All About Liqueurs: What They Are and How to Use Them

All About Liqueurs: What They Are and How to Use Them


4 minute read

You might love your liquors (we sure do!), but how about your liqueurs? Trying to talk about the two in the same sentence feels like a bit of a tongue twister, and trying to remember which is which can be even more of a brain teaser. Good news! We’ve pulled together a handy dandy guide outlining what liqueurs are—and which delicious ones deserve a spot on your bar cart.

What IS a Liqueur?

Let’s erase any confusion right off the bat and define liquor vs. liqueur.

  • Liquor: A distilled alcoholic beverage—also known as a spirit. Think vodka, whiskey, gin, etc. Sugar might be used in the fermentation process, but even flavored liquors aren’t sweet. Think of these babies as pure booze!

  • Liqueur: A sweetened alcohol made by diluting liquor with sugar and flavoring—also known as a cordial. Liqueur flavors vary, but they are all sugary sweet and typically have a lower alcohol content than pure liquors.

Liqueurs vary widely and feature all sorts of flavor notes from sweeteners, extracts, oils, cream, chocolate, good ol’ booze, and much, much more! You’ve probably heard of citrus liqueurs like Grand Marnier, cream liqueurs like Baileys, and liquor-based liqueurs (say that ten times fast) like the sweet, Scotch whiskey liqueur Drambuie. But that barely scratches the surface of the wide world of liqueurs.

Types of Liqueurs

Honestly, we could write a book with all the varieties out there, but let’s talk about some of the most common flavor profiles—plus some notable options you’ll be able to pick up at your local liquor store.

  • Berry liqueurs: Chambord, crème de cassis

  • Chocolate liqueurs: dark chocolate, white chocolate, crème de cacao

  • Coffee liqueurs: Kahlúa, Allen’s Coffee Brandy

  • Cream liqueurs (contain dairy cream or vegan alternatives): Advocaat, Baileys Irish Cream, Dooley's

  • Crème liqueurs (contain extra sugar for a syrupy consistency): crème de cacao, crème de cassis, crème de menthe

  • Flower liqueurs: crème de violette, St-Germain

  • Fruit liqueurs: Cointreau, Grand Marnier, limoncello, maraschino, Midori, triple sec

  • Herbal liqueurs: amaro, anisette, Jägermeister, sambuca

  • Honey liqueurs: Bärenjäger, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

  • Nut-flavored liqueurs: amaretto, Frangelico

  • Whisky liqueurs: Drambuie, Fireball, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Southern Comfort

This covers a lot of the bases, but you’ll find even more wild liqueur flavors out there.Tea, spicy pepper, artichoke…the list goes on. You might’ve also noticed that some liqueurs can cross categories! For instance, crème de cacao is a chocolate liqueur (yum), but also a crème liqueur because of its thick, syrupy, sugar-rich texture.

All of these options are just the start for finding your favorites. If you’re new to liqueurs but you’re a coffee hound, pick up some Kahlúa! If you’ve already tested the waters and you love the floral kick St-Germain adds to your cocktails, switch things up and try some crème de violette next time. As always, we recommend you experiment, experiment, experiment to find your favorites!

How To Use Liqueurs

The part we’ve all been waiting for: how should you drink your flavorful liqueurs? The good news is there’s basically no wrong way to sip them!

Liqueurs are a classic cocktail ingredient. The Sidecar calls for a kick of orange liqueur, a Black Russian demands coffee liqueur, and a delicate French Gimlet begs for the aroma of St-Germain. But that’s just the start—you can mix things up however you see fit. Sub Midori for orange liqueur in a Lemon Drop for a bright, zingy melon cocktail. Add a hint of your favorite liqueur to a classic Martini to create your signature drink—we won’t even tell anyone at the party how easy it was.

And of course, you can always sip them plain! Many liqueurs are sweet and smooth enough to drink neat or over ice. We’d recommend steering clear of thick and sticky crème liqueurs that are designed for mixing, but lighter options like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey are almost like a cocktail in their own right.

Sip ‘em, mix ‘em, taste ‘em all! Liqueurs can be a mixologist's best friend when it comes to unlocking new flavors in your drinks. Start exploring and let us know your favorites—we’re always looking for more gems to add to our bar cart.

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