Café licor of Alcoy
Café Licor, which is also known as Café de Alcoy, is a coffee liqueur which is made in the region of Alcoy and Comtat, in the North of Alicante. Officially it is named as the 'Aperitivo Café de Alcoy'. This Spanish liqueur is a particularly popular drink in the northern parts of Alicante, as well as in the southern parts of Valencia, where it is closely linked with the Moors and Christian festivals.
This coffee liqueur should not be confused with the similar licor de café which is made in towns across the region of Murcia, as well as in the region of Galicia. The difference is that the liqueur from Alcoy is not as sweet as the other version from Murcia and Galicia, and nor is it drunk after a meal.
History of Café Licor
The city of Alcoy occupies a rather privileged spot in the valley of the Serpis River where it was first established. By the 13th century the city was already becoming very urbanised and overcrowded. It was here, on the banks of the Serpis River that the first traces of a weavers' union began to form - weaving being the main industry in the region - who declared that the agricultural industry could no longer support such a large population.
The textile industry has had a lot of influence over the centuries on the cultures and customs of the people from Alcoy. With regards to the invention of this Spanish coffee liqueur, the popular story goes that it was invented by weavers working in the city during the 19th century. These workers would often take a flask full of coffee with them to work for breakfast and lunch. However they also dropped a few drops of aguardiente, rum or brandy in the coffee which would help keep them warm too. However, as the day went on, the coffee and alcohol mixture would eventually go cold and would then take on a completely different taste. And this is how the café licor alcoyano was born.
From then on, the popularity of the liqueur grew and so some people decided to set up their own business, making the drink and bottling it to be sold.
Production of Café Licor
The coffee liqueur is made through the maceration of Arabica coffee which is roasted in an alcohol made from an agricultural product. The resulting beverage normally has an alcohol content of between 15 and 25% and is a dark-brown colour. The minimum amount of time that the coffee has to be macerated in the alcohol is 10 days.
The best selling brand of Café licor is Cerol, although there are many other brands, albeit with a much smaller consumption. Such is the case with the brand Sancho. This particular brand may have a smaller percentage of the market, but it has certainly made an impression on the language. Bottles of Sancho normally have an image of a little donkey on the label which is called a 'burrito' in Spanish. This word has then come to be used to refer to the drink as a whole and has come to be part of the names and jokes surrounding some of the cocktails which are made using the coffee liqueur.
Other smaller brands of the Spanish coffee liqueur include Truquet, Olcina and Vint-i-Set, although all of these brands have very small percentages of the café licor market. Café licor is also very commonly made at home, which is only considered to be illegal if it is then sold for profit.
The drink is regulated by the DO of Traditional Spirit Drink of the Province of Alicante to ensure that no illegal versions of the liqueur are sold, as well as ensuring the quality of the brands sold. This particular body also looks after the anís paloma of Monforte del Cid, el Herbero from the Sierra de Mariola, and the Cantueso Alicantino.
There are a number of different cocktails that are made using café licor, one of which is called la Mentira - made from a black lemon ice drink and café licor. The invention of this particular mixture has an interesting story too.
In the first half of the 20th century, drinking in public was frowned upon so one bar in Cocentaina decided to mix the brown liqueur with the dark lemon soft drink, hence hiding the alcohol from sight. This is where the name derived from: if you study Spanish you will know that 'mentira' means lie - a fitting name for the beverage!