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Popular Cordials and Liqueurs

If you’re familiar with the “spirit world”, you know that a cordial or liqueur is a very strongly-flavored drink that’s meant to be consumed in small amounts after dinner. These delightful little drinks are generally high in both alcohol (usually between 15 and 50%) and sugar (usually 2.5% sugar and higher) and are flavored with fruits, nuts, or herbs.
The sweetness makes them quite palatable and the variety of flavors available also makes them interesting to drink. And in addition to drinking cordials or liqueurs straight, generally in a small shot glass either straight or over ice, liqueurs can be used in mixed drinks to provide additional flavoring. There are some liqueurs that can also be mixed with a cup of java, forming popular hot drinks like Irish Coffee.

The terms “liqueur” and “cordial” can be used interchangeably but sometimes “cordial” is used to describe those concoctions that are made with fruit juice. Basically, however, there is no difference between the two. But some cordials and liqueurs differ in the way they are produced. Some liqueurs are made via the infusion method, which involves infusing certain flavors (fruits, flowers, woods) in water or alcohol and then adding sugar and other ingredients. Others are distilled from flavoring or aromatic agents in a process similar to how whiskey and rum are made.

History shows that liqueurs date back to ancient times and may have descended from the herbal medicines produced by the monks. A good example of that is the popular liqueur known as Benedictine, which may date to around the 13th century.
Today, cordials and liqueurs are popular with all ages and you’re just as likely to find them being served after a big holiday dinner at home as well as in a trendy bar that attracts young professionals. Here are some favorites:

o Amaretto – This amber-colored liqueur is flavored with almond. It is quite sweet when consumed straight but is enjoyed by many in that form. It’s also great in hot coffee and mixed with other spirits.

o Anisette – This is a good example of a liqueur flavored with an herb, in this case – anise. Its taste is best described as akin to black licorice. Popular in Italian families, it is usually consumed straight.

o Coffee liqueur (like Kahlua or Kapali) – These liqueurs are flavored with coffee beans and indeed taste like coffee. They are excellent when mixed with cream and/or with other spirits. The popular White Russian, for example, includes vodka, Kahlua, and light cream.

o Creme de Cacao – A favorite with anyone who likes chocolate, this cordial is available in a white or dark form and can be used in dozens upon dozens of drinks.

o Creme de Framboises – This cordial is flavored with raspberries and can be found under the name Chambord or Chateau Monet, for example. It is wonderful when mixed with champagne or can be used in a margarita or daiquiri. It tends to be a bit on the expensive side.

o Creme de Menthe – Flavored with peppermint (and sometimes a mixture of mints), crème de menthe is available in white or green and is used in popular drinks like the Grasshopper, Bullfrog, Girl Scout (think Thin Mint cookies), and the After Eight.

o Curacao – A fruit-flavored cordial that is infused from dried orange peels, Curacao can be purchased in orange or blue, the latter of which makes it a novel product for mixed drinks.

o Irish Cream – Made from cream and Irish whiskey, this liqueur is often consumed straight or over ice but is wonderful when mixed with coffee.
o Limoncello – This excellent Italian cordial is flavored from lemons and is produced in Italy’s Amalfi Coast area, near Sorrento, where it is generally consumed on its own after a hearty meal.

o Rock and Rye – This is a rye whiskey-based liqueur but it also contains fruit flavors and rock candy syrup, hence its name. Totally American, it can be mixed with a variety of other spirits. Look for the piece of rock candy in the bottom of the bottle!

o Triple Sec – Similar to Curacao but containing less alcohol, this light orange-flavored liqueur is most often used in margaritas.