All About Cordials & Liqueurs
What Is a Liqueur or Cordial?
Liqueurs lure admirers with both aesthetics and taste. The distinctively shaped bottles with alluring adornments and historied labels present like regal chess pieces decorating the shelves of bars and stores. They stand apart – on purpose. The vast range of flavors offer fans and mixologists almost every taste and nuance found in nature. You may have also heard liqueurs referred to as cordials. The terms are synonymous. Cordials were first created for medicinal purposes by alchemists and even monks. The word cordial derives from the Latin cordialis which means ‘of or for the heart.’ The first cordials were created in Europe with herbs, flowers, oils, seeds, fruits and nuts being steeped in a distilled spirit to treat aliments. The alcohol was used as a vehicle to deliver the medicinal properties of the additives and it was believed that the alcohol also helped to enhance and extract the healing elements. Not surprisingly, these early elixirs evolved to then be widely consumed casually, for enjoyment, leading to the use of the more modern word liqueur.
How Liqueurs Are Made
A liqueur is different than a liquor – although they sound similar, they are not the same. A liqueur is a distilled spirit that is crafted from a liquor base like rum, whiskey, gin, brandy or cognac, vodka, or tequila which has then been sweetened and transformed with added flavors. This means that every liqueur is a liquor while only a portion of liquors are liqueurs. The unique taste of a liqueur is created by folding flavors; through distillation, extraction, infusing or smoking, into a base liquor. These intentional ingredients, along with proprietary recipes and methods, result in signature flavors. This flavor becomes the liqueur’s identity. For example, Grand Marnier’s trademark orange flavor is the result of distilling cognac, beet sugar and alcohol-macerated bitter orange peels.
Types of Liqueurs
The impressive variety of available liqueurs is the result of ingenuity and biodiversity. Nature has provided an extensive assortment of options to craft and create the world’s cordials from persimmon to peppermint. With hundreds of tastes - it is best to approach types of liqueurs in flavor categories such as:
Chocolate – like Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
Crème – like Hiram Walker Crème de Cassis
Coffee – like Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur
Herbal – like Bénédictine Liqueur
Floral – like St Germain Liqueur
Nutty – like Frangelico Liqueur
Citrus – like Charles Regnier Triple Sec
Fruity – like Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
Additionally, liqueurs can be sub-categorized by base alcohol and method of production. For example, Agavero Tequila Liqueur, from Mexico, is a tequila-based liqueur that features floral and herb flavors made through distillation and blending. Each cordial is created to capture a distinct flavor and many options are available.
What About ABV?
Just as the flavor options are broad - so too is the range of alcohol content. Liqueurs can fall anywhere between 10 to 55 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). As an example to this range – Aperol Aperitivo is just 11%. Falling in the middle of the range, Disaronno Amaretto is 28% while Cointreau Liqueur is 40% ABV. When shopping in our stores - if ABV is a consideration, it is best to check the label or get support from one of our knowledgeable in-store consultants.
How to Drink a Liqueur
Liqueurs are most often used, along with other spirits and mixers, in signature cocktails or shooters. Because of the distinctive flavors they should not be substituted in recipes and can be found in classic cocktails or even regional drinks. Like the refreshing Aperol spritz which is enjoyed across Italy as an apéritif – this drink is created by pouring prosecco and Aperol Aperitivo over ice with a splash of soda water. The prosecco’s bubbles naturally mix this delicious drink that is traditionally enjoyed before a meal. The selection of liqueur flavors available allows for limitless cocktail creations that appeal to every taste, culture, celebration, holiday, or meal.
However, many liqueurs are also enjoyed just as they are - on ice, neat or chilled. For example, Romana Sambuca is often served chilled as an after-dinner drink in a snifter or shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. You may also traditionally find it served with three coffee beans. A fantastic chocolate cordial, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, can be sipped over ice, but is also used to make decadent cocktails like chocolate martinis. The versatility of cordials is like the painting palette of an artist – so many colors, or flavors, to create something beautiful.
Pouring and Storing Liqueurs
With each liqueur being unique – every label or brand has preferred pouring and storing recommendations. For example, the one-of-the-kind Jägermeister Liqueur should be stored in a freezer and poured ice-cold while the brilliantly colored melon Midori Melon Liqueur requires no refrigeration. As with alcohol content – lean on our in-store consultants for guidance on cordial specific storing.