Liqueurs are the supporting cast of cocktails. However, they're more than capable of standing on their own and being the star of the show.
Liqueurs: What They Are
Like many spirits throughout history, liqueurs were originally invented and used for their medicinal properties. However, the recipes we use today are a result of their original ingredients and processes changing over time.
Today, we drink liqueurs that are a product of distilled spirits with added fruits, sugar, herbs, and a wide variety of spices. These spirits have evolved beyond functioning solely as mixers. They can be enjoyed neat, like butterscotch schnapps, or on the rocks, like tequila rose, just as well as they do in cocktails, regardless of whether or not there are additional spirits.
The Varieties of Liqueurs
In a liquor store, you'll find a variety of liqueurs: berry, chocolate or dessert, coffee, cream, floral, fruit, herbal, honey, and nut. This doesn't even include whiskey liqueurs, aperitifs, or digestifs.
With so many flavors and mixes available, you can enjoy liqueurs straight or mixed.
Not all liqueurs are suitable for sipping, but there are quite a few that are a delicious cocktail all on their own, such as Galliano. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your journey.
In case you prefer a dessert or creamy flavor, Godiva liqueur, Irish cream, and tequila rose are all excellent options. Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua, and coffee tequila liqueur are delicious options, as well. If you want a nutty-earthy taste, give Frangelico, Amaretto, or Disaronno a try on the rocks.
Supposing overly sweet beverages aren't your favorite, sambuca, fernet, or Bénédictine are well worth a try. Their herbaceous flavors are approachable in a bitter and refreshing way.
Mixing With Liqueurs
To mix with liqueurs, sometimes the best place to start is with cocktails then dropping a few ingredients.
Liqueurs as the Star
Instead of an Irish iced coffee, consider mixing coffee liqueur with Irish cream. This combination also works well with creme de cacao or raspberry liqueur. Fizzy cocktails are also a great option. Start with elderflower liqueur, raspberry liqueur, or Grand Mariner and top off with sparkling wine.
Amaretto sours are a great sweet-and-sour cocktail, while a B-52, made of only Irish cream, orange liqueur, and coffee liqueur, is a sweet but punchy drink. While an aviation cocktail contains gin, as well, creme de violette is considered the core ingredient. Similarly, Midori cocktails are often mixed with spirits, but the liqueur remains the star. Maraschino liqueur is found in classic and modern cocktails, including the classic last word, and limoncello can be shaken up to make incredible cocktails.
If sweet cocktails are your favorite, then lychee liqueur has some incredible options including fizzes and martinis.
The Understated Beverage
Mixing with liqueurs or enjoying them on their own is a great way to mix up a cocktail that doesn't rely on spirits, or if you're looking for a cocktail that isn't quite as strong. They're a way to mix up a cocktail that is still loaded with flavor with a list of options.