The word Liqueur comes from the Latin liquifacere (“to liquefy”). This might seem a bit obvious or perhaps redundant as Liqueurs, as we know them, are clearly beverages. However, when understood in the context of the earliest Liqueurs it makes complete sense. It was medicine that was being liquefied. Herbal preparations, often made by monks, were the ideal way to preserve the essential oils of medicinal herbs and spices. Sugar was added to make the medicine more palatable. We can find evidence of these early Liqueurs in text dating to the 12th century and it is likely that they are older than this.
Today, Liqueurs come from nearly every alcohol-producing nation. Many of these styles and even the brands have been around for centuries while new styles are being created every year. They come in an amazing array of colors and in varying degrees of sweetness. Liqueurs capture the essence of herbs and spices, nuts, fruits, and dairy. Liqueurs diversity is rivaled only by their versatility.
Liqueurs defy definition but we will do so anyway. Liqueurs are Spirits based beverages that have added flavors. Typically this is achieved with an infusion or a simple maceration (like steeping tea). Both methods usually involve the addition of sugar to varying degrees. You will at times see Liqueurs and cordials used synonymously. This use of cordial is not only antiquated, it’s simply wrong.
BevX Stories on Liqueurs
Check out this story on Our Love of Liqueurs.
Check out this story on Crème de menthe.