A liqueur is a sweet alcoholic beverage, often flavoured with fruits, herbs, spices,
flowers, seeds, roots, plants, barks and sometimes cream. The word liqueur comes
from the Latin word liquifacere which means "to dissolve." This refers to the dissolving
of the flavourings used to make the liqueur. Liqueurs are not usually aged for long
periods, but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavours to
In some parts of the world people use the words cordial and liqueur interchangeably.
Though in these places the two expressions both describe liqueurs made by redistilling
spirits with aromatic flavourings and are usually highly sweetened, there are some
differences. While liqueurs are usually flavoured with herbs, cordials are generally
prepared with fruit pulp or juices. Most liqueurs are noticeably sweet.
Liqueurs date back centuries and are historical descendants of herbal medicines,
often those prepared by monks, as Chartreuse or Benedictine. Liqueurs were made in
Italy as early as the 13th century and their consumption was later required at all
treaty signings during the Middle Ages. Today, liqueurs are made worldwide and are
served in many ways: by themselves, poured over ice, with coffee, mixed with cream
or other mixers to create cocktails, etc. They are often served with or after a dessert.
Liqueurs are also used in cooking
Some liqueurs are prepared by infusing certain woods, fruits, or flowers, in either
water or alcohol, and adding sugar or other items. Others are distilled from aromatic
or flavouring agents. The distinction between liqueur and spirits (sometimes liquors)
is not simple, especially since many spirits are available in a flavoured form today.
Flavoured spirits, however, are not prepared by infusion. Alcohol content is not
a distinctive feature. At 15-30%, most liqueurs have a lower alcohol content than
spirits, but some liqueurs have an alcohol content as high as 55%. Dessert wine,
on the other hand, may taste like a liqueur, but contains no additional flavouring.
There are many categories of liqueurs including: fruit liqueur, cream liqueur, coffee
liqueur, chocolate liqueur, schnapps liqueur, brandy liqueur, anise liqueur, nut-flavoured
liqueur, and herbal liqueur.
Anise liqueurs have the interesting property of turning from transparent to cloudy
when added to water: the oil of anise remains in solution in the presence of a high
concentration of alcohol, but crystallizes out when the alcohol concentration is
Layered drinks made by floating different-coloured liqueurs in separate layers are
attractive. Each liqueur is poured slowly into a glass over the back of a spoon or
down a glass rod, so that the liquids of different densities remain unmixed, creating
a striped effect.
A cream liqueur (not be confused with creme liqueur) is a liqueur that includes dairy
cream among its ingredients. Examples include Baileys Irish Cream and Saint Brendan’s,
which use Irish whiskey; Heather Cream from Scotland using Scots whisky; Amarula,
which uses distillate of fermented South African marula fruits; Voyant Chai Cream
which uses black tea and spices; and Dooley’s, which uses toffee and vodka. What
unites them is their use of cream and a generally flavourful liquor as their bases.
Most unflavoured vodka, for example, would be considered unsuitable for a cream liqueur,
except in case of Dooley's.
A crème liqueur is a liqueur that has a great deal of additional sugar added to the
point that it has a near-syrup consistency. Unlike cream liqueurs, crème liqueurs
include no cream in their ingredients. Crème in this case refers to the consistency.
This category includes creme de cacao (chocolate), creme de menthe (mint), and creme
de cassis (blackcurrant).