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Cuckoo for Kahlúa®

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The holidays are sneaking up on us; like most of you, we have started the list-making process at our house. The grocery lists, the guest lists, the Christmas card list, the Christmas gift lists and my own DIY-something-homemade list. Many times, my homemade extra gifts for Christmas or even the before-Christmas-party hostess gifts have come in so handy. Just having that little extra on hand has saved me time, money and even embarrassment. This was something I started when my girls were little. They, too, had to make their Grandmas something homemade for Christmas. From aprons to candlesticks, there were always projects to be done at our home at Christmas. I tried to instill the beauty of giving homemade gifts from the heart into my girls at a young age. We always made cookies and candies for the neighbors, homemade ornaments for the tree and one of my favorite gifts, homemade Kahlúa®-style liqueur for friends.

Those who really know me know that I’m not someone who indulges in adult beverages often. But once in a while I will act grown up and have some type of alcoholic beverage. My go-to adult drink in the winter is what I call a Girl Scout Cookie; it’s like a good old Kahlúa and cream, better known as a White Russian. My Girl Scout Cookie is hot cocoa with 1.5 ounces peppermint schnapps, 1.5 ounces Kahlúa and a splash of cream for richness. I love it on a cold night, and it makes me sleep like a baby. I also like a classic White Russian on ice using 3 ounces heavy whipping cream or milk, 1.5 ounces Kahlúa and 1.5 ounces vodka, which is totally crazy because I don’t drink coffee either. It’s no surprise my homemade liqueur also makes a great gift for the holidays and it stores well, even the bottles you keep and store in your own cupboard. It’s just right for when you need a little something to warm up for that long winter’s nap.  

From my experience, a dark brown bottle is best for storing the liqueur. Now that we have the internet, it’s easy to shop for them. When I first started making this, I would send my husband to the store to buy the specialty bottles of beer in dark glass with ceramic tops. He would enjoy the beer and I would recycle the bottles. You need to start early to make this for gifts. It takes about 30 days for this wonderful little mixture to cure, so make it now and before Christmas you will be proud to hand out this warm, special gift to friends and family. It’s repeatedly been one of the most-requested gifts I have ever made.

There are only five ingredients needed to make this recipe. Here’s my secret about these ingredients that may help you select the ones just right for you. The rule of thumb when purchasing your ingredients: use good coffee, decent vodka, excellent vanilla and cute gift bottles.

I have found that the most expensive instant coffee is not necessarily the best. Not being a coffee drinker myself, I turned to the one guy I know who actually has used instant coffee, my dad. Growing up, he always had instant coffee and he loved Taster’s Choice® by Nestle. For the vodka, don’t buy expensive; a middle-of-the-road-priced bottle will be just fine. Then a nice vanilla bean. Finally, shop for cute little bottles; I prefer an amber-colored glass bottle with the ceramic stopper that holds between 11 and 16 ounces. These bottles should be easy to find; they are used for homemade kombucha, kefir and beer. I make a recipe card with different drink recipes and tie it to the neck of the bottle with a Christmas ribbon and maybe a jingle bell or two. What a cute gift! You can also place it in a small basket with highball glasses, stir sticks and some Christmas chocolate; now you have a super hostess gift.

Let’s make our Kahlúa!

Ingredients
1½ cups instant coffee granules
3 cups boiling water
6 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 fifth vodka

Using a large stock pot, boil water and add the instant coffee. If you use a smaller pot, be careful when you add the coffee to the boiling water as it may boil up over the sides and onto the stove. Stir until the instant coffee has dissolved. Add the sugar, then slice the vanilla bean open and place into the stock pot. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Let cool completely. Once cooled, stir in the vodka. Pour into a gallon jug or two 2-quart Mason jars and seal. Let sit for 30 days to mature; I always mark my calendar so I don’t forget. Once it is cured, it’s ready to bottle. Using a funnel and cheesecloth, filter and fill your jars. Place the funnel in the top of your jar, line it with the cheese cloth and fill. I have 12-ounce bottles this year and it will fill 8 to 10 bottles.

Drinks made with Kahlúa include B-52, Baby Guinness, Black Russian, Mudslide, White Russian and Spanish Coffee.

Now you’re ready for the holidays with a stockpile of little extra gifts that will make you feel good and less stressed. From my recipe box to yours, I hope this becomes one of your favorite go-to Christmas gifts.