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About Liqueurs

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 marry.

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 reduced.

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).

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