THE SWEET SPIRIT: LIQUEUR
The liqueur spirits should not be confused with liquors. While liquors refer to a wide range of alcoholic beverages, liqueur is a very specific type of sweetened spirit. Many regulatory bodies have stated that liqueur must have at least 100 grams of sugar per ounce, making it a very sweet and sometimes syrupy drink.
Liqueur is sometimes referred to as Schnapps or cordial depending on where it was made. Schnapps is mainly a German word for liqueur while cordial varies in use around Europe as either a syrupy, non-alcoholic beverage or else a sweet, alcoholic liqueur.
HOW IS LIQUEUR MADE?
There are a variety of ways that liqueurs can be produced, but the basic process requires distilling a base spirit and adding in flavors and sweeteners. Most liqueurs are not aged, but sometimes they will be allowed to rest for a short time at some point in the process to properly blend the flavors together.
Many liqueurs are made with familiar base spirits such as brandy, rum, cognac, or whiskey distilled to create the mix. Liqueurs are usually given their name, or type, based on what was used to flavor and sweeten the beverage, which can help you to identify the right drink to try or not to try simply by the title.
DESCRIBING A LIQUEUR
As these spirits are made in many different parts of the world, there is no standard set of rules for defining the taste of a liqueur. The biggest deciding factor about what you’ll see on the label of a liqueur bottle is the type of liqueur, as this will hint at the base ingredients used to make it.
Otherwise, you may see familiar wine terms such as “dry” or “sweet”, or you may see a type of spirit listed as the base of the blend, such as brandy or rum.
TYPES OF LIQUEURS
These liqueurs are quite popular around the world. Usually the key to making an excellent coffee liqueur is to use a rich, aromatic, high quality blend of coffee for the flavoring. You won’t find any good coffee type liqueurs made with instant coffee powder. A lot of the popular brands of coffee liqueurs are paired with flavors like vanilla or a light chocolate taste to make a sweet blend.
You can find this type of liqueurs in three different subcategories: chocolate, chocolate cream, and crème de cacao. Each of these subcategories can help you to find the most appealing drink more easily, as they will give a better description of what’s in the drink or what the texture is like. Chocolate liqueurs simply feature a main chocolate flavor; chocolate cream liqueur has a chocolate flavor with a creamy texture; crème de cacao is usually syrupy and sweet with a chocolate cacao flavoring. This type of liqueur sometimes incorporates tastes of vanilla or sweet fruits, using either dark chocolate or milk chocolate flavor bases.
Berries make a great flavor base for a sweet drink. Many berries are naturally sweet already and make a rich base to work with. Any berry can be used, but some of the most popular brands use black currants, raspberries (red or black), or strawberries. Some mixes pair these flavors with honey or other natural sweeteners.
The trick to making a memorable cream liqueur seems to be choosing the best base spirit. You’ll find all sorts here from spiced rums to strong whiskies or aged brandy. Many cream liqueurs simply blend together the cream ingredients and the base spirit without any other additives, although you can also find cream liqueurs with sweet and spices mixes of vanilla, cinnamon, or citrusy flavors.
Fruits other than berries are popular for use in flavoring liqueurs. As with the berry liqueurs, it is mainly the naturally sweet fruits that are used instead of bitter or sour fruits, with the occasional exceptions of lemon and lime. You may find peaches, cherries, and even bananas as the base flavors for fruit liqueurs.
Nutty almond flavors are popular to blend into liqueurs. They make an earthier and richer taste when mixed with a strong base spirit. When sweetened, nut liqueurs have a great balance between the sugar and the base.
Some of the most popular bases for these types of liqueurs can include rose petals and anise. They are both relatively common ingredients in other types of alcohol, but they can taste wonderful when mixed with the sweetness of a liqueur. You can find a wide variety of herb flavorings as the bases for liqueurs.
FINDING THE BEST LIQUEURS
Whatever your tastes, you’re sure to find a sweet liqueur to match what you like. Make sure you pay attention to what the base flavoring is, as this will be the standout flavor to appear when you sip the drink!