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When we think of liqueurs, our minds are usually drawn back to some of our very earliest drinking experiences – namely college or even, high school.

Sweet, sticky and sold in glass bottles to show off their decadent colours, Liqueurs are generally considered to please both the young and the sweet-toothed.

Liqueur’s History

Historically, the liqueur’s origins are as far removed from the beach resort restaurants and ice cream cocktails that they are so readily associated with today.

Originally produced by monks in the twelfth century, the first incarnation of liqueur involved fermenting distilled spirits with sugar with flowers and herbal flavourings which resulted in the liqueur’s signature slightly medicinal flavour.

Liqueurs are more versatile than most people think, and are sold all over the world in different guises and for very different things.

For example, liqueurs like the sweet almond flavoured Amaretto and the herbal, slightly medicinal-tasting Chartreuse (still made by Carthusian Monks in France) are so inexplicably different that is near impossible to think of these drinks as in the same alcoholic classification.

Although like fortified wines and other aperitifs; liqueurs are generally milder tasting and less acrid than drinks like sherry or other dessert wine.

Owing to this sweet, slightly viscose and fruit or cream based flavours; liqueurs are also popular when accompanying desserts or cream based cocktails.

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Firstly Fruit

Fruit-based liqueurs are generally sweeter and more suited to a party atmosphere. Aftershock, coming in a variety of flavours, are synonymous with partying and are best served neat, over ice and are generally drunk as quickly as possible (if at all).

With the main flavourings coming from fruit, these sorts of liqueurs are very high in sugar, or even high fructose corn syrup.

These are fantastic as a shot of colour and sweetness to a cocktail or with mixers, with the most notable fruit-based or citrus liqueurs including Cointreau and Curaçao which are both infused with orange, Limoncello (lemon), Chambord (raspberries) and Midori which is famously green and is flavoured with watermelon.

Herbal and Floral

Herbal liqueurs are the original liqueurs, made throughout Europe and were the first incarnation of this type of drink.

With their strong, very distinctive taste, herbal liqueurs are usually served neat and are sipped as an aperitif, after a large meal.

Popular and notable herbal liqueurs include monastery-made Chartreuse, cinnamon spiced Jägermeister and aniseed flavoured Sambuca.

Creamy liqueurs

These types of liqueurs are far more versatile and have seemingly shaken off their unfashionable association with their herbal, medicinal namesakes.

Coffee liqueurs, which can be added to both milk and soft drink mixers, have been enjoying a reprieve.

Whilst Kahlua remains the most popular coffee-based sweet liqueur; artisan coffee producers are also starting to play around with this idea, creating cold press coffee liqueurs, which make the perfect espresso martini.

Another firm favourite with cream or fruit mixers are almond based liqueurs like Amaretto. Almond liqueurs are incredibly versatile, adding depth of flavour to everything from coffee, soft drinks fruit juice, cocktails and even desserts.

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Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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