Top 5 Tia Maria Substitutes (#2 You Might HAVE NOW)


Do you love coffee and alcohol? Why not get a combination of your two favorite drinks?

Today, one of the most popular coffee liqueurs is the Tia Maria, which some people claim tastes smoother and more refined than Kahlua.

This coffee liqueur originates from Jamaica with a sophisticated nuance in flavor, including caramel, citrus, and vanilla notes.

You can find it in popular cocktails like the Mudslide and White Russian. You can even enjoy it neat or on the rocks.

But what happens if you can’t find any of this coffee liqueur? Not to worry.

You can always use a Tia Maria substitute!

Check out our list of alternatives so you can still get that coffee flavor with a boozy kick to your recipes.

The 5 Best Substitutes For Tia Maria

Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur created in Jamaica in the 1940s using coffee, Jamaican rum, sugar, and bourbon vanilla. Sounds fancy, huh? It tastes as impressive as we describe it!

Fun fact: There is a difference between coffee liqueur and liqueur coffee. Drinks like Irish coffee are coffees mixed with spirits like cognac, whiskey, and the like. Coffee liqueurs are alcoholic beverages made with coffee and alcohol. Basically, the first is a cocktail while the other is a spirit.

Tia Maria’s history began in the 18th century when a Spanish aristocrat fled a colonial war to Jamaica. Her maid saves a secret liqueur recipe in a jewelry box, and that maid’s name is Maria, while Tia is Spanish for “aunt.”

However, there’s another origin story of this coffee liqueur, which is a bit more likely. The story links Morris Cargill, a Jamaican lawyer, and Dr. Ken Evans in the 1940s. Cargill claimed to be influenced by his aunt’s liqueur recipe.

You can easily find Tia Maria for sale in liqueur stores, major supermarkets, or online stores. But if you can’t find it or are already in the middle of making a recipe, not to worry. Check out these other options:

1. Kahlua

Being a coffee liqueur as well, Kahlua is probably the best Tia Maria substitute, matching the flavor, alcoholic content, and consistency you want.

This famous coffee liqueur is also made of Arabica coffee, rum, and sugar, with the addition of caramel and water. Kahlua differs from Tia Maria in terms of where they source their ingredients, as Tia Maria is made of Jamaica rum sugar, vanilla, caramel, citric acid, water, and Jamaican coffee beans.

Since these two share similar flavor profiles (though not exact) and alcoholic content, you can use equal amounts of it.

Pro-tip: You aren’t only limited to Kahlua. There are other coffee liqueur brands you can use as well, which you can find in your local liqueur store. Remember that the flavors and alcoholic content may vary, some more noticeable in recipes than others.

2. Instant Coffee

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic substitute for Tia Maria, you can’t go wrong with coffee! You can choose any type of instant coffee here or create your own if you want something fancier.

Besides being a non-alcoholic Tia Maria substitute, instant coffee is one of the most readily available no matter where you are in the world. To replace a tablespoon of Tia Maria, mix half a tablespoon of instant coffee with one teaspoon of chocolate extract, one teaspoon of sugar, and one teaspoon of hot water.

While this combination won’t completely replace Tia Maria, it’s an excellent option to flavor desserts like coffee cake without the liquor. You can also use it for coffee-based mocktails.

Pro-tip: If you don’t have any chocolate extract, the same amount of unsweetened cocoa powder should do the trick. Those who want something stronger without alcohol get that extra kick of caffeine with espresso.

3. Coffee Liqueur Syrup

Coffee liqueur syrup is another excellent Tia Maria substitute as it gives you the taste of coffee liqueur without alcohol. This alcohol-free syrup replicates the flavor you want, though it might be a bit sweeter than your regular coffee liqueur.

The only problem is that coffee liqueur syrup isn’t the most accessible product to find. But if you do have it on hand, then a little will go a long way. Use one tablespoon of syrup for your recipes to get that strong, aromatic coffee flavor with notes of rum and vanilla.

4. Coffee Extract

Coffee extract takes that intense and concentrated flavor from coffee beans, infusing this into an alcohol base. It’s not precisely non-alcoholic, but since you’ll only need small amounts of it, the alcohol is barely there.

This is a powerful ingredient that only requires a few drops than teaspoons. We recommend using coffee extract to add a full-bodied aroma and flavor to your desserts, baked goods, ice cream, and cocktails. You can even use it for savory applications to add flavor to marinades and gravy.

Pro-tip: Get a more authentic coffee liqueur flavor from this Tia Maria substitute by mixing in a teaspoon of sugar and cocoa powder. Add more if needed, taste testing along the way.

5. Make Coffee Liqueur

If you have time and want to experiment with making your own Tia Maria substitute, then you can create your own coffee liqueur! It’s actually relatively easy, but it will take time until you get to use it.

Follow this recipe:


  • One 3-inch vanilla bean
  • Two cups of water
  • Three cups of sugar
  • ½ cup of instant coffee
  • 150 milliliters of rum


  1. Add your water, sugar, and vanilla bean to your small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the liquid begins boiling, continue stirring until the sugar dissolves, leaving you with simple syrup.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking the mixture until the liquid reduces by half. This will take half an hour or so. When the solution dissolves, remove the mixture from the heat, stirring in the instant coffee. Let the mixture cool.
  3. Once the mixture cools, pour the rum and syrup into an airtight jar or glass bottle, shaking well. Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark area for ten days, shaking it every day to help it infuse better. Some people may opt to wait for a shorter or longer; there’s no exact rule.
  4. After ten days, strain the liqueur through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, separating the coffee granules and vanilla bean. Use a funnel to pour the liquid into a sealed bottle, consume or storing in the liqueur cabinet. And you’re done! This liqueur can last you three months.

Pro-tip: For a less sweet drink, you can use vodka instead of rum. Don’t go for cheap alcohol or instant coffee because this will reduce the quality of your end product.

Frequently Asked Questions

For those who are left with more questions about Tia Maria, we answer them below!

1. What does Tia Maria taste like?

Tia Maria tastes sweet with strong vanilla and butter coffee notes. It would also have hints of citrus and caramel, with more depth and tasting smoother than Kahlua, another famous coffee liqueur brand.

That’s why many people choose Tia Maria because some people claim that it’s a better version of Kahlua. That way, you can enjoy it on its own or in other recipes.

Fun fact: Tia Maria contains 20% ABV, similar to other coffee liqueurs.

2. What can you do with coffee liqueur?

Coffee liqueur is fantastic on its own, but you can also find it in numerous baked goods, desserts, and a few savory recipes. We like using it as a topping on cakes, particularly cheesecakes.

Moreover, you can use it in desserts like brownies, tiramisu, boozy drinks, pannacotta, affogato, and more. We don’t usually see coffee liqueur in savory recipes, but they work in chili, sBBQ spareribs, and chicken mole! 

You can also include Tia Maria in cocktails like:

  • Revolver
  • Espresso Martini
  • White Russian
  • Mudslide
  • Black Russian

3. What are the best coffee liqueur brands?

Besides Tia Maria, here are the other best coffee liqueur brands, which you can use as a Tia Maria substitute!

  • Mr. Black Cold Bew Coffee Liqueur
  • Kahlua
  • Leopold Bros.
  • St. George NOLA
  • Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee
  • Patron XO Café
  • Kapali Coffee Liqueur

4. Should you refrigerate Tia Maria?

You don’t need to refrigerate Tia Maria, and you can enjoy it chilled or at room temperature. Moreover, coffee liqueurs like Tia Maria won’t last as long as other spirits like vodka; they can last for a long time, especially when unopened.

Pro-tip: Once opened, a bottle of Tia Maria can last for 6-8 months. Make sure to drink it within the timeframe, or it will lose its flavor and quality!

Wrapping It Up

When you’re looking for a coffee liqueur, you can’t go wrong with Tia Maria! However, we understand that this isn’t always easy to find. With the Tia Maria substitute list above, you won’t have trouble with your cocktails, recipes, or parties.

Hopefully, you found the best Tia Maria substitute here at Nomspedia. If you did, let us know your thoughts and other recommendations below!

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