Liquor & SpiritsLiqueurs & Cordials
Liqueurs (or cordials) are flavored, sweetened spirits. The terms liqueurand cordial are often used interchangeably. Both are made by combining orredistilling spirits with one or more aromatic flavorings, but there aresubtle differences. Cordials are typically made from fruit pulp or juices.Liqueurs, however, can be flavored with herbs, nuts, seeds, roots, spices,chocolate and even plants, including their flowers. For simplicity, we willconsider liqueur and cordial as one in the same.
Produced throughout the world, liqueurs have concentrated flavors that areusually intensely sweet. By definition, they must contain at least 2 1/2% sugar by weight but many contain up to 35% of a sweetening agent. In fact,liqueurs with up to 10% sugar may be labeled " dry"".
Generic liqueurs are those produced and marketed by many suppliers underthe same universally used name such as sambuca, triple sec and amaretto.But even among generic liqueurs, brand names are prominent. Proprietaryliqueurs are usually produced from a closely garded formula and sold undera trademarked name by only one producer. Famous proprietary liqueurs includeKahlua, Di Saronno Amaretto, Chambord and Romana Sambuca.
Medieval alchemists created the earliest liqueurs and their elixirs wereintended to stimulate the appetite or digestion, to sip as love potionsand to take as cure-alls for a litany of ailments. Several liqueurs arestill made from ancient closely gaurded recipes whose origins are shroudedin mystery. including Benedictine, which was first produced by the BenedictineMonks over 400 yrs ago. It is said to this day, monks are sent to foragein the fields, each to gather one specific herb or root. Although some mayknow the ingredient list, know one knows the exact recipe except the abbot,who selects and measures the assembled herbs and roots according to theancient formula. Complex and explosive on the tongue, Benedictine can seemtoo herbal and medicinal for today's tastes, and many people prefer insteadto drink B&B, a combination of Benedictine and brandy. Drambuie andFrangelico hold a similar folklore.
Many liqueurs are fairly low in alcohol-60 proof (30%)-or less (generally,more sweet=low alcohol) but even the most potent are smooth, unctuous, anddelightfully easy to sip. They can be made anywhere that spirits are distilledand their variety is formidable.