What is a Café Brulot?

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A unique New Orleans tradition, Café Brulot stands out in a city known for its dynamic culinary scene. This drink, which blends coffee and brandy to create a dramatic, blazing display, has a intricate preparation and a rich history rooted in local tradition.

Discover its history, how to make it, and the special cultural significance it has right in the middle of the Big Easy.

Key Takeaways

  • A Café Brulot is a brandy-based coffee from New Orleans.
  • It blends theater, aroma, and flavor for a unique experience.
  • Deeply rooted in New Orleans’ culture, it’s a regional favorite.
  • You can make Café Brulot at home with the right ingredients.
  • Its tableside preparation adds to its cultural value.

Definition of Café Brulot

A classic coffee beverage from New Orleans, a café brulot is created with black coffee, citrus peels, spices, and brandy or cognac. It is well-known for its unusual tableside preparation, which involves lighting the brandy or cognac to intensify the tastes of the cocktail with a theatrical flame. The French word “brulot” means “burned,” referring to the distinctive flamed brandy or cognac that is essential to making this lively coffee beverage.

This blog post by TalesOfTheCocktail does a great job of showing how a cafe brulot is made table-side.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Café Brulot

To make Café Brulot at home, gather cinnamon, cloves, orange and lemon peels, sugar, brandy, an orange liqueur, and strong black coffee.


  • 1 two-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of slivered or grated orange peel
  • ¼ cup of slivered or grated lemon peel
  • 3 sugar cubes (or 1 tablespoon)
  • ½ cup of brandy
  • 2 tablespoons of Curaçao, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau
  • 3 cups of hot, strong black coffee

How to Make at Home:

  1. Preparation of Citrus Peels: Cut an orange peel into a spiral shape and decorate it with cloves. Cut a lemon peel into thin strips.
  2. Warming and Ignition: Gently preheat the brandy, liqueur, spices, and citrus peels in a heat-resistant bowl. Using a lengthy fireplace match, light the mixture.
  3. Flaming and Extinguishing: Pour the lighted brandy mixture over the spiral of orange peel to ignite and extinguish it. Put out the flames right away by adding the hot coffee.
  4. Sweetening the Drink: Add sugar and stir until the desired sweetness is reached.
  5. Serving: Serve the Café Brulot in small cups, ensuring it is enjoyed hot.

Café Brulot’s Role in New Orleans’ Culture

Café Brulot is more than just a beverage; it is an integral part of New Orleans’ rich history. Mostly served as an after-dinner dessert, it is especially delicious on holidays and at feasts. Its tableside presentation is an immersive experience that combines visual drama and aromatic allure, rather than just being about preparation.

A Waiter Preparing A Cafe Brulot
Image source TalesoftheCocktail.org

Owing to the drink’s extraordinary appeal, it comes as no surprise that diners are frequently captivated enough to place an order for one after seeing it prepared. Even though its legacy continues to flourish in classic Creole restaurants like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, the Café Brulot is still hard to find outside of New Orleans, which is a testament to its distinct regional charm.

Café Brulot vs. Other Alcoholic Coffee Drinks

What’s the difference between Irish Coffee and Café Brulot?

The brandy, spices, and citrus in Café Brulot make it stand out, and it is traditionally flambeed. Irish Coffee, on the other hand, has a smooth, creamy texture and is made with whiskey mixed with coffee.

What Is the Difference Between a Espresso Martini and a Café Brulot?

An Espresso Martini is a cold drink made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso. A Café Brulot is a warm drink with spices that is served with a flambé.

Café Brulot vs. Mexican Coffee: What’s the Difference?

Mexican Coffee is a mix of tequila, Kahlua, and hot coffee that is usually served with whipped cream on top. Café Brulot stands out because it has a brandy base that is strong on citrus and spice, which is different from Mexican Coffee, which is sweet and creamy.

Comparing Café Brulot with Italian Caffè Corretto

Compared to Caffè Corretto, which is just espresso and alcohol mixed together, Café Brulot’s recipe is more complicated and uses citrus peels and spices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Café Brulot alcoholic?

Yes, Café Brulot does have alcohol in it. It’s made by mixing brandy or cognac with orange liqueur, which gives it its unique flavor. These spirits are an important part of the traditional Café Brulot recipe, which comes from the French Quarter in New Orleans and has a long history.

Can I use any other fruit peels instead of orange and lemon?

Café Brulot’s iconic orange and lemon peels add zest and fragrance, but adventurous eaters can try other citrus peels. Tasteful variations include grapefruit, lime, and tangerine. Note that different fruits subtly alter the drink’s flavor.

How important is it to flame the brandy mixture?

Flame the brandy mixture to make a true Café Brulot. Warming the spirits and releasing the oils from the citrus peels and spices intensifies the drink’s flavors. Café Brulot’s aroma and flavor come from this theatrical technique.

Can I substitute brandy with another liquor?

You can substitute brandy or cognac with another liquor, but it will change Café Brulot’s flavor. If you’re adventurous, whiskey or rum can add a unique twist, but brandy or cognac is best for an authentic Café Brulot due to its smooth, refined taste and citrus and spice notes.

How can I ensure safety while igniting the brandy mixture?

When lighting Café Brulot brandy, safety is paramount. Use a heatproof bowl and avoid flammable materials. Keep a lid or fire extinguisher handy to quickly extinguish the flame. Avoid fires by never leaving brandy burning or pouring alcohol on it.

Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.