The terms Cordial and Liqueur can be used interchangeably since they both refer to the same type of product. There is no legal difference between them but, in practice, cordial is often used with American products and liqueur with European ones. For the most part, we will use liqueur except when referring specifically to an American brand or product line.
The Federal Standards of Identity define cordials and liqueurs as products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 2.5 percent by weight of the finished product. The Standards prohibit use of the terms "distilled" or "compound" when describing or labeling the product.
The production of liqueurs is superficially simple and straightforward but the difficulty in skillfully extracting flavors, odors, and colors from vegetable materials should not be underestimated. They can be very complex products because of the incredible diversity of ingredients which are often used.
History of Cordials and Liqueurs
The standard 17th century English treatise on distillation was written by John French. It begins by warning the reader that "There is a glut of Chymical books, but a scarcity of Chymical truths . . ." and then proceeds to offer alcoholic remedies for some 150 diseases and infirmities, including baldness, forgetfulness, madness, measles, pimples, "Venereal distempers," and the classical promise of "Youth to renew." The distillates recommended include not only plants and herbs, but also animals. Such elixirs as essence of Mans-brains, Viper-Wine, and water of Horse-dung were recommended!
Marie Brizard was founded in France in the 18th century. During that period the emphasis was increasingly on pleasant tasting digestives rather than merely tolerable medicinal elixirs. Such traditional "medicinal" substances as anise, caraway, and angelica continued to be used to emphasize the restorative powers of liqueurs.
Many different liqueurs were grouped under the general classification of "ratafia" a term allegedly being derived from the custom of drinking a toast upon the ratification of a treaty. They were commonly made by macerating soft fruits such as cherries, gooseberries, strawberries, and raspberries, in alcohol to which distillates of spices or herbs and sugar were added.
In 1757 A. Cooper published The Complete Distiller in which he gave four rules for the making of "compound waters & cordials." They are:
1. Use only neutral, "well-cleaned" spirits.
2. Be sure to leave the fruits and plants to "digest" (macerate) for a sufficient length of time.
3. Pay attention to the heat of the fire.
4. Use only the "heart" of the distillate.
The Napoleonic Wars, in the early 19th century, slowed the growth of the burgeoning liqueur industry, particularly in France, but, with the prosperity of the Industrial Age in the second half of the century, there was great growth in production and the number of European firms, many oriented as much towards export as domestic consumption.
The continuous rectification column was developed in the early 19th century and this proved to be of great importance since it allowed the production of a nearly neutral spirit, the base of most modern cordials and liqueurs.
Well-known firms founded during this period were:
Drambuie (Scotland) (early 20th century)
Some oddities produced during these years:
Rose without Thorns
The Longer the Better
Parfait Amour (still around)
Old Woman’s Milk
Liqueur des Belles
Violet Creme Yvette
Most of these were designed to attract female consumers and were sweet and flowery.
Popular standards developed at this time were:
Marie Brizard Anisette
Dijon Creme de Cassis
Creme de Cacao
Creme de Menthe
The term liqueur is derived from the Latin liquefacere which means to melt or dissolve. This is appropriate since these products obtain their character not from the spirit base, but from the substances dissolved in it.
In France, the standards are: a minimum alcohol content of 15%, minimum sugar content of 20% while crèmes must have 40%.
Production of Cordials & Liqueurs
There are three basic methods of flavor extraction: two are cold and the other is hot. The choice depends on the flavor and its source. Fruit flavors lend themselves best to cold extraction while seeds, peels, and flowers are usually processed with the hot method. Flavoring substances are the skins, seeds, roots, flowers, leaves, and pulp of various fruits and vegetables. Natural extracts and concentrates are also used. If chemical extracts or essences are used (usually only in low quality products) the liqueur must be designated (labeled) as "imitation" or "artificial" in America and "fantaisie" in France. Most of the colors are not obtained via processing but are based on vegetable substances (saffron for example) or other natural food colorings.
Cold Methods: Infusion/Maceration and Percolation.
These methods are used when the delicate flavoring materials would be harmed or damaged by heat. Although these methods are very slow and can take up to a year, using heat to speed up the extraction would have harmful effects.
These techniques can be likened to the making of tea, whereby the flavors, odors, and colors are removed by soaking or steeping the flavoring materials in a liquid. If the liquid is water, it is called infusion; if alcohol (brandy/fruit spirits or neutral spirits) is used, the technique is called maceration. With either method, the liquid ultimately takes up the flavors, odors and colors of the fruit. When fruits with stones, such as apricots, cherries, and peaches, are used, essential oils from the stones can also be extracted. This results in the slight bitter almond taste frequently found in such liqueurs. Following extraction, the liquid is stored for a short time in stainless steel or glass before filtering.
Since the remaining fruit residue will have some alcohol and flavors, they may be removed by distillation and added back to the maceration. The product will be sweetened (usually in the form of a simple syrup, honey is also used), colored (if necessary, usually not), have distilled water added to bring it to the desired bottling proof, and may even be aged before bottling.
Infusion was compared to the making of tea; percolation can be compared to coffee brewing. The flavoring materials, usually leaves or herbs, continuously have fruit or other spirits pumped over them. The spirits seep down through the flavoring materials and gradually extract the colors, flavors, and odors. As with maceration, the leaves/herbs can be distilled for further flavor and odor removal.
Hot Method: Distillation.
This technique is most often used with peels (orange, lemon), seeds (caraway, anise, cacao and vanilla beans), and flowers (roses, mint and so forth). Such materials can endure heat and the process takes place much faster. The flavoring materials are infused in alcohol, and then pot-distilled to remove and concentrate the flavors and odors. The distillate is colorless, so colors always have to be added with this method. Following distillation, as with other pot-distilled spirits, the heads and tails can either be thrown away or added to a new distillation batch for additional flavor extraction. Some liqueurs (kümmel, anisette, Curaçaos) are cold-stabilized before filtering to remove specific essential oils that can produce a cloudy appearance when chilled.
An alternate method is to distill the flavoring materials in the presence of water rather than in spirits. This is done with certain flowers and herbs that quickly lose their flavors. The distillation takes place, under a vacuum, at lower temperatures to preserve the delicate odors. Successive distillations concentrate the essential oils of the plant which are responsible for its aromatic qualities.
Fruit liqueurs are often mono-dimensional in that they obtain their flavors, odors, and colors from one fruit. Examples are orange, blackberry, cassis and so forth. Many of the plant liqueurs are more complex since they are composed of a vast variety of plants, herbs, seeds, and roots. Benedictine and Chartreuse are typical examples and they may have some fifty different flavoring ingredients. Not all are this elaborate of course, but it is common to combine two or more flavoring agents.
The object of the distillation is not, as with other spirits, to separate and concentrate the alcohol, but to capture the aromatic essences of plants and herbs as they rise with the alcoholic vapors in the still. Another difference is that the liquid being distilled is already a distilled spirit. If young Cognacs and Armagnacs are used to provide the spirit, they would never be aged prior to use; that would defeat the intention since their considerable character and complexity would be lost during the redistillation. Since the object is to concentrate aromatic elements rather than to produce alcohol, only pot stills are used for liqueur production.
Summary of Processing:
1. Preparation of the aromatized bases for the liqueurs by either maceration/infusion, percolation, or distillation, or by some combination of these processes.
2. Mixing of the final blend and, if necessary, aging.
3. Addition of sugar, water, and alcohol.
4. A short (usually) period for resting and "marrying" of the blend.
6. Cold-stabilizing and filtering.
There should not be any significant or detectable change for even several months. Exceptions would be if only a very small amount remained in an opened bottle for an extended period or, in the case of some low-alcohol fresh fruit products (such as Dijon Creme de Cassis). These latter can undergo substantial deterioration in both color and flavor after opening and should be consumed fairly rapidly, in a month or two at most. It is recommended to refrigerate such products after opening.
Components Of Cordials & Liqueurs
One factor which differentiates liqueurs from other spirits is the fact that they must legally contain sugar, and often have appreciable amounts of it. French liqueurs must contain at least twenty percent. United States law requires a minimum of two and one- half percent but most contain substantially more than that, up to as much as thirty-five percent. The Standards of Identity permit products which contain less than ten percent by weight to be designated as "dry." With wines, this range would be perceived as fairly to very sweet, but with cordials and liqueurs, the sweetness perception is not so pronounced.
The sweetening agents permitted are sugar, dextrose, and levulose which enables the cordial manufacturer to use a wide variety of products. Sugar, either beet or cane, in the form of a simple syrup is the most common sweetening material, although honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup are also used.
The liqueurs designated as "creme" generally have the highest sugar contents. The term creme, meaning cream, denotes the smooth creamy or syrupy texture which results from the sugar. In France, a liqueur labeled creme must contain at least forty percent sugar. The sugar content of cremes can be illustrated by the after-dinner drink called Poussé Cafe. This is made by pouring several cordials of varying colors in a glass so that they "layer", or float on one another. A chart of cordial specific gravities, or weights, is necessary to prepare this specialty drink and the cremes are usually at the top of these charts. Having the most sugar, they are the heaviest.
A vast array of ingredients are used to flavor liqueurs and provide them with a nearly limitless range of sensory characteristics. Few products rely on only one, or even a few ingredients, and some are so complex that they require fifty or more. Some of the more common ones are: apricots, apricot stones (for the almond flavor in Amaretto), anise, blackberries, cherries, coffee beans, cacao beans, black currants, mint, vanilla beans, oranges and orange peels, caraway seeds, mandarines (tangerines), licorice, strawberries, peaches, almonds, and raspberries. These are also the ingredients which are most likely to provide the dominant tastes.
It is probably not possible to provide a complete listing of all ingredients, but the following ones would also be used in formulating many of the liqueurs available today: angelica root and flowers, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, saffron, thyme, rose hips & petals, tea, nutmeg, juniper berries, lemon peel, honey (used for flavor as well as sweetening), cumin, ginger root, sage, rosemary, honeydew melon, sloeberries, plums, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, allspice, cranberry, blueberry, banana, pineapple, and passion fruit.
The most common spirit base used in liqueurs are neutral spirits but several products, many of them world-famous, use specific distilled products. In the whisky category, bourbon, rye, Irish, Canadian, and Scotch whiskies all find their way into certain products and provide a distinctiveness characteristic of that whisky. Brandies are widely used and a few manufacturers even use Cognac brandy as their spirit base. Of the other spirit categories, rum seems to be the only one which is used to provide the spirit base for true cordials and liqueurs. There is a product category called spirit liqueurs which are not really liqueurs in the sense that we have described them. They are sweetened spirits and, as such, would be called Scotch liqueur, gin liqueur and so forth. Vodka and gin are sometimes also flavored with citrus, grape, cherry, or mint and sweetened enough to qualify for the cordial category.
Another liqueur component which has proved to be very popular in recent years is cream. It began with the introduction in America of Bailey's Irish Cream and was based on a technological breakthrough - that of developing a method of stabilizing mixtures of fresh cream and spirits. There are many such liqueurs on the market and their variety seems to be limited only by the spirits and liqueurs already available. Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, Grand Marnier liqueur, Amaretto liqueur, Myers Jamaican Rum and many others have been used as the spirit base for this new category. These liqueurs should not be confused with the cremes; as explained, creme is a term used for very sweet liqueurs and cordials and refers to sugar. The designation of cream indicates the use of fresh cream in the formulation.
There are no proof requirements in the United States Standards of Identity although France requires a minimum alcoholic content of fifteen percent (30o proof). There are quite a broad range of proofs in cordials and liqueurs available in the United States - from 30o to 110o. The creams are the lowest and, in general, cordials and liqueurs are bottled at lower alcoholic strengths than are distilled spirits.
Classification Of Cordials & Liqueurs
There are several ways to classify this category; we will divide them according to the major type of flavoring ingredients. These are: herbs/spices, seeds/plants, and fruits.
Herb and Spice Cordials & Liqueurs
: The recipe for this, perhaps the best known of the French herbal liqueurs, is thought to date back to the early 1500's where it was developed at the Fecamp Abbey to combat malaria. Honey/amber color. Herbal nose that is earthy and floral. Flavors of honey, citrus and herbs such as rosemary, basil, and sage. Long, smooth aftertaste. Lost during the French Revolution; it was not found until 1863. The specific recipe is a carefully guarded secret and only three people ever know the complete details. In fact, at the distillery, they maintain a "Hall of Counterfeits", displaying hundreds of failed imitations. Benedictine is made from twenty- seven different herbs, plants, spices, and peels which are either distilled or macerated with neutral spirits. Bottling proof is 80o. In response to the consumer trend of mixing Benedictine with brandy, the firm brought out their own mixture, called B & B and today it accounts for the majority of Benedictine's sales in the United States. B & B is made by blending Benedictine with Cognac brandy and is bottled at the same proof: 80o. It has a topaz/orange color with aromas of clove and flowers. Warm herbal and brandy flavors. Long finish. A good after-dinner drink.
: Made from a secret blend of some 130 plants. It was originally developed by a religious order, the Carthusian monks, but has been in secular hands since World War I although both the formula and production direction remain under the control of three Carthusian brothers. The original recipe dates back to 1605. There are two Chartreuse liqueurs produced; green and yellow. Both have a spicy-herb flavor which is difficult to describe because of the complexity of the ingredients The only liqueur to be aged in oak. The yellow is bottled at 80o proof and the green at 110o. Brandy and neutral spirits provide the spirit base. The yellow is sweeter and less aromatic than the green and was developed in 1838 by the monks.
: This is one of the best known and appreciated liqueurs in the world. It, like so many of the others, has an ancient and interesting history. Drambuie is produced by the Mackinnon firm near Edinburgh from a recipe which dates back to 1746 when it was given to a Mackinnon ancestor by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in gratitude for hiding and protecting the Prince after a battle. The liqueur has been made commercially only since 1906 but was made by the Mackinnon family for personal use prior to that. It is prepared from a secret blend of herbs, malt and grain whiskies, both well aged (over 15 years), and uses heather honey for sweetening. Amber/golden color. Aromas of licorice, black pepper, dill and Scotch whisky. Flavors of licorice, herbs and whisky. Sweet with ample viscosity. Considered one of the grand classic liqueurs of the world. Drambuie is bottled at 80o proof.
: Made in northern Italy, this is packaged with a twig in the bottle, upon which excess sugar crystallizes. Traditionally, a real twig was used, but today it is likely to be made of plastic. The liqueur is fairly sweet and features herbal and mint flavors. Bottling proof is high, up to 92o.
: Galliano dates from the late 19th century and was named for Major Giuseppe Galliano, a hero of the Italo-Abyssinian war in Ethiopia. It is made by preparing several different distillations of herbs and spices which will be aged in stainless steel for a few months. These distinctively flavored and aromatic spirits are blended together with water and sugar and colored. The character is that of anise and vanilla blended with various herbs; the finish is sweet and long. The color is bright gold and it is bottled at 80o proof.
: Made in Scotland with a spirit base of straight grain whisky. It is flavored with an essence of herbs and sweetened with honey. It is considered to be lighter than Drambuie and has some anise character.
: Based on an ancient recipe that originated over 1,000 years ago. Irish whiskey provides the spirit base. The whiskey is aged about seven years and blended with clover and heather honey and herbal extracts. It has an Irish whiskey, honey and herb flavor, is not overly sweet, and is bottled at 80o proof.
: A Basque liqueur made in the style of Chartreuse and bottled in two forms: green and yellow. It is flavored by distillates and macerations of local flowers from the Pyrenees augmented by many other plant ingredients. The spirit base is composed of both neutral spirits and Armagnac. Green Izarra is bottled at 100o and yellow at 86o proof.
: Imported liqueur from Germany. Cola colored (some caramel has been added for color). Intensely herbal, citrusy nose. Quite sweet with cola, citrus, and herb flavors. Chocolatey aftertaste.
: This is a gold colored cordial which is made from bourbon and has a distinct bourbon flavor. It is bottled at 100o proof.
: A Scotch whisky liqueur produced by the makers of the well-known premium Scotch, Chivas Regal. It, like Drambuie, has a Scotch, honey, and herb flavor and is gold colored. It is perhaps a little lighter and is bottled at 70o proof.
: An Italian herbal liqueur which has a more noticeable anise-vanilla character than do the French products. It is gold colored and bottled at 80o. Neutral spirits form the spirit base.
: Produced in Bordeaux, France, this herbal liqueur, like Chartreuse, is produced both in green and yellow styles. It has a vanilla-herbal character and is bottled at 60o proof. The spirit base is neutral alcohol although they do produce a special bottling blended with Cognac and Armagnac.
: Made from Canadian whisky, this liqueur is light gold in color and has the characteristically light flavor of Canadian whisky. It is bottled both at 80o and 100o proof.
Seed and Plant Cordials & Liqueurs
.: Caraway flavored cordial imported from Denmark. Though this is listed in the cordial category, the product is also considered a flavored vodka (this is how it is described on the bottle). It is made from 100% grain neutral spirits. Good used as a vodka substitute in Bloody Mary's.
: Cinnamon liqueur imported from Canada. Initially tastes like hot cinnamon, but finishes with a cool aftertaste. Clear crystals appear in the bottom of the bottle.
: An almond-flavored liqueur which is made by distilling apricot stones. Amaretto di Saranno is probably the best known brand, but Amaretto has become a generic liqueur and is produced by a wide variety of cordial firms. It is amber in color and is bottled at proofs ranging from 48-56o. Amaretto Di Saronno is an Imported Italian liqueur made from apricot stones, which produce an almond flavor. Topaz/orange color. Sweet aromas of almonds. Lush flavors of roasted almonds, slightly peppery and not too sweet. Moderately viscous. Finish of vanilla extract with a touch of mandarin orange.
: The flavor comes from aniseed and the liquor has an anise-licorice character. It is usually bottled in a colorless form and is made from neutral spirits. The Marie Brizard firm of Bordeaux, France has the best reputation for anisette but it is now a generic liqueur and there are many brands on the market. Bottling is done at from 40-60o proof.
Avalanche Blue Peppermint Schnapps
: Extremely cool peppermint flavored schnapps. Uses three different peppermint flavorings to produce its unique taste. Liquid is blue color and there are crystals in the bottle. Avalanche is bottled at 80 proof but the proof rises slightly over time as the crystals grow. Normally served straight up.
Bailey's Irish Cream
: The first of the cream liqueurs to hit the American market, it was one of the great marketing successes in distilled spirit/cordial history. There have been an enormous number of cream product introductions since then but none has managed to even come close to displacing Bailey's dominant position in the category. It is made from a blend of Irish whisky and cream and has a whisky-chocolate flavor. The color can be described as coffee with milk. The nose has notes of spirit, cream, cinnamon-stick, and spearmint. Very creamy, faintly spicy. The finish has flavors of English toffee. Bottling proof, like most of the creams, is quite low at 34o. Bailey's Light Irish Cream is similar but is much lighter in body. A blend of cream and Irish whiskey. Creamy beige color. Nutty aromas. Spicy, floral, pepperminty flavors.
Caffe Lolita Coffee Liqueur
: Coffee flavored liqueur imported from Mexico. Similar in style to Kahlua.
Camaya Coffee Liqueur
: Coffee flavored liqueur made in America. Dark brown color.
Carolan's Irish Cream Liqueur
: Cream liqueur imported from Ireland. Made with honey, real double cream and Irish spirits. May be served straight, on the rocks, or in a variety of mixed drinks.
: This liqueur is made in Switzerland and has a chocolate-cherry flavor. The spirit base is neutral alcohol and the color is reddish-pink. Cheri- Suisse is bottled at 60o proof.
: There are several cordials on the market which combine the flavor of chocolate with another primary flavor. Examples are mint, almond, cherry, orange, raspberry and so forth. Both the Hiram Walker and Leroux companies have a variety of such products.
Creme De Cacao
: Made by distilling cocoa beans with neutral alcohol and blending the distillate with a maceration prepared from vanilla pods and neutral alcohol. It will have a chocolate and vanilla character and is produced both in clear and brown colors. As with other cremes, these are typically quite sweet. The most common use for creme de Cacao is as a mixer and its flavors blend well with a variety of products. This is one of the most basic generic liqueurs and is widely produced. Bottling proof ranges from 50-60o.
Creme De Menthe
: Possibly the most widely produced of the generic cordials, creme de menthe has a distinctive mint flavor which is generally not blended with other flavors as is common in liqueur production. The color is either deep green or clear and there is no difference between the taste and aroma of either. The clear, in fact, is the natural color. The green is made by adding a coloring agent. Neutral spirits form the spirit base and it is bottled at 60o proof.
Creme De Noyaux
: Has an almond flavor which is obtained from macerations and/or distillations of apricot or peach stones. It is a generic liqueur and is made by many firms in several colors; red, clear, and cream. The spirit base is neutral spirits and bottling proof is from 50-60o.
Creme De Vanille
: A liqueur flavored by vanilla beans. The beans from Mexico are regarded as the best. Vanilla is more commonly used as a complimentary flavor in liqueurs as opposed to the primary or only one as in this case. This product can be made in America with imitation vanillin flavor without identifying it as such. 60o proof.
Cuarenta Y Tres/Licor 43
: Imported liqueur from Spain. Butterscotch aroma. Flavors of vanilla and citrus. Finishes with flavors of orange and citrus. Quite sweet.
Devonshire Irish Cream
: Cream cordial imported from England. Creamy beige color. Aromas of spice and cinnamon. Flavors of cream, spices, herbs, and mint.
Emmets Irish Cream
: Imported Irish cream liqueur that combines the flavors of cream with Irish spirits.
: Hazelnut Liqueur imported from Italy. A mix of hazelnuts, berries, and herbs. Golden amber color. Aromas of nuts, butter, and herbs. Flavors of hazelnut and butter. Can be served neat (straight up or in a snifter), on the rocks, in coffee or hot cocoa. Also used in many recipes.
: Belgian white chocolate liqueur. Off-white, creamy color. Aromas of chocolate, cream, and a hint of vanilla. Flavors of milk chocolate and cream. Not too sweet. Finish is rich and sweet.
Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
: Chocolate liqueur made in the U.S. Dark brown color. Aromas of herbs, cocoa, nuts, and a little anise. Velvety texture. Flavors of dark chocolate. Not too sweet. In addition to the original dark chocolate, Godiva now has two other flavors: white chocolate and Cappuccino.
: Clear cinnamon schnapps from Switzerland with flecks of gold leaf floating in the bottle. Tangy cinnamon aroma. Sweet-sour cinnamon flavors.
Hot Damn! Schnapps (DeKuyper)
: Pink color. Aromas and flavors of hot cinnamon.
Kahlua Royale Cream Liqueur
: Kahlua and cream cordial that is heavy on the cream and lighter on the Kahlua. Aromas of cream with a hint of coffee bean. Satiny texture dominated by creamy flavors and a touch of Kahlua. Long finish.
: A Mexican coffee liqueur and, by a wide margin, the largest selling liqueur brand in the United States. It is produced from neutral spirits and has a rich brown color, a roasted coffee bean aroma, and flavors of coffee and semisweet chocolate with a rich and chocolatey finish. Proof is 53o.
Kamora Coffee Liqueur
: Imported coffee flavored liqueur from Mexico Made with fresh brewed coffee. Slightly less sweet than other coffee liqueurs. Can be used in a Black Russian, a White Russian, or coffee.
Kapali Coffee Liqueur
: Coffee liqueur imported from Mexico. Similar in style to Kahlua.
: Liqueurs prepared from caraway and cumin seeds have been made commercially since the end of the sixteenth century. Kummel is prepared from neutral spirits and has a distinctive caraway flavor, sometimes with undertones of anise. It is clear and is bottled at proofs of 70-100o.
Oblio Caffe Sambuca
: Imported from Italy, Oblio infuses espresso coffee into its sambuca, which is flavored with anise and essences of elderberry and fennel, for a dark, rich coffee flavored liqueur. Can be served in a snifter, over ice, in coffee, or spooned over ice cream.
: A Greek, anisette type product made from brandy. It is clear and bottled at high proofs: 90-98o. Metaxa Ouzo is a premium ouzo founded by the house of Metaxa in 1888. A combination of grapes, herbs, and berries including aniseed, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel, and hazelnut. Clean, cool taste. Licorice flavored with hints of fennel and anise. Good as an aperitif or cordial. Drier than anisette. Metaxa Five Star is an imported cordial from Greece. Made from grapes in much the same manor as French cognac. It is aged in limousine oak barrels, then blended with muscat wine and flavored with a blend of herbs and rose petals. Aged for a minimum of 5 years. Flowery aroma with overtones of orange. Sweet, grapy flavor.
: A coffee liqueur made in Turkey and bottled at 53o proof.
: A mint liqueur which is produced by many firms. Compared to clear creme de menthe, which it most closely resembles, it is lighter and less sweet. A recent development in the American market was the introduction of other schnapps flavors. Peach and apple schnapps showed the most remarkable sales gains, but strawberry and others did well also. Peppermint schnapps is prepared from neutral spirits and bottled at from 40 to 60o.
: A French liqueur, yellow-green in color with an intense anise-licorice flavor. The recipe for Pernod is a slight variation of the original recipe for absinthe, an herbal elixir made from 15 exotic herbs steeped in alcohol. It is made from neutral spirits and bottled at a fairly high proof: 90o. A popular aperitif in Europe, often mixed in a tall glass with cold water (it will turn a milky color). May also be mixed with grapefruit or orange juice. Often used in cooking recipes.
: Peppermint schnapps imported from Germany. Clear. The nose is sweet, herbal, and pepperminty with little hint of the high (100) proof. Silky texture. Intense peppermint flavor. Not too sweet. Extended minty finish.
: A liqueur made in Israel from Jaffa oranges, chocolate, and neutral spirits. Bottled at 60o proof.
: Made from the elder bush, Sambucus nigra, its flavor is very much like that of the aniseed and the liqueur has a distinct licorice character. Neutral spirits are used and it is clear in color. 40 to 84o proof. Romana Sambuca is the best known proprietary brand. It is imported from Italy and is bottled in two colors – clear and black. Multi-layered nose of aniseed, apricots, herbs, and a trace of citrus. Silky texture. Finishes with flavors of orange and cherry.
St. Brendan's Irish Cream
: A blend of real aged Irish Whiskey and fresh cream. Imported from and bottled in Ireland. Creamy aroma with a hint of herbs. Rich creamy texture with flavors of milk chocolate, Irish whiskey, and sweet cream. Soft finish.
: A coffee flavored liqueur from Jamaica. It is made from rum and the rarest coffee beans in the world - Jamaican Blue Mountain. Tia Maria is a little lighter and drier (less sweet) than Kahlua and, at 63o proof, somewhat higher in alcohol.
: Made in Italy from brandy, Tuaca has an eggnog-cocoa character which comes from the small amount of milk used in the formulation. It is yellow-brown colored and bottled at 84o proof.
: This is one of the most popular chocolate- mint liqueurs. It is made in Holland from neutral spirits and has a predominant mint character. The color is that of dark brown chocolate and the proof is 52o. Good in coffee or hot chocolate.
Fruit Cordials & Liqueurs
: Both a generic and a branded liqueur. It may be called apricot cordial or liqueur or by a specific brand name such as Abricotine, or Apry. Its flavor comes mainly from apricots, the color is orange-amber, and it is made from neutral spirits. The proof range is from 60-70o.
: Also referred to as blackberry cordial, the flavor comes primarily from blackberries but may occasionally have some raspberries or even wine blended in. The spirit base is usually neutral spirits but when made as a flavored brandy, neutral brandy will be used. Blackberry flavored brandy is the most popular of the flavored brandies in the United States. 60o proof.
Chambord Liqueur Royale
: Black raspberry liqueur from France made with small black raspberries, other fruits (black cherry and plum), herbs and honey. Ultra berry finish is soft but firm. Can be served straight or on the rocks. Also good mixed with cognac or champagne.
: Black Raspberry flavored liqueur made in the U.S. Prepared and bottled in Lewiston, Maine. Good mixed with champagne, straight up, or on the rocks.
: The flavor comes from black cherries, and neutral spirits or brandy are used for the spirit base. It too will be marketed either as a cordial, liqueur, or flavored brandy. 30-60o proof.
: Is a triple-sec type of liqueur and is probably the most popular orange liqueur in the world. It is distinctively packaged in a square bottle and is, like all triple-secs, clear in color. It is made from the peels of bitter and sweet oranges along with other supporting ingredients. These are double distilled with neutral alcohol in pot stills. Cointreau is bottled at 80o proof.
: This is produced in Bordeaux, France, and is unusual in that its spirit base is composed not only of neutral spirits, but of Cognac and Armagnac as well. It is dark amber in color and the flavors are derived from the brandies and a blend of fruits. 80o proof.
Creme De Bananes/Banana
: The banana flavor is an easy one to imitate and many banana cordials may contain artificial flavoring although its use must be stated on the label. Neutral spirits form the spirit base and the cordial is given a yellow color. The aroma is intense and is that of banana oil rather than of fresh bananas. Bottling proof is from 50-60o.
Creme De Cassis
: Black currant flavored liqueur bottled at low proofs: 30 to 50o. Neutral spirits are used and the color is red-black. Creme de Cassis, although normally classified with cordials and liqueurs, does not qualify according to its method of manufacture. It is actually more of an alcoholic fruit juice; somewhat like a fortified fruit wine.
Cassis, or black currants, contain more vitamin C than any other fruit and they have had medicinal properties ascribed to them for centuries. The formula for Creme de Cassis was developed in the mid-nineteenth century by a producer of liqueurs in Dijon, France, site of the famous vineyards of Burgundy. The liqueur became well known and production spread rapidly until, by 1873, there were some 750 acres planted on the high slopes of the Cote d'Or. Dijon became the most famous and important, although not the only, cassis producing region in France.
Production Standards : The fruit is harvested in late June and July, crushed, and placed in oak vats with neutral spirits to macerate for several months. Since the fruit and its juice are delicate, the final blending in of sugar and water is not done until just before bottling. Alcoholic content must be at least 15% (30o proof) and it is typically bottled at 16-18% (32-36o proof). In some cases it may even be as high as 50o proof. Because the alcohol level is relatively low and due to the delicacy of the fruit, Creme de Cassis is more perishable than are other liqueurs and should be consumed reasonably quickly. It can decline in the bottle and when it is opened, it should be finished within a few weeks.
Sensory Standards : It will be very sweet with an intense black- currant flavor. The body will be quite full and this, with the flavor intensity, should provide for a well-balanced beverage and reduce the sweetness perception. The color is a very dark red- black.
Uses of Creme de Cassis : The classic drink is "Kir", which is creme de Cassis mixed with white wine. A little Cassis is poured in the glass and then the glass is filled with white wine. The traditional proportion is four parts wine to one part cassis but it really depends on personal tastes. A popular variation is "Kir Royale", the same drink made with a sparkling wine. In Burgundy, Kir goes by the unlikely name of "rince cochon", which translates as pig rinse.
: The flavor comes primarily from the peel of the bitter orange. The most famous ones are grown on the Island of Curaçao, in the southern Caribbean, just off Venezuela. It is marketed in three colors, orange, clear, and blue. The latter is one of the more unusual cordial colors and is used to make the drink called "blue tailed fly." 54-80o proof.
: This is a grapefruit flavored liqueur, which uses brandy as the spirit base and is red-brown in color. 64o proof.
: Originally made in Danzig, Germany near the end of the sixteenth century and still considered a German specialty, Goldwasser is unusual in that it contains tiny particles of gold leaf. Its flavor is derived primarily from orange peel with other ingredients (coriander is an important one) used to add complexity. Goldwasser is clear and bottled at 80o proof.
: Along with Cointreau, the most famous of the orange liqueur brands. It is prepared with orange peels using Cognac brandy as a base. The oranges used are the bitter variety from Haiti; no sweet oranges are used in the formula. The mixture is aged in oak casks prior to bottling. The formula created in 1880 is still followed today. The firm which makes Grand Marnier, Marnier-Lapostelle, also produces a limited amount of Cognac under their own name. Grand Marnier is light amber in color and is marketed at 80o proof.
Grangala Liqueur (Stock)
: Triple orange liqueur imported from Italy. A blend of Italian brandy and orange flavors. Can be served straight, on-the-rocks, in margaritas or in food recipes.
Hussong's Tequila Rose
: Imported cream liqueur bottled in the U.S. A mixture of strawberry cream liqueur and tequila. The tequila is very subtle and really only gives a spirit flavor to the liqueur. The strawberry and cream flavors are predominate and the brand tastes more like a strawberry milkshake than a tequila based liqueur.
: A mandarine is a tangerine and the liqueurs are brandy based, tangerine flavored and colored bright orange. 80o proof.
: Made from Dalmatian Marasca cherries. The cherry stones are used in the distillation processes and give the liqueur a cherry-almond flavor. It is clear and is made from neutral spirits. Proofs range from 60 to 80o.
: A Japanese melon liquor made from the honeydew and using neutral spirits for a base. It is ice green in color and bottled at 46o proof. Good mixed with fruit juice and mixers.
: See apricot and cherry liqueurs.
Peachtree Schnapps (DeKuyper)
: Peach flavored cordial made in the U.S. Schnapps is traditionally clear, light to the taste, low in proof, and contains a lower sugar content than other cordials. Good mixed with fruit juice such as orange juice to mix a 'Fuzzy Navel'. Aromas and flavors of nothing but ripe peaches.
: Probably the best known of the cherry liqueurs. It is made in Denmark and was formerly known in the United States as Cherry Heering. It is fairly low in alcohol (49o proof) and has an intense ripe cherry flavor with a hint of almond and spices. Aged for three years. No artificial colors or flavorings are used.
: See apricot and cherry liqueurs.
: Fruit-flavored liqueur based on Rémy Martin Cognac.
Rock and Rye
: An American cordial made from rye whisky and neutral spirits and fruit-whisky flavored. It is gold-brown colored and is made by a number of producers. 60-70o proof.
: As mentioned in the gin section, this is a cordial, not a gin. The flavor comes from the sloe berry, a wild plum. Neutral spirits are the spirit base and the cordial is red colored. 42- 60o proof.
: The most famous American whisky cordial, it is made from bourbon and flavored with fruits, primarily peaches. The color is gold and it is made at two proof strengths: 80 and 100o. Originated in the late 1800's as a drink called a Cuffs & Buttons, made from bourbon and peach liqueur in which fresh peaches were marinated. The peach taste made the bourbon much more palatable to those that did not like straight whiskey. It also has citrus and orange overtones and is not too sweet.
: See Apricot and cherry liqueurs.
: A blend of 100% blue agave tequila and citrus flavors.
: Triple secs are basically white Curaçaos. They are made by nearly all cordial/liqueur manufacturers and come in proofs ranging from 60 to 80o.
Villa Massa Lemon Liqueur
: Lemon Liqueur imported from Sorrento, Italy. Made from the peels of fresh lemons and sugar, it's ingredients are all natural. Aromas and flavors of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Moderately tart with enough sweetness. Crisp aftertaste with a slight herbal twist. Best served neat directly from the freezer as a after dinner drink but can also be used in a variety of drink recipes.
Miscellaneous Cordials & Liqueurs
Aunt Bea's Butterscotch Cream
: American butterscotch cream liqueur. The recipe originated in Branson, Missouri. Tastes like butterscotch pudding.
: Blended Canadian whiskey with natural citrus flavors. Pale yellow color. Aromas of lemon. Flavors of whiskey and lemon, similar to adding a lemon twist to a glass of C.C., but more balanced. Those who don't normally drink whiskey may find this more appealing than straight whiskey. 'Kindred Spirits' gives it a *** (recommended) rating.
: Aperitif imported from Italy. Aromas of fruit pits and botanicals. Slightly bitter flavors of fruit. An aromatized wine which means that it has a red wine base with sweeteners and herbs added. Also, quinine has been added and is evident in the bouquet and the finish. Serve with an orange slice to complement the flavor.
E&J Cask & Cream
: E&J Brandy blended with sweet cream. The first spirit to combine the brandy/cognac category with the cordial liqueur category.
Patron XO Café
: Aged Patron tequila and Mexican coffee.
: Imported liqueur. Reddish color. The original gin sling, which is a cocktail made with gin, sugar, and lemon juice. Pimm's Cup has the same flavors as the cocktail: gin, sugar and lemon.
San Francisco Cookies N Cream
: American cream liqueur. Made with real cream and a light chocolate cookie flavor. Winner of the Gold medal Award from the Chefs in America Foundation. May be served chilled, on the rocks or in a 'Mudslide.'
: American cordial made in Vermont. A blend of spices, real Vermont maple syrup, and aged bourbon. Can be served hot in coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider. Also served cold in orange juice or eggnog.
Most cordials and liqueurs, like distilled spirits, are basically inert products, and storage does not present many problems. Exceptions include products such as Creme de Cassis from Burgundy, or any Creme de Cassis made in the Burgundian style. Due to the low alcohol content and delicacy of the fruit it is more perishable than other liqueurs and should not be stored too long. It is not necessary to hold under refrigeration when unopened but it should be stored in a cool area. After opening, it should be consumed fairly quickly, within a few weeks and should probably be stored refrigerated.
Another exception would be the creams. They, due to the use of fresh cream in the formulas and the fairly low alcohol content, about 34o, are less stable than other cordials and the storage time should be reduced. The manufacturers of such products claim a shelf life of over a year so the beverage operator does not have to take extreme storage measures; they simply should watch the turnover of these products a little more carefully than with the others. Some authorities recommend holding under refrigeration after they are opened.
Other than these exceptions, cordials and liqueurs are quite stable. They do not have, in general, as much alcohol as do distilled spirits, but they have sugar in moderate to very high levels, and this acts as a preservative. Storage location, beyond the aspects of security and convenience, is not important, nor is the storage time. Length of storage will be dictated by the financial consideration of inventory turnover, not by constraints from the products themselves.
Cordials and liqueurs, like brandies, are usually served in specialized glassware. The most common is the cordial or "pony" glass, a small glass holding from one to one and one-half ounces, with or without a service line etched on it. Small brandy snifters, of from four to five ounces, are also appropriate for many cordials.
The spectacular cordial drink, the Poussé cafe, made of several layers of different colored and flavored cordials, is served in a tall, slender glass which is usually flared open at the top. The traditional way to prepare this drink is to add the cordials in reverse order of their specific gravity and lay the lighter one carefully on top of the heavier one. If the specific gravity, a measure of the solids or sugar content, of two cordials is at least 0.1% apart, the liqueurs will layer without mixing, at least in theory, for this is a difficult drink to prepare. Bartenders will assemble the succeeding layers by pouring the cordial slowly over the back of a small spoon or over a cork held in place at the end of an ice pick. The idea is to diffuse the liqueur as it is poured so that it can gently layer itself on the previous one.
An ingenious device developed by the Bols Company reverses the order in which the liqueurs are poured. The lightest one is added first through a small, funnel-like apparatus with an extensible tube. As the succeeding heavier cordials are added, they push up the lighter layer on the bottom. This process is continued until the drink is completed. A Poussé cafe may be finished with a thin layer of warmed brandy on the top which is then flamed. The companies which produce complete lines of cordials can supply a list of the specific gravities of their products. Armed with this, and a little imagination, a skilled bartender can prepare an interesting variety of drinks.
Cordials are typically used as after dinner drinks but they have great value in the preparation of many mixed drinks and their use in the kitchen should not be overlooked. Because of their sweetness and, in particular with the fruit based products, they are widely used in dessert preparations. Creme de Menthe parfaits, Grand Marnier soufflés, and fruit cakes are just a few examples of the literally limitless ways in which cordials can be used by creative cooks and chefs.
The Bärenjäger Story
They say my ancestors originally came from East Prussia. I am called Bärenjäger or Bärenfang (meaning Bear Hunter or Bear Trap). The reason I was given this name is that you can use my main ingredient, honey, to catch bears. I have a long history, my ancestors were a mixture of honey, herbs, and fermented drinks. Every beekeeper and farmer had their own closely guarded recipe for making "Meschkinnes", as the mixture was known then. Let’s talk about me. I’m the Bärenjäger with the beehive top – and that’s not the only reason I am unique. I’m made according to a secret recipe from the old Bear trap factory in Königsberg, Teacake & Queuing. A blend of Vodka, honey and a few other bare necessities which I cannot reveal. I mix well in cold drinks and hot drinks, can be an extra special ingredient in your recipes. Use me instead of honey to give your favorite recipe a little extra kick. What follows is a selection of a few drinks and dishes where I play an important part. I hope you enjoy them!