The saying goes that if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.
But let’s say that when you play with fire – carefully – you’ll get a delicious coffee drink instead?
And so it will go with Rüdesheimer Coffee, a fiery drink that will change the unfortunate outcome of this original warning.
Bring out the matches and booze, and let’s play!
Rüdesheimer Coffee, or Rüdesheimer Kaffee, is an ostentatious beverage that puts on a spectacular show as you are assembling it by lighting brandy on fire in the coffee mug with white sugar cubes.
After the flames die out, you then pour hot coffee over the elixir in the mug, and top it with freshly whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
The drink is named after Rüdesheim am Rhein, a famous winemaking town in Germany that is situated in the Rheingau wine region of the state of Hesse.
The most documented account of the drink’s origin story says a German television chef named Hans Karl Adam invented it in the late 1950s, as part of a local marketing campaign to promote Asbach Uralt, a brandy produced by the company Asbach GmbH based in Rüdesheim am Rhein.
As a tasty homage to the town and surrounding wine-producing region which it is named after, Rüdesheimer Coffee should ideally be made with Asbach Uralt. If it is not available to purchase where you buy liquor, you can substitute your favorite brandy.
There is also a beautiful mug and saucer specifically designed for Rüdesheimer Coffee, featuring red text and a German landscape image, but any coffee mug that is resistant to fire and heat will do.
Stay safe in the kitchen, and don’t skip our assembly advice in the recipe and Cooking by the Numbers sections below.
Playing with fire can be fun without the burns, but only if you know how to be smart and safe!Print
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 drinks 1x
Rüdesheimer Coffee has everything you want in a fun, boozy drink: brandy, coffee, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and a fiery presentation.
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 sugar cubes
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee
- Dark chocolate shavings, for garnish
- Whip the cream by hand with a whisk in a large mixing bowl or with the whisk attachment on your stand mixer until soft, fluffy peaks form, about 2 minutes. Cover and place in the refrigerator to keep cool.
- Clean and completely dry two heatproof mugs and place them on a heatproof surface away from any flammable objects. Place two sugar cubes in each mug.
- Gently heat the brandy in a small saucepan over low heat just until it starts simmering, but not boiling, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour an equal amount over the sugar cubes in each mug.
- Working quickly, light a long matchstick and carefully flambe the brandy in one mug. Allow the flames to completely die out, about one minute.* Using a long heat-resistant spoon, carefully stir the brandy to evenly distribute and dissolve the remaining sugar. Repeat with the other mug.
- Pour an equal amount of the hot coffee into each mug.
- Top each drink with whipped cream, lightly sprinkle with chocolate shavings, and serve
If the flame is still burning after 1 minute, smother the fire by inverting a large, long-handled pot over the mug. Leave the pot on the mug for 10 seconds, and remove the pot with metal tongs or pot holders, lifting by the handle.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Coffee
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Cocktail
Keywords: coffee, brandy, whipped cream, chocolate, rudesheimer, kaffee
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure and Prep
Decide how you want to make the whipped cream: either by hand with a whisk in a bowl, or using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. You can also use an immersion blender with a whisk attachment.
Prepare the appliance you typically use for making coffee, using the appropriate amount of water to brew about 1 1/2 cups.
Measure and grind the quantity of whole beans recommended for your appliance to create a strong brew.
Make sure the mugs you are using are heatproof, then make sure they are clean and dry. Trace amounts of water might prevent the brandy from igniting.
For your other utensils and equipment, set out a long-handled spoon for stirring at a safe distance, a small pot for heating the liquor, a long-handled pot that is large enough to fit over one mug, potholders to protect your hands, tongs, a vegetable peeler, and long matchsticks.
Set out more matchsticks than you think you need – at least four – in case you don’t light them successfully on the first attempt. Don’t try to use regular short matchsticks. You want there to be enough distance between your hand and the flame to do this safely.
And, most importantly, keep your fire extinguisher nearby!
Measure out the heavy whipping cream and brandy. Set out the sugar cubes and bar of dark chocolate.
Step 2 – Make the Whipped Cream and Shave the Chocolate
Whip the cream until soft and fluffy peaks form. This will take about 2 minutes.
To create a simple dollop of cream on top of each mug, it should still be very soft and luscious after whipping, and the peaks should just barely hold their shape.
For a pretty presentation, you could also whip the cream for another 30 seconds to 1 minute to create stiffer peaks. Transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a large star attachment to pipe swirls on top of the liquid base.
Store the whipped cream in the refrigerator to keep it cold while you complete the remaining steps. You can store it covered in plastic wrap in the bowl that you whipped it in, or in a piping bag.
To make the chocolate shavings, repeatedly and gently scrape your vegetable peeler over one side of the chocolate bar, holding it over a plate. You won’t need much for this delicate garnish, about two teaspoons or so.
But you can obviously shave more if you’re a chocoholic…
Set this aside for now – you can also place it in the refrigerator along with the whipped cream if you are wary of the heat in your kitchen.
Step 3 – Make the Coffee
Make the coffee in your appliance.
Keep it warm until you need it in Step 6.
Step 4 – Place Sugar in the Mugs and Heat the Brandy
Place two sugar cubes in each mug. Place the mugs on a heatproof surface away from any flammable objects. And double check that there are absolutely no flammable objects nearby.
This means putting the liquor bottle back on your shelf after measuring! Don’t leave it out!
Pour the brandy in the small pot and heat it up on the stovetop over low heat. Gently heat it until it just begins to simmer, but does not boil.
Hot brandy will be light more quickly and easily than if you used it at room temperature. If you find that the flame will not catch in the mug, it may be because the brandy isn’t warm enough.
Step 5 – Pour the Hot Brandy in the Mugs and Light on Fire
Immediately remove the pot from the stovetop and pour an equal amount in both mugs.
Working quickly while the liquor is still hot, light one matchstick and carefully bring the flame to the surface of the brandy in one mug.
The flame should catch immediately – quickly remove the matchstick from the mug and smother the flame on the matchstick.
Without touching the mug, allow the flame to completely die out. This will take about one minute.
If the flame has been burning for longer than one minute, this is where the larger pot will save the day. Carefully place the pot upside-down over the mug, and leave it there for about 10 seconds. This will cut off any air supply, smothering the flame.
Using your heatproof tongs or potholders, lift the pot away from the mug by its handle.
Using the long-handled spoon, stir the brandy to dissolve the sugar. Be careful – the mug will be hot on the outside!
Immediately repeat this process with a new matchstick in the other mug, working quickly while the spirit is still hot.
Step 6 – Pour in the Coffee
When all the fiery fun is over, and the applause from your guests has settled, pour an equal amount of the hot coffee into each mug.
Briefly stir the coffee with the long-handled spoon.
Step 7 – Garnish and Serve
Take out the whipped cream and shaved chocolate from the refrigerator. Dollop the whipped cream on top, or pipe on top in large swirls. Sprinkle the chocolate on top of the whipped cream.
Serve and enjoy immediately while the drink is hot, and the whipped cream is still fluffy and cold.
Don’t Let Us Pressure You
Breathe a BIG sigh of relief – the success of preparing this beverage is not dependent on flambeeing the brandy!
Just skip that step if you’re too nervous and don’t want to risk setting the brandy on fire in your home.
Once you pour the heated brandy into the mug, stir to dissolve the sugar, add the hot coffee, garnish, and serve.
No crazy flames required!
But if you decide you are ready to play with fire, let me know how it went! Were you able to flame the brandy easily? Leave a comment below.
Looking for more ways to combine coffee and alcohol? We have quite the long list of cocktail options here at Foodal. Try these when you’re ready to get a double-shot buzz with java and booze:
Photos by Nikki Cervone and Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Nina-Kristin Isensee on June 7, 2015. Last updated on March 14, 2023.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.