What is Liqueur?
Liqueur is a drink composed of spirits and flavorings. Often served in small quantities as a digestif - a dessert drink - it can also be used as an ingredient for delicious cocktails. Thousands of variations of liqueur exist, with flavorings such as sugar, herbs, cream and chocolate, making liqueurs usually taste quite sweet. Liqueurs are made by infusing flavors in alcohol, such as wood and fruit, and then adding sugar, however, some liqueurs are made by distilling flavoring agents.
Where does it originate?
Liqueurs were originally believed to have medicinal properties, and have a long history of being used as cures for diseases such as smallpox and the plague, creating a belief that they were some kind of elixir. These “elixirs” were originally made by steeping herbs in alcohol, and later made from black currants or other berries. In the mediaeval times, flavored liqueurs were sometimes applied to wounds, but were most commonly used to cure a fever. In order to make them tastier, these concoctions were sweetened, which eventually led to the casual consumption of liqueur, rather than it being treated as medicinal. This also allowed many to sweeten their alcohol in order to disguise its poor quality. Up until the 19th century, it was common for liqueurs to be home brewed, often made from garden herbs and fruits.
Types of liqueur
As mentioned before, liqueur can come in a very large variety of flavors, making it arguably one of the most diverse fields of alcohol. Some flavors include coffee, fruits, nuts, herbs and even vegetables! Cream based liqueurs are also very common; Bailey’s Liqueur is a very famous example. Crème liqueurs are very sweet and syrupy liqueurs that actually contain no cream, but are much sweeter than regular liqueurs.
There are many well known brands of liqueurs. As mentioned before, Bailey’s is an Irish, cream based liqueur made from whiskey, cocoa and Irish cream. It was introduced in 1974, and since then has come out more flavour variations, such as Biscoff and Pumpkin Spice. Furthermore, another well known brand of liqueur is Schnapps, a clear herbal liqueur. As well as this, Kahlua is a coffee based liqueur. Other famous liqueurs include Amaro, Cointreau, Campari, Amaretto and more.
What are its uses?
Firstly, liqueurs are most commonly used in cocktails. Liqueurs are often used in smaller amounts than the base ingredient of a cocktail. Espresso martinis are a delicious example as they contain a coffee based liqueur, such as Kahlua. Affogato cocktails also contain a coffee based liqueur. Aperol spritz is a drink named after the Aperol liqueur, a specific liqueur called an aperitif - a liqueur designed to be sipped before a meal.
Secondly, liqueurs can be drunk straight, or used in other meals and drinks. As mentioned previously, they can be drunk before or after a meal, as an aperitif or a digestif, and can be consumed neat or with ice. Liqueur can be added to coffee, most commonly a cream based liqueur. Lastly, some dessert recipes call for liqueur, like an Amaretto Pound cake, which contains cherry liqueur.
What drinks can I make with Liqueur?
Bailey’s is a great liqueur as it can be used to make a large variation of cocktails. One of the most notable is a Bailey’s martini. In contrast to its name, the Bailey’s martini is closer to a dessert cocktail than a bitter martini and is made using Vodka, Bailey’s and creme de cocoa, and can be topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup - the perfect dessert cocktail!
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Jagermeister is a herb liqueur most iconically known for the mixed drink, Jagerbomb. Incorrectly called a shot, this drink is made by dropping a shot of Jagermeister in a glass of Red Bull.
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Campari is a liqueur made of herbs that is considered to be an aperitif. A well known drink that contains campari is a Negroni Sbagliato, a twist on the classic Negroni. This dark, smooth drink is made with Campari, Sweet Vermouth and sparkling wine, in place of gin.
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As mentioned before, Kahlua is a coffee based liqueur that is commonly used in Espresso Martinis. This sweet, cold cocktail is made using Kahlua, espresso, and vodka, and makes for the perfect evening drink, as that caffeine will keep you chatting all night long.