"Cordial-ly Yours" - A Peak Into The World Of Cordials/Liqueurs

In lieu of #NationalKahluaDay on Feb 27th, let's get to know a little more about that classification of alcohol known as #liqueurs or #cordials, the latter is the more widely used term in Europe, but liqueur in the USA.  They are interchangeable. I personally prefer the term cordial so that will be used throughout this piece.  Cordial literally means “to warm” in French and is an adjective used in describing someone who is nice or warm.

I will give a brief description of the cordial, #Kahlua, along with many other popular cordials.

The basic definition of a cordial is a “sweet and syrupy product made from a base spirit, i.e. vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, and brandy”. It is made by infusing fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other naturally occurring products in the environment into that base spirit, thereby, lowering the overall alcohol content during distillation. Did you know that Southern Comfort is a liqueur? It is made from bourbon whiskey with an infusion of honey and peaches, which is why it is sweet. Did you know that Drambuie is a liqueur made from Scotch with honey infused? Liqueurs come in every color and flavor you could imagine.

There are thousands of cordials in the world today and many of them have the same flavor, but with subtle differences. It is essential to know the flavor so you can substitute wisely when you run out of your intended cordial. Most of us will never taste or see them on the shelves. Most “true” cocktails incorporate some type of cordial into their recipe. If not, it is just a standard highball drink. There are some standard drinks that just use a cordial and a mixer, i.e. Fuzzy Navel (peach schnapps and o.j.). From a technical standpoint, the very definition of cocktail requires it or it would be just a spirit and mixer - not very exciting, sophisticated, or complex. The blending of flavors and finding that right balance is what makes a cocktail, a cocktail that tastes great.

There are distinct classes of cordials, such as curacao, schnapps, and coffee liqueur, for which a variety of brands are available. Then, there are proprietary blends protected by specific brands and known only by the brand's name. The individual recipes for some of these cordials, like Averna, Amaro, Benedictine, Chartreuse and Frangelico, date back centuries and are as popular today as they ever were. And yet, others (like Hpnotiq, PAMA, TY KU, Kinky, and X-Rated) are newer on the scene and are just as unique in their recipes.

It would be an endless task for me to list all of the cordials, so I will highlight some of the more common ones (A-Z), which are great to sip alone or mixed in cocktails.

(Photo courtesy of Franklin Liquors)

Amaretto- An almond flavored liqueur made with apricot pits. This liqueur is commonly paired with a coffee liqueur in drinks like a Toasted Almond or used as a smooth liqueur in shooters or a drink like the Alabama Slammer.

Campari- A bitter Italian apèritif made with a unique blend of herbs and spices with orange being the dominant flavor. The secret recipe was originally developed by Gaspare Campari in 1860 for his Cafè Campari in Milan. Campari is often served on the rocks either by itself or mixed with club soda and is also a key ingredient in many aperitif cocktails such as Negroni and Americano.

Chambord- A liqueur that dates back to 1685 when Louis XIV visited Château de Chambord. Chambord is produced in the Loire valley in France and is made from red and black raspberries, honey, vanilla, and cognac. French Martini and Purple Hooter are examples.

Coffee liqueur /Coffee-flavored liqueur. The most popular coffee liqueur is the Mexican Kahlua. Others include Tia Maria from Jamaica, Expresso from dark-roasted Italian coffee, crème de café , and Pasha from Turkey. Any of the coffee liqueurs are great served ice-cold with heavy cream floating on top and are popular ingredients in a variety of cocktails.

Kahlua –

Toast this distinctively coffee-and-sugarcane laced liqueur from the Veracruz state of Mexico. Celebrate with a classic Black Russian or White Russian or in a modern-day cocktail, like my Honey Espresso.

For nearly 80 years, consumers around the world have been enjoying the deliciousness that is Kahlua. Today, with international sales reaching two million cases per year, Kahlua is a popular choice for cocktails, in recipes both sweet and savory or in coffee. Its name is derived from the Arabic slang for coffee, kahwa.

(Photo courtesy of Liquors44)

Cointreau- A brand name orange-flavored liqueur that is considered a premium triple sec. Cosmos and Margaritas are examples.

Grand Marnier- A distinguished orange liqueur from France with a Cognac base that is considered an essential for a well-stocked bar.

Schnapps- Not typically a liqueur by strict definition, but a distilled spirit that is produced usually with fruits in the fermentation. Schnapps come in many flavors, with apple, cinnamon, and peppermint being favorites.

Southern Comfort- An American liqueur made from a whiskey base flavored with peaches. It is an excellent mixer and is 100 proof, adding to its comforting qualities. Popular cocktail is the Scarlet O'Hara.

Triple Sec- An often colorless orange-flavored liqueur that is often used as a generic name for orange liqueurs and called for in many cocktail recipes. Cointreau and Combier D’Orange are premium brands of triple sec while Curacao is another form of orange liqueur.

Others, such as Crème de Cacao, Irish Cream, Frangelico, Maraschino Liqueur, St. Germain Liqueur, Domaine de Canton are less common, but great in cocktails.

(Cover photo courtesy of Green Beverages)