What makes a liqueur?

If you are searching for an alcoholic beverage that is sweet and full of different types of flavour, then the drink you are looking for is liqueur!

Not to be confused with liquor, which is just another word for spirits or alcoholic beverages, liqueur is a strong, sweet alcoholic beverage that is usually enjoyed after a meal or dessert.

The drinks are heavily sweetened and flavoured to suite different preferences – chocolate, strawberry and caramel are popular flavours.

The history of Liqueurs

Some time ago, liqueurs were referred to as cordials or schnapps. Some liqueurs have a history that stretches centuries back due to their early use for medicinal purposes. They are generally strong alcoholic beverages made of almost neutral spirits, then favoured with herbs, fruits, spices, nuts, cream or other materials then sweetened.

Liqueurs were produced in Italy in the 13th Century. Chartreuse; one of the early liqueurs was developed by monks from an ancient recipe, and is the only liqueur in the world that is naturally green in colour.

 Chartreuse as well as Benedictine; the first popular herbal liqueurs, were used as remedies for various ailments by monks who specialised in alchemy.

What defines a Liqueur?

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When it comes to alcohol content in liqueurs, they generally run lower than other alcoholic beverages, but not all the time. Alcohol content can range from 15% to 55%, thus potency is not a distinguishing factor for this drink.

Liqueurs need to be heavily sweetened and have either a fruity, spicy, floral, nutty or creamy flavour. They are un-aged beyond a resting period during their production when necessary so that their flavours can mingle.

They come in a wide range of flavours like coffee and orange, there are also various cream liqueurs such as crème liqueur and Baileys Irish Cream which are a lot sweeter than normal liqueurs and considered alcoholic syrup.

There are at least four different methods to create liqueurs; extraction, distillation, infusion or smoke. Each method can pull out a different type of flavour.

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