Liqueurs – What You Really Need to Know

Liqueurs - What You Really Need to Know

With a dizzying assortment of alcohol on the market these days, it is easy to understand why there could be some confusion about liqueurs.  There are myriad questions surrounding this broad category of drinks: What are they made of?  What are they most commonly used for?  Which ones are most popular, and which might I want to keep on hand?  Read on to find out the answers!

Liqueur VS. Liquor

Liqueur VS. Liquor

Considering the words liqueur and liquor look and sound so similar, and with a multitude of flavored liquors now available as well (raspberry vodka, anyone?), the lines between the two can seem a bit blurry.  Typically, liqueurs are sweet and syrupy whereas liquors are not.  Liquors, such as tequila, vodka, gin, whiskey or rum, are alcoholic beverages that are distilled from plants or grains.  Liqueurs, on the other hand, are sweet or herbal alcoholic drinks made from spirits such as vodka, rum or grain alcohol plus fruit, herbs, nuts, spices or flowers and finished with a sweetener (usually sugar or corn syrup).  Liqueurs usually contain a much lower alcohol content than liquors, although they range from 15 percent all the way to 55 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

How to Serve Liqueurs

How to Serve Liqueurs

The versatility of liqueurs is one of their best attributes as they can be added to cocktails, served over ice or neat, blended with coffee, or mixed with just about any other non-alcoholic beverage, presenting endless drink possibilities.  They can even produce beautiful striped drinks when multiple liqueurs are carefully layered by floating them slowly over the back of a spoon so they don’t mix.  Many liqueurs are served as before or after-dinner drinks as they can stimulate and aid in digestion, especially after a large meal.  Many are used in baking or cooking and some liqueurs have become the starring ingredient in several desserts.

The Standards

The Standards

While a well-stocked home bar should always contain a handful of go-to liquors such as vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum or gin, a selection of liqueurs will infinitely expand your cocktail options.  Listed below are a few favorite choices to savor, whether you are experimenting with new drinks on a quiet evening at home or hosting your next soiree.  Cheers!

Amaretto

This almond flavored liqueur, which is made using apricot pits, is a favorite among bartenders for its incredible versatility in a wide variety of cocktails.

Bailey’s Irish Cream

Bailey’s Irish Cream

This classic creamy liqueur which consists of Irish whiskey, cream and chocolate is a popular addition to many cocktails and shooters, but is also delicious enjoyed all by itself, whether served neat or on the rocks.

Cointreau

Cointreau

The brand name version of triple sec, this orange flavored liqueur should always be on hand as it is called for in a staggering number of cocktails.  Margaritas, anyone?

Frangelico

A popular choice with both genders, this liqueur is made of toasted hazelnuts, cocoa, coffee, vanilla and rhubarb and is a bartender’s best friend for its role in many cocktails.

Kahlua

Kahlua

This enticing coffee flavored liqueur is the reigning champion among its competition and is a popular choice in several cocktails.

Vermouth

Vermouth

An aromatized fortified wine which has been infused with several botanicals to create its distinctive flavor, vermouth is available in dry and sweet varieties which are both relied on for an extensive list of cocktails.