One of my favorite things about the days before Thanksgiving is traditionally I make a few batches of my own version of Kahlua – a yummy treat for me and gift that has become beloved by some friends…so much so, I get reminders about when they should be planning to start their holiday imbibing…

This year I messed around a bit trying to be a teensy bit fancier by making a coffee reduction.  Each year, I would put on sunglasses and a large brimmed hat and slide into the local market late at night to buy (gasp) instant coffee for this recipe.  I just haven’t exactly figured out the best way to do this – so this year, it’s back to the old reliable…

So this year, I’m letting the cat out of the bag.  Here’s the recipe.  For years I’ve said it was a family secret and I couldn’t share the precise measurements…but this year, I’m deciding share.  With you.  The loyal My Nothings readers.


It’s honestly so simple it’s a little embarrassing.

4 cups of water
3 cups of sugar
4 TBSP instant coffee
A Fifth of Vodka (either plain or vanilla)
1 TBSP good vanilla.

Bring the water, sugar and coffee to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 90 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Add in the vodka and vanilla and voila!  Kahlua.  White Russians.  Kahlua and coffee.  Kicked up hot chocolate.  Mudslides.  Whatever you like.  Find a cool bottle (best bets? TJ Maxx, Ross, World Market), put a ribbon around it and you have a very cool gift that I guarantee will be appreciated.

Oops!  Started making White Russians before I took the picture!
Oops! Started making White Russians before I took the picture!

But please, let me stress this – don’t go cheap on the vodka or the vanilla.  From what I can tell, instant coffee is instant coffee and so brands aren’t really important.  Plus, your cooking the crap out of it and adding a bunch of sugar, so the coffee brand becomes a non-issue.

But the vodka and the vanilla are a different story.  Just like you use wine you want to drink in cooking, you want to use vodka that you’d actually want to drink straight in this.  Vanilla vodkas add a little more sweetness – you can cut down on the actual vanilla a bit if you use that.

And all vanillas are not created equal!  There is no declaration of independence in the land of spices.  Cheap vanilla is just that.  Cough up the extra cash – go to a decent grocery or spice shop and get some quality vanilla.  It will be worth it.  Trust me.