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The Art of Liqueurs

Add flavorings to a base spirit, and you have a liqueur. Grape spirit, brandy, neutral grain spirit, whisk(e)y, rum, whatever, can be used as the base. The flavorings can be herbs, flowers, barks, roots, nuts, fruits, or even entirely artificial. Often regarded as the spirits for casual drinkers to drink, they offer a lot of variety. Many traditional liqueurs started life as medicines.

Gins are not liqueurs, since the flavoring isn't added to the final liquor. Flavored vodkas and akvavits are liqueurs (at least by the definition above), but are not usually considered as such (so they're in the vodka category).

Some common types of liqueurs are:

List of Liqueurs:

Amalfi Lemon Liqueur:
An Italian liqueur obtained by infusing fresh lemon peels (of the "Sfusato Amalfitano" variety). This is suitably sugar-sweetened to give a flavor very much like potent (30% alcohol) and strongly-flavored lemonade. Nice, and nicely packaged. But you might be able to make your own, fresher and cheaper, with some vodka and a couple of lemons.

Amarula Wild Fruit Cream:
A South African cream liqueur, made from the fruit of the marula tree, much favoured by elephants. The result is a smooth and not particularly fruity liqueur, 17%, with a light but distinct chocolate taste. Not too greasy to drink straight. When in South Africa, drink it by the bucketful.

Baileys Original Irish Cream:
A traditional, and good, cream liqueur, one of the best examples of this style. Smooth and creamy, with a hint of chocolate. Tasty and thick, much better than the cheap imitations. A good non-drinkers drink. 17%, made from Irish whiskey, cream, and chocolate.

Bäska Droppar:
Cinnamon scented, strongly bitter. Must be why it's called Bitter Drops. Wormwood, Seville bitter and cinnamon. Very smooth, but too bitter to drink in quantity straight. 40% alcohol.

Made to a recipe dating to 1510, originally to combat malaria, at Fécamp Abbey in France. Rediscovered by one of the monastery's lawyers, into commercial production it went. Sweet, herbal, and unique. Ingredients in the secret recipe include juniper, myrrh, angelica, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, tea and honey. A true classic liqueur. It's well-balanced, and you can even taste the spices, especially vanilla at the end. 40% alcohol.

Bolivar A Canadian coffee liqueur, it's the usual brown colour, with a rich coffee aroma. Nice level of sweetness (for my taste, anyway). If it's trying to imitate a big-name coffee liqueur, it would be Tia Maria. 26.5% alcohol.

Bols Apricot Liqueur:
An aroma of hard-to-identify artificial fruit flavoring. Well, maybe it's real. It has a flavor of apricots and almondy apricot kernels. 24% alcohol.

Bols Blue Curaçao Liqueur:
Blue in colour, sweet and pleasantly orange flavored. Nice, and very easy to drink. Not real curaçao, but rather a curaçao liqueur, at 24% alcohol. Good to drink, and good to look at.

Bols Cherry Liqueur:
Harsh and vile on the nose, but the sweetness helps compensate on the taste. I don't like cherries, I don't like this strongly cherry-flavored drink. Okay, however if you like the flavor. 24% alcohol. Used to be labelled "cherry brandy."

Bols Coconut Creole Liqueur:
Clear and powerfully coconut scented, with a strong flavor of coconut flesh. Just like a liquid coconut dessert. 24% alcohol.

Bols Creme de Bananes:
Sweet and lightly banana flavored - not so much like real bananas, but rather like those candy bananas, but much milder, and, of course, alcoholic. This is quite normal for a banana liquer. Not really thick enough for a crème liqueur. Nice. 24 % alcohol.

Bols Creme de Cacao:
A sweet and well-balanced liqueur, tasting of imitation chocolate flavor. Nicely textured, and easily drinkable, but nothing to get excited about. Mix it or pour it over ice cream, and the artificialness of the flavor won't stand out so much.

Bols Kibowa Kiwi Liqueur:
A charming emerald colour, with a pleasant aroma of kiwifruit (a.k.a. Chinese gooseberries). Tastes like kiwifruit gone wrong. 24% alcohol.

Bols Kontiki Red Orange Liqueur:
Impressively red, this smells like (artificially flavored) red cordial. It's supposedly passionfruit and orange flavored, but it just tastes pleasantly sweet, with a generic synthetic fruit flavor to it. Very pretty, and perhaps that's the point.

Bols Misty Peach Liqueur:
Powerful aroma of peaches. Tastes very peachy too, too much for me (Southern Comfort is as peachy as I want to go). Otherwise, not bad at all. Serene says it's excellent. Sweet and very fruity. 24% alcohol.

Bols Triple Sec Curaçao:
Sweet, and lightly bitter. Quite inferior to Cointreau (and much cheaper, I guess), but passable. 39% alcohol.

Bundaberg Royal Liqueur:
The Bundy Rum chocolate/coffee liqueur. Very easy drinking, nice and smooth. Tastes like coffee and chocolate, so how can you go wrong with this? The aroma is a bit chemical, but the taste is fine, and not overly sweet.

Liquer Royale de France, this very fruity liqueur is made from framboises (small black raspberries), other fruits, herbs and honey. It has a very sweet fruity berry taste which reminds me of Ribena. Too sweet for me, but for those who like sweet things, this is a supreme nectar. A very mild 17%.

Chartreuse (green):
An ancient and famous green herb liqueur, this is still made by Carthusian monks in France, from a recipe dating back to 1605 (but only available to the general public since 1848). It's a pale, refreshing green colour, and it's strongly flavored, refreshingly herbal, and quite powerful and light-textured at 55% alcohol. Made from a base of grape brandy, flavored with over 130 herbs and other plants. It's sweet, but this is more than balanced by the bitterness of the herbs and the high proof. There's also a sweeter and milder yellow version. A classic, and good too. Jocelyn says to drink on ice!

The classic orange liqueur, Cointreau is the King of triple sec. Dates back to 1849, it was originally drunk as a brandy, but as tastes changed, became more an aperitif drunk on ice, or a cocktail ingredient. Still made by the original family company from neutral spirit, sweet and bitter orange peels, and sweetened with sugar, and bottled at 40% alcohol. A well-balanced orange liqueur; you can taste both the sweet and bitter components (sweetness followed by a hint of bitterness). Grain-free, say Cointreau. Strongly orange flavored, it's usually mixed, but it's quite possible to drink a pint or so straight (but you might regret it afterwards).

The traditional (and great) Scotch liqueur (and expensive). ``An Dram Buidheach'' - the drink that satisfies. Flavored with herbs and honey, it's very herby and not too sweet. Two parts Scotch to one part Drambuie makes a Rusty Nail, one of the great digestifs.

Elixir de Spa:
Rather like clear Jägermeister, this is a tasty and sweet herb liqueur from Belgium. It has a fairly thick texture from the sugar, but, at 40% alcohol, still has quite a bite. One could get quite used to it.

Everglades Chocolate Schnapps Wine Aperitif:
Tastes very much like chocolate ice cream topping. Only 22.5% alcohol, so you barely notice it. Not too sweet to drink straight, so it's a nice drink on the rocks on a hot day. Very good for a cheap product, from Kiwiland.

Frangelico Liqueur:
Named after a legendary liqueur-making hermit, Frangelico, this hazelnut liqueur comes from Italy, and is a classic of its type, indeed, it's one of the world's great liqueurs. It has a strong aroma, and a strong taste. Not cloyingly sweet, just pleasantly nutty. A very well made and balanced liqueur, with hazelnuts very strongly in the foreground, against a background of herbs (including vanilla) and flowers. 24% alcohol.

Galliano Amaretto:
Very distinctly almond flavored, this liqueur is a fine realisation of alcoholic liquid marzipan. Thick and sweet, it's strong, but not overpowering or cloying. Well balanced, as far as one-dimensional liqueurs go. 28% alcohol.

Galliano Espresso:
Strong and bitter, not too sweet, barely enough to take the roughest edges off the coffee. Just the thing if one is after a less sickly-sweet coffee liqueur. This Italian espresso liqeuer is a product of France. 22.5% alcohol.

Galliano Green Sambuca:
Just like the standard Galliano sambuca, except green. Might be a little sweeter and milder. 38% alcohol.

Galliano Liquore:
In a very distinctive bottle, named after an Italian war hero of 1896, this is a famous Italian herbal liqueur. A rather lurid yellow, it has an up-front flavor of anise and vanilla, both quite strong, with the other 40 herbs, berries, roots and flowers etc. blending into a muted background. Nice, and easy to drink. A classic cocktail ingerdient, too. 35% alcohol. Jocelyn: ``I find it too strong and not so well-balanced. At its peak in cocktails.''

Galliano Sambuca:
Sweet, and strongly anise flavored. What else would one expect? A fine and respectable sambuca. 38% alcohol.

Gammel Dansk Bitter Dram:
Not sweet, very strongly flavored. Very bitter (what a surprise!), it's mostly flavored with ginger and pepper. I thought it tasted of cardamom, with pine trees. Good in coffee, but I can't readily drink it straight. Recommended first thing in the morning, for a bad stomach, or for the day after

A Scotch whiskey liqueur, sweetened with honey, flavored with herbs. In the same general category as Drambuie and Irish Mist, but less herby and sweeter, very sweet in fact. This is good; if you like honey liqueurs, try it. Leaves a crusty residue in the glass the next day. 35% alcohol.

Belgian white chocolate liqueur. Beautiful. Tasty. Not very strong (15% alcohol) so you can drink lots and lots. Jocelyn comments that it's good, but the brandy isn't really in harmony with the rest of the liqueur. Glen has to admit liking this "Girlie" drink as a milk addict.

Goldkenn Swiss Chocolate Liqueur:
A milky, creamy liqueur, only 18% alcohol. Dark coloured for a cream liqueur (the wonders of caramel). This one is greasy, somewhat sweet, and strongly chocolate flavored. Mix it with milk, or use it to make one of the best chocolate milkshakes you'll get. Hardcore chocophiles will just drink it straight (or just eat real Swiss chocolate). Too greasy for me.

Jacquin's Apricot Flavored Brandy:
66 proof and smells strongly of apricots. This is made by America's oldest cordial producer. Strangely enough, I found this to be quite pleasant despite not liking apricots. A fruity nectar of the gods if you like them. Glen says it's beautiful. A low-end product, but tasty all the same.

Jacquin's Blackberry Flavored Brandy:
Now I am a big fan of the blackberry but this stuff doesn't seem to cut it and is a poor cousin of the Apricot Jacquin's. I suppose a 70 proof fruit drink may stray quite a way from it's original flavor and I've been told this stuff is a good mixer with club soda/seltzer. Mixing isn't our game but to be fair, we'll give it a try one day.

The famous German herb liqueur, unique in its style. Dark, and profoundly herby. One can almost taste the texture of the flavorings. The combination of herbs is too strange for some. Try it ice cold.
T *** J **** G **

A classic coffee liqueur, Jocelyn says THE coffee liqueur. A really well balanced liqueur with a touch of bitterness at the end just like coffee; actually if you drink a bottle, you will not able to sleep for a day or two!! Really good for mixing, too. Mix 1 part Kahlua with 2 parts vodka for tasty Black Russians. Glen, the milk addict that he is, mixes his with milk. Kahlua and milk is one of the traditional ways for non-drinkers to get drunk. Timo: ``Nice, but I prefer Tia Maria, especially for drinking straight.''

Kännu Kukk Liköör:
Drunken Rooster Liqueur, I'm told this isn't the best of Estonian products. A frightening artificial bright red colour. Smells of some flavor, I can't tell what. Thick and syrupy, it goes down like molten candy, perhaps not surprisingly, since it's 45% alcohol and 50% sugar. Keep a bottle around for long enough and it'll produce very attractive giant sugar crystals on the bottom of the bottle.

Kenya Gold:
``Blended from the prized Kenya peaberry, acknowledged as the finest coffee bean in the world,'' it's nicely coffee scented, and nicely coffee flavored. Not too sweet, not too strong, it's a well balanced coffee liqueur. Might be a bit lost if mixed, good to drink straight. milder than Tia Maria. 26.5%, from Nairobi, Kenya.

Koskenkorva Salmiakka:
Finnish black sambuca-like liqueur, seems to be flavored with real liquorice/licorice rather than aniseed. Popular with the young people. Agreeable aroma, but extremely strong taste. Thin and not overly sweet, which makes it much more drinkable straight if one can become accustomed to the strength of flavor. Potentially quite addictive, like strong flavored candies that you can't stop munching. 32% alcohol.

Lithuanian honey vodka, made by Stumbras in Kaunas. So much honey, in fact, it's thick and syrupy. Much sweeter than the Polish Polmos Old Krupnik, and a much milder herb flavor. The label is in Russian, but I think it's got either 40% alcohol and 37.7% honey, or vice versa. Tasty enough, and if you're a honey fiend, you might even fall in love with this one.

Lapponia Mesimarja:
A 21% arctic brambleberry drop. Dark, sweet, fruity and smooth. Very tasty, despite being a bit treacle-like.

Lignell & Piispanen Lakka-Light Hjortronlikör:
Seems to be a light (ie low-calorie) version of the regular L&P lakka (cloudberry) liqueur, sweetened with fructose, giving it 33% fewer calories. Also lighter in flavor. Others say it's tastier and more rounded. You'll have to try it yourself. Dieters, this is it!

Lignell & Piispanen Mesimarja-vadelma:
From arctic bramble and raspberry, this is 21% alcohol, with a very nice fruit flavor. It's not too sweet and is very smooth. One of the best of its type. Seems to have no distribution outside Finland.

Liquore Strega:
Very light yellow in colour, smells of cloves and herbs. A not-so-sweet herb liqueur, with a touch of bitterness. Supposedly made to an old aphrodisiac love potion recipe (strega is Italian for witch); perhaps this is the point rather than drinking pleasure. It's not bad, but hardly something to sit down and drink for enjoyment. 40% alcohol.

A Caribbean white rum and coconut liqueur, it usually lurks inside an opaque white bottle. Inside is a clear somewhat viscous drink smelling strongly of coconut. Pleasant to taste and nicely sweet, this went down very easily. If you're into coconut, try it. 24% alcohol.

Mandarine Napoléon:
A cognac-based liqueur, 38% alcohol. A classic Grande Liqueur Impériale, this comes from Belgium. Sweet, but not overly so, with only a mild flavor. I'd say drinkable, but don't go out of your way (or pocket) for this. Tangerine skins are soaked in cognac and other French brandy, which is then redistilled, sweetened, and coloured.

Marie Brizard Cherry:
A surprisingly good and easy to drink cherry liqueur. Not particularly sweet, or too strong, this can be drunk as is. 24% alcohol.

Marie Brizard Crème de Fraise:
This is a good strawberry liqueur for it's price. Not too powerful and just a little bit too sweet. There are worse crème de fraise on the market, but the better ones are more expensive. I'm no strawberry fan, so the flavor is far too much for me, and seems somewhat artificial to boot. Might be okay in some kind of foo-foo drink. 20% alcohol.

Marie Brizard Crème de Framboise:
Raspberry liqueur, and proud of it. Too strong in flavor, even unpleasantly so; mix it or avoid it. If you're into raspberries, go for Chambord instead. 20% alcohol.

Marie Brizard Crème de Menthe:
One of the best green crème de menthes because it is not too sweet (unlike some) and it really taste like leaves of peppermint. A refreshing (or frightening?) green colour, it's smoothly drinkable, like sucking down liquid peppermints. Try sipping it straight while eating strong dark chocolate. 25% alcohol.

A pretty good green melon liqueur, sweet and fruity and easy to drink. An excellent mixer and coktail ingedient. I notice it's usually mixed with lemonade, as it's too sweet straight. A Japanese invention. 21% alcohol. Classic "Girlie" drink with some class.

Opal Nera:
A classic, the original black liquore alla sambuca, Italian, of course. Almost opaque, with a slight purple tinge. Liquid black jelly beans in appearance and flavor. Well-balanced, it's not too overpowering or too sweet. Nice. 38% alcohol.

Pisa Nut Liqueur:
A product of Italy of course. This stuff has got to be the best way to enjoy the flavor of almonds, it's basically liquid, alcoholic marzipan. Stong but very sweet and overall very enjoyable. Definitely worth a try.

Polmos Old Krupnik Honey Vodka:
A very nice Polish honey vodka, this is awesomely good. Blended by experts from a recipe dating back to the eighteenth century, it's smooth and tasty, with the right amount of honey. And a nice herby bite, too. Sweet, but not overdone. Buy a case today.

Sabra Chocolate Orange Liqueur:
From Israel, this is like liquid Jaffas. Very tasty and smooth. Not too sweet or too strong, so drink it straight. 30% alcohol.

Southern Comfort (Kentucky version):
Well, it's Southern Comfort. It's famous, and sweet, and tasty. The same up-front flavor as the US Virgin Islands product, but with a distinctive whiskey aftertaste lacking in the latter version. We can't tell what kind of whiskey is used, but tastes like it could be bourbon. Or maybe it's just neutral spirit. Jocelyn: ``Too brutal in flavor for me. Good for mixing but that's it.''

Southern Comfort (USA and Ireland version):
This seems smoother and sweeter than the Kentucky product, but is otherwise very similar to it. This is a combined effort from the USA and Ireland, and we're not sure what parts come from where.

Southern Comfort (US Virgin Islands version):
Tastes like it's made from white rum, rather than whiskey. Still, coming from the US Virgin Islands instead of Kentucky, that's not too much of a surprise. Not overly sweet, very mildly flavored for a liqueur, and high alcohol content (37.1%). Traditionally mixed with Coke, and very good it is. If you like bourbon, try the Kentucky product.

Suomen Marjat Tyrni Liqueur:
Made from seabuckthorn, this 21% liqueur was pleasant enough, but was a little rough. Not too sweet.

Tia Maria:
A well-known coffee liqueur. It's classy and balanced; not too sweet, but enough to balance the coffee bitterness. Jocelyn can taste the herbs in the aftertaste (I never noticed that, maybe I had too much for this to be possible). The coffee liqueur to drink straight, in large quantities.

Toro Sambuca alla Centerba:
Mysterious green stuff, the bottle says it's a blend of fine Sambuca and Centerba liqueur. Full of strange herbs, it has a strong taste and is very good.

Valdoglio Liquore a Base di Grappa e Mirtillo:
A grappa-based blueberry liqueur. Fruity blueberry aroma overpowers the base grappa. Nice, not overpoweringly flavored or too sweet, a very mild grappa taste in the background, dominated by blueberries. Good stuff. 25% alcohol. Not too fruity either, so I like it a lot despite fruitphobia. Comes in a skinny conical blue bottle.

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