BY LISA CURRAN MATTE @ tastingtable.com
A centuries-old boozy Spanish coffee drink experienced a renaissance of sorts in the early aughts when millennials in Mexico City embraced it as a preferred after-dinner cocktail. The carajillo, a blend of hot coffee and rum or other hard liquor, originated in Spain, but where and when is shrouded in mystery.
One theory suggests that 19th-century workers employed to haul goods from one city to another would take quick breaks at roadside bars for a shot of spiked coffee. It’s possible that Spanish owners of Cuban plantations used to serve indentured workers coffee mixed with rum to give them coraje (the Spanish word for courage) to get through their chores. And then, there’s a theory that points to the Andalusian region of Spain where legend has it — locals would begin their mornings with the drink and shout, “Caraj!” the equivalent of “F*** it!” in English.
Whatever its provenance, the carajillo eventually arrived in Mexico along with Spanish settlers, where it morphed from a working-class beverage to the prime choice among the monied elite. But it wasn’t until the introduction of a Spanish liqueur, Licor 43, in the mid-20th century that the carajillo became associated with a specific blend of coffee and liquor.