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January 26, 2021 2 min read

What are liqueurs?

You may have seen the phrase ‘liqueur’ on different bottles of gin, rum, whisky and a whole range of other drinks but have been confused by what this is, and rightly so! Hopefully this week’s blog post will help answer those sticky (pun intended) questions.

Liqueur or cordial?

In summary liqueurs and cordials, yes cordials, are alcoholic drinks that have been redistilled with different colourings and flavourings. They must contain at least 15% alcohol and 100g of sugar, something that is steeped in history when it was deemed a luxury.

In the UK we tend to think of cordials as a non-alcoholic drink but it stems from the Latin for ‘core’ or ‘heart’ to you and I. This comes from the ye olde times when a sweetened spirit was prescribed to stimulate the heart. The name liqueur comes from the Latin ‘liquefacere’ and means melt/dissolve. It also has Italian links where it was known as ‘liquori’.


Liqueurs can be traced back to the Egyptians and Greeks but the development was really down to monks in the Middle Ages. These men of medicine were fascinated with the medicinal properties of alcohol, herbs and spices.

In the 15th century they grew in popularity in Italy with most households producing their own style. They were used to treat ailments, help in childbirth and as aphrodisiacs, which obviously led to the childbirth! They were introduced into France due to the marriage of Cathrine de Medici to Henry II of France and subsequently grew in popularity.

They became the height of fashion in Victorian Britain when it was consumed at the end of the meal as digestif and then grew in popularity due to the rise of cocktails.

How are they made?

Most producers keep their secret liqueur recipes close to their chest but generally liqueurs are flavoured with a range of things from fruit to herbs and spices. These are then sweetened usually with sugar or with honey in rum.

There are a lot of different ways of producing liqueurs but the main way is through mascaration and stepping. The length can vary from days to months to years depending on the style of liqueur and the company producing it.

Some of our favourites

Burning Barn Honey and Rum Liqueur

Coming in at 29% and made of just pure honey and golden rum liqueur from Guyana. You’re going to get a reassuringly alcoholic nose embroidered with the floral scent of British summer, followed by rich peppery notes of the base rum that balance perfectly with English honey. The honey Burning Barn use gives this liqueur a beautifully silky texture and a naturally sweet flavour. It is best enjoyed on the rocks.

Sweet Potato Spirit Co - Sweet Potato Chocolate Moonshine with Chilli

Rich chocolate notes greet your nose before you experience the wonderful marriage of smooth dark chocolate and a piquant of fresh chilli heat. Serve straight or over ice, your mouth will be left feeling elated and eager for the next sip!

Brisa Marina - Strawberry and Vanilla Liqueur

Strawberry and Vanilla vodka liqueur oozes fruity, fresh, and fabulous flavours. The sweet strawberry warms the palate, paired with the smooth vanilla, together creating a unique sweetness.

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