Perhaps you’re not too familiar with the term liqueur or feeling a bit overwhelmed at the liquor store. Well, fret not. We’ve got you covered! In this guide we’ll answer some common questions like: What exactly is a liqueur, how do I drink liqueur, what liqueurs are the most popular and how much do they cost? By the end, you’ll have everything you need to get the most out of your drinking experience! Let’s get to it!
What is Liqueur?
Liqueur, also called cordial, is a spirit that has been flavored with ingredients like sugar, herbs, spices or fruits. They are usually very sweet and frequently served as a digestif, with or as dessert. These lovely libations are descendants of herbal medicine dating all the way back to 13th century Italy.
All liqueur is liquor but not all liquor is liqueur.
It is important to note that liquor and liqueur are not the same thing although the terms are often used interchangeably. Besides the slight difference in spelling and pronunciation, there are larger differentiating factors.
According to the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a liqueur is “a distilled spirit that has been diluted at least 2.5% with sugar, fruit, plant products, natural flavors, extracts or other sweeteners.”
The biggest difference is liquor or “spirit” is and alcoholic beverage distilled from grain, molasses or plants and must have an ABV of 20% or higher. Liquor is quite a potent drink and has no sugar added. The range for liquor is 20% to 75.5% or 40 to 151 proof.
Generally liquor is divided into 6 main categories: vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey and brandy.
Liqueur on the other hand is a distilled alcoholic beverage that has been diluted with sugar, juice, syrups and other flavoring. The ABV of most liqueurs is 15% to 25% ABV but the range is 15% to 55% or 30 to 110 proof.
Types of Liqueurs
With so many flavors out there, where do you start? Liqueurs can be enriched with a wide range of ingredients from fruity and sweet to creamy or bitter. Some of the most popular categories include:
Berry - Made with any type of berry and include products like Chambord
Bitter - Often made with herbs and spices including ingredients like orange peel, rhubarb and tree bark. Campari and Suze are examples of bitter liqueurs
Floral - Spirit infused with botanicals and sugar. St Germain (elderflower liqueur) and créme de violette are a few examples.
Fruit - Infused with fruit or fruit juice and include products like Hpnotiq.
Chocolate - Infused with real chocolate, white chocolate or chocolate flavoring and include things like Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and créme de cacao.
Créme - Don't confuse créme with cream which contain dairy. Créme liqueurs have such a high amount of sugar added they have an almost syrupy quality. Examples of these include créme de cassis (black currant) and créme de menthe (mint).
Coffee - Infused with coffee, espresso, grounds or coffee flavoring and include popular brands like Kahula and Tia Maria.
Cream - These are liqueurs that contain dairy. Some favored products include RumChata and Baileys Irish Cream.
Nut - Infused mainly with nuts or nut flavoring but sometimes contain other spices too. Examples of nut liqueurs are Disaranno and Frangelico.
Most Popular Liqueurs in the US
Average Price for 750 ml
Cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and fruit from the marula tree
A bitter Italian apéritif flavored with ingredients like gentian, cinchona and rhubarb
Irish cream liqueur sweetened with premium Irish dairy cream, chocolate whiskey and spirits
A rich and aromatic French herbal liqueur
Bitter Italian aperitif flavored with a blend of herbs and spices with bitter orange and grapefruit taste
A French black raspberry liqueur made with a cognac base. It is rich, fruity and viscous
A French herbal liqueur with a recipe made by monks dating back to 1737 including 130 different herbs and botanicals
A type of triple sec, cointreau is a clear, French, orange flavored liqueur
An Italian almond flavored liqueur
A bitter Italian amaro with a rich, minty finish
A pale gold colored hazelnut liqueur produced in Piedmont, Italy
A blend of cognac and bitter orange liqueur with notes of vanilla, toffee and burnt orange peel
Bottled in France, it is a blend of cognac, vodka and tropical fruit juices
A German digestif made with 56 herbs and spices
A liqueur made with 100% Arabica coffee beans and rum
A sweet vanilla flavored liqueur from Cartagena, Spain using 43 herbs, spices and botanical
A sweet Italian liqueur infused with juicy marasca cherries
A French elderflower liqueur
How to Drink Liqueur
You can enjoy liqueurs numerous ways. Since they are pretty sweet in nature, many people consume them as after-dinner drinks. A coffee liqueur or cream liqueur added to your post dinner cappuccino or espresso is always satisfying. Herbal liqueurs are often used as digestifs which as you could have guessed, aid digestion. Floral or bitter liqueurs are delicious simply on rocks or topped with a sparkling wine. Add citrus liqueurs such as triple sec to cocktails like margaritas. There’s really no wrong way to use these tasty treats so get to your local liquor store, grab a few and get to mixing!
Almost every cocktail you know uses the combination of spirit or wine and liqueur. From the classic Margarita to a Kir Royal, you can’t go wrong adding in a little extra flavor to your next cocktail. Need some inspiration? Here’s a list of well known cocktails (and some variations) to get you started! Once you’ve mastered these, just keep the proportions the same and start interchanging the cordials. You’ll never get bored flavoring cocktails again!
Method: Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into glass. Optional servings: on the rocks, up or blended. Optional Garnishes: lime wheel, salt or sugar rim.
Method: Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into coupe. Optional Garnishes: lemon twist, sugar rim.
Method: Fill a wine or tulip or stemmed glass with ice and add liqueur. Pour Prosecco and top with a splash or two of club soda. Optional garnish: lemon or orange twist.
Method: Combine all ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake hard and double strain into martini glass. Optional garnishes: Coffee beans, chocolate shavings, shaved hazelnut
Nuts & Berries