Liqueurs are flavored and sweetened, often colored spirits. They are also known as cordials. Liqueurs should contain sugar at least 2-2.5% by volume whereas cream or crème liqueurs should contain 2.5%-10% of sugar by volume. The name comes from the Latin word liquefacere which means to dissolve or melt- this is the manner by which a number of liqueurs acquire their flavors.
It was said that liqueurs originated in Europe by the monks over there during 13th century. Monks used to make herbal medicine by mixing with alcohol, thus it entered the market. In 1533, a girl named Catherine de Medici daughter of an Italian monk married Henry- 2 of France and gave all secret recipes of making liqueurs. Thus France takes the pride of introducing liqueurs to the world. In 1575, Mr. Lucas bols started his distillery to produce liqueur in Holland, the bols distillery till now delivers the best quality liqueurs to the world.
All liqueurs are made from secret recipes, each formula a closely guarded secret. However, there are usually four definable elements in most liqueurs.
• Basic spirit
• Raw materials for flavoring
• Sugar for sweetening
• Color when required
Categories of Liqueurs
• Fruit liqueurs- Flavored with any fruit except citrus fruits
• Citrus liqueurs- Flavored with peels of citrus fruits
• Herb Liqueurs
• Bean & Kernel liqueurs- Beans, nuts and Kernels are used.
• Cream liqueurs
• Either the whole fruit or the part of the fruit is used.
• Fruit liqueurs are labelled as Creme eg. Creme de Cassis.
• These are fairly low in alcohol
• These were first used for the medicinal purposes.
• These liqueurs are flavoured with a combination of herbs with no one flavour being predominant.
• These are fairly high on the alcohol content.
Examples : Benedictine, Chartreuse
Seeds and Nuts
• A single flavour predominates
• The alcohol used as spirit base must be as pure as possible.
• Manner of distillation and degree of rectification determine purity of spirit.
• Most liqueurs have a neutral or a grain spirit base though whisky, rum, grape brandy, cognac, fruit spirit or rice spirit are often used.
• Main ingredients are fresh dairy cream and spirit which are flavoured and sweetened.
• Most are 34 v/v
This consists of one of the following:
• Neutral spirit
• Fruit eau de vie
• Rice spirit
The raw materials elements consist of:
• Herbs: basil, cocoa leaves, herb ivy, hyssop, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, tea leaves, thyme and wormwood
• Barks and woods: angostura, cinchona, cinnamon, myrrh, sandal wood.
• Drugs and roots: alant, angelica, calamus, celery, cloves, galangal, gentian, ginger, henna, liquorice, lovage, orris root, rhubarb, turmeric, valerian and zedoary.
• Flowers: ivy, lavender, lily, rose petals, saffron and violets.
• Seeds: allspice, angelica seeds, aniseed, cactus, cardamom, caraway, cumin, celery seeds, cocoa, coffee, coriander, dill, fennel, hazelnuts, mace, nutmeg, peppers, pimentos and vanilla.
• Fruit: apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, black currants, cherries, dates, grape fruit, lemons, mandarins, melons, oranges, peaches, pine apples, plums, raisins, raspberries and strawberries.
• Dairy product: cream, milk
Beet sugar, sugar syrup or honey is the sweeteners used.
• Liqueurs are sweetened with sugar syrup after blending is completed.
• Most liqueurs contain 35% -40% sweetener.
• Liqueurs containing 2.5% to 10% sugar come in the dry range.
• Liqueurs with large amount of sugar are often called cremes.
• Honey particularly heather honey, is used in many liqueurs like Drambuie.
Although some liqueurs, for example fruit liqueurs, show their natural colors and others are marketed colorless, most are artificially colored with natural vegetable matter for psychological and commercial reasons.
• Addition of sugar syrup
• The flavoring agent must be extracted from the natural substance, to use the essential oil as an ingredient.
• There are four methods of extraction:
Pressure: Agents like citrus fruits are pressed to extract the essential oils. This method is also used when the flavoring agents are seeds, barks etc.
Maceration: The crushed fruit is steeped in cold spirit. It is a high proof alcohol to extract flavours.
Infusion: also known as steeping, soaking or maceration, the ingredients, usually soft fruits are crushed and steeped in the base spirit, normally brandy, for six to nine months. The process can be speeded up if the brandy is heated but generally cold, slow maceration gives the best results. The spirit extracts aroma, color and flavor from the fruit. It is kept in a maturing vat for another year then , after further filtering and perhaps color adjustment, it is bottled for sale.
Percolation: this works on the principle of a coffee percolator. The apparatus has two levels; the base spirit is put into bottom level and the flavoring agents- usually herbs, seeds, spices and plants- are placed in the top level. The hot or cold spirit is continually pumped upward to mingle and merge with the flavor agents, extracting aroma and flavor with each visit. This is repeated for weeks until all the flavors and essential oils have been extracted. The product will be filtered and rested in vats to mature for varying periods. It will be sweetened with sugar syrup or honey and perhaps artificially colored with natural vegetable coloring matter before being bottled.
the flavoring agents, often called botanicals- plants, seeds, roots and herbs- are soaked usually in brandy for up to 48 hours. Afterwards, the mash, with a supplement of brandy, is put in a pot still. Heat is applied and the resultant flavored distillate- always colorless- is sweetened and often artificially colored. Sometimes a method based on vaporization is preferred. The spirit is heated and the alcoholic vapors rise to permeate through a basket of botanicals which is suspended in the upper half of the apparatus. The vapors become infused with the flavors and are condensed into a colorless, highly flavored liquid. This is sweetened, filtered and usually artificially colored.
Once the ingredients have been assembled the compounder blends them in strict sequence.
Most liqueur companies keep this sequence and the recipes strictly guarded secrets.
Liqueurs must be allowed to rest. The finest liqueurs are matured in oak casks, which assist in mellowing the liquid.
5. Sweetening and colouring
Sweetening agent is added according to the style and sweetness required. Liqueurs are coloured to harmonize with the flavour.
Any suspended matter in the liquid must be removed by fining. The fining process is similar to fining wine.
Spirit is added to liqueur to bring it to the correct alcoholic strength, if necessary. All liqueurs are given a final filtration to ensure star bright clarity before bottling.
Some famous liqueurs
• Original Absinthe was first created in 1792 as a medicine to treat malaria. The essential flavouring came from the bitter root of the “wormwood” plant however; manufacturers substituted aniseed for the original flavouring due to narcotic effect of wormwood.
• It is a very dry, bitter drink with high alcoholic content.
• Anisette & Pernod are all well known substitutes.
• Made by a company founded in 1863 near the ruins of Benedictine Abbey of Fecamp.
• Secret recipe includes cinnamon, cardamom, angelica, and seventeen other iingredients.
• The liqueur golden, highly aromatized and very sweet.
• D.O.M. Stands for - Deo Optimo Maximo - To God, Most Good Most Great.
• B&B developed in 1930’s is a rich dry blend of benedictine and brandy.
• Originally the name for an orange flavoured liqueur, made from the dried peels of green oranges from the Island Of Curacao off the coast of Venezuela.
• Sweet digestive liqueur now made from grape spirit, sugar and orange peels.
• The name is now applies to all orange liqueurs.
• After infusion, spirit is distilled - if resulting liquor undergoes rectification it becomes Triple Sec Curacao which is then sweetened and coloured.
• Drambuie comes from the Gaelic phrase- “ An Dram Buidheach” ‘A drink that satisfies’
• Original recipe was given by Bonnie Prince Charlie - and the liqueur is still made by the Mackinnon family of Edinburgh.
• Made from a base of fine single malt scotch to which are added heather honey and herbs.
• It is the oldest whisky liqueur.
• A golden yellow Herb liqueur packaged in a tall fluted bottle.
• It is produced in Milan -Italy.
• Named after Captain Giuseppe Galliano who distinguished himself during the Italian-Abyssinian war in 1896.
• Liqueur is made in a modern plant and aged in glass tanks for six months before being bottled.
• It is one of the world’s most famous liqueurs.
• A French Curacao invented in 1880, it is a blend of the finest cognacs with wild bitter oranges from the tropics.
• The bottle has a red ribbon, traditional seal and a unique shape.
• There are two versions - Cordon Jaune and Cordon Rouge.
• It is a popular liqueur with definite digestive properties.Made in Holland since 1575.
• It has in its base some highly distilled / almost neutral spirit.
• It is flavored with caraway seeds.
• Varieties- Kummel Allash, Kummel Riga and Gilka Kummel from Berlin.
• Always water white and served over ice.
• White Italian liqueur.
• Produced from distillation of sour marasca cherries including the crushed kernels.
• Originally the cherries came from Italian Dalmatia, now in former Yugoslavia.
Types of liqueur: