/watch/listen if you haven’t already.

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But it does mean I really don’t have anything new left to say about Coloma coffee liqueur. As I talked about in the previous episode, Coloma began making liqueur at their coffee hacienda outside Bogota in the 1960s. I’d dated my bottle of Convier Menta from the 1970s to the 1990s, since that’s when they were making minis. This tiny bottle has a US government warning label on the back, meaning it’s likely 1989 or later. I’m going to guess 1990s for both this bottle and the mint one.

But that would make for a really short episode, so I thought I’d see what I could find out about the history of coffee liqueur. I talked about the timeline of the two best known brands in Bottle #40: Tia Maria. Kahlua was invented in 1936, and then Tia Maria ten years later, in 1946. But humans started consuming coffee in the 1500s, and alcohol production goes back thousands of years. So there were a lot of years before Kahlua came around when surely other people would have been combining coffee and alcohol.

It was really hard to find out anything about its earliest days. A couple webpages credit Frere David, a French monk from an unnamed order, with creating the first coffee liqueur in the 1600s — but I couldn’t find any details or evidence to back that up. Bottle #42 is about Dubbonet, the French aperitif wine, and it has green coffee listed as one of its botanicals, but I don’t know if that was true in 1846 when it was created.

Spain also gets in on the early action. “Aperitivo de café de Alcoy,” a.k.a. Café Licor, has protected geographical indication status. This is a 15-25% ABV coffee liqueur with roots going back to 1844 when street coffee vendors began adding some brandy to their wares in the wintertime. Commercial production of the combination followed, although sources vary on how quickly that happened. The drink is associated with the region’s famous Moors and Christians festivals, which makes sense given that the Moors first introduced coffee to the Iberian Peninsula during their period of rule there. Famous brands include Cerol and Sancho.

On the other side of the Spain, Galicia also claims to have a historic coffee liqueur. This one is made from grappa, reported to be higher proof and sweeter than Café Licor, and is consumed as an after-dinner drink, not an aperitif. The article claimed that the first published recipe for what they call Licora was in 1850.

Italy also has an origin story. The earliest currently-existing brand of coffee liqueur claiming roots in the 1800s I could find is Caffè Borghetti, previously marketed as Caffè Sport. This was invented in 1860 by Ugo Borghetti, owner of the Caffè Sport, located in Ancona, Italy near the railway. 1860 marked the completion of the Pescara-Ancona railway line and Borghetti’s combination of alcohol and coffee was so popular with travelers on the route that he commercialized it. (And had some amazing ads through the years.)

 

Perhaps Caffè Sport is the coffee liqueur that The Drunken Botanist author Amy Stewart is referring to in her article on caffeine. She says that coffee was being turned into liqueur beginning in the early 1800s, and that in 1862 an example of it was shown at the International Exhibition in London.

I found evidence of Caffè Sport in the US from as early as 1912, although the ad declares their own “special bottling” to be “as good as the imported kinds,” so it might have been a knock-off. But a 1917 ad seems more likely to have been the legit imported stuff. After some troubles in the 1970s the brand was purchased by the Branca company (of Fernet-Branca fame) and is still around today as Caffè Borghetti.

 

Other sources point back to France. I didn’t manage to dig up any early direct references, but I found a newspaper advertisement from 1861 for a new book about brewing which also contained “the proper formulas for compounding English cordials and foreign liqueurs.” “Crème du Café” appears on that list, which implies that it was already a known thing by then.

I’m sure I missed tons of things like Caffè Sport which don’t turn up from searching “coffee liqueur.” But that term starts to show up in newspaper ads in 1935 with the release of Kahveh coffee liqueur. The brand acknowledges that others had tried to blend coffee and alcohol in the past, but claimed that the “scientific mind of today had succeeded where old world experimenters had failed.”

 

I also found ads that year for Kay Magui Mexican coffee liqueur, and one from New Jersey distillery Black Prince. Coffee liqueur clearly was having a moment in the 1930s, which Kahlua would be part of when it was invented in 1936. And I strongly suspect there will be a bottle of it in Grandma’s collection, so I’m going to wait to say anything more about it until then.

In the meantime, I’ve now compiled what I think is the most comprehensive (but certainly not complete) history of coffee liqueur on the internet. I knew this project would lead me to great things! If you have a suggestion for something add, leave a comment!

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Bottle #66: Coloma

Jun 4, 2024 |

Bottle #66 is Coloma Coffee Liqueur from Colombia. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because I talked about it way back in Bottle #27: Convier Menta. Convier and Coloma are part of the same company, and that episode was a rollicking good time, with paternity suits, death bed DNA tests, and international diplomatic scandals. Go read/watch/listen if you haven’t already.

But it does mean I really don’t have anything new left to say about Coloma coffee liqueur. As I talked about in the previous episode, Coloma began making liqueur at their coffee hacienda outside Bogota in the 1960s. I’d dated my bottle of Convier Menta from the 1970s to the 1990s, since that’s when they were making minis. This tiny bottle has a US government warning label on the back, meaning it’s likely 1989 or later. I’m going to guess 1990s for both this bottle and the mint one.

But that would make for a really short episode, so I thought I’d see what I could find out about the history of coffee liqueur. I talked about the timeline of the two best known brands in Bottle #40: Tia Maria. Kahlua was invented in 1936, and then Tia Maria ten years later, in 1946. But humans started consuming coffee in the 1500s, and alcohol production goes back thousands of years. So there were a lot of years before Kahlua came around when surely other people would have been combining coffee and alcohol.

It was really hard to find out anything about its earliest days. A couple webpages credit Frere David, a French monk from an unnamed order, with creating the first coffee liqueur in the 1600s — but I couldn’t find any details or evidence to back that up. Bottle #42 is about Dubbonet, the French aperitif wine, and it has green coffee listed as one of its botanicals, but I don’t know if that was true in 1846 when it was created.

Spain also gets in on the early action. “Aperitivo de café de Alcoy,” a.k.a. Café Licor, has protected geographical indication status. This is a 15-25% ABV coffee liqueur with roots going back to 1844 when street coffee vendors began adding some brandy to their wares in the wintertime. Commercial production of the combination followed, although sources vary on how quickly that happened. The drink is associated with the region’s famous Moors and Christians festivals, which makes sense given that the Moors first introduced coffee to the Iberian Peninsula during their period of rule there. Famous brands include Cerol and Sancho.

On the other side of the Spain, Galicia also claims to have a historic coffee liqueur. This one is made from grappa, reported to be higher proof and sweeter than Café Licor, and is consumed as an after-dinner drink, not an aperitif. The article claimed that the first published recipe for what they call Licora was in 1850.

Italy also has an origin story. The earliest currently-existing brand of coffee liqueur claiming roots in the 1800s I could find is Caffè Borghetti, previously marketed as Caffè Sport. This was invented in 1860 by Ugo Borghetti, owner of the Caffè Sport, located in Ancona, Italy near the railway. 1860 marked the completion of the Pescara-Ancona railway line and Borghetti’s combination of alcohol and coffee was so popular with travelers on the route that he commercialized it. (And had some amazing ads through the years.)

 

Perhaps Caffè Sport is the coffee liqueur that The Drunken Botanist author Amy Stewart is referring to in her article on caffeine. She says that coffee was being turned into liqueur beginning in the early 1800s, and that in 1862 an example of it was shown at the International Exhibition in London.

I found evidence of Caffè Sport in the US from as early as 1912, although the ad declares their own “special bottling” to be “as good as the imported kinds,” so it might have been a knock-off. But a 1917 ad seems more likely to have been the legit imported stuff. After some troubles in the 1970s the brand was purchased by the Branca company (of Fernet-Branca fame) and is still around today as Caffè Borghetti.

 

Other sources point back to France. I didn’t manage to dig up any early direct references, but I found a newspaper advertisement from 1861 for a new book about brewing which also contained “the proper formulas for compounding English cordials and foreign liqueurs.” “Crème du Café” appears on that list, which implies that it was already a known thing by then.

I’m sure I missed tons of things like Caffè Sport which don’t turn up from searching “coffee liqueur.” But that term starts to show up in newspaper ads in 1935 with the release of Kahveh coffee liqueur. The brand acknowledges that others had tried to blend coffee and alcohol in the past, but claimed that the “scientific mind of today had succeeded where old world experimenters had failed.”

 

I also found ads that year for Kay Magui Mexican coffee liqueur, and one from New Jersey distillery Black Prince. Coffee liqueur clearly was having a moment in the 1930s, which Kahlua would be part of when it was invented in 1936. And I strongly suspect there will be a bottle of it in Grandma’s collection, so I’m going to wait to say anything more about it until then.

In the meantime, I’ve now compiled what I think is the most comprehensive (but certainly not complete) history of coffee liqueur on the internet. I knew this project would lead me to great things! If you have a suggestion for something add, leave a comment!

 

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