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Kumquat liqueurs from Corfu

A liqueur (US: /lɪˈkɜːr/ or UK: /lɪˈkjʊər/) is an alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit that has been flavored with either fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts, and is bottled with added sugars and other sweeteners (such as high-fructose corn syrup). Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they usually aren’t aged for long once the ingredients are mixed, and could have resting periods during the production process, which allow the flavors to mingle.

In the United States and Canada, where spirits are often called "liquor" (pronounced /ˈlɪkər/, with stress on the first syllable rather than the second), there is often confusion discerning between liqueurs and liquors, due to the many different types of flavored spirits that are available today (e.g. flavored vodka). Liqueurs generally contain a lower alcohol content (15–30% ABV) than spirits, while some can have an ABV as high as 55%.

In some parts of the United States and Canada, liqueurs may be referred to as cordials, or schnapps,[1][2][3][4] which in most Commonwealth Nations, a cordial would refer to a non-alcoholic concentrated fruit syrup, that is diluted to taste, and consumed as a non-carbonated soft drink; and schnapps, in places like Germany and Scandinavia, usually refers to a form of brandy or aquavit.


Liqueurs are historical descendants of herbal medicines; they were made in Italy as early as the 13th century and were often prepared by monks (e.g. Chartreuse).

Nowadays, liqueurs are made worldwide and are served in many ways: by themselves, poured over ice, with coffee, mixed with cream or other mixers to create cocktails, etc, they are often served with or after a dessert. Liqueurs are also used in cooking.

Some liqueurs are prepared by infusing certain woods, fruits, or flowers in either water or alcohol and adding sugar or other items. Others are distilled from aromatic or flavoring agents. Anise and Rakı liqueurs have the interesting property of turning from transparent to cloudy when added to water: the oil of anise remains in solution in the presence of a high concentration of alcohol, but crystallizes when the alcohol concentration is reduced; this is known as the ouzo effect.

Layered drinks are made by floating different-colored liqueurs in separate layers. Each liqueur is poured slowly into a glass over the back of a spoon or down a glass rod, so that the liquids of different densities remain unmixed, creating a striped effect.

The French word liqueur comes from the Latin liquifacere ("to liquefy").

Legal definitions[edit]

Canadian regulations[edit]

Under the Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870), liqueurs are produced from mixing alcohol with plant materials. These materials include juices or extracts from fruits, flowers, leaves or other plant materials, the extracts are obtained by soaking, filtering or softening the plant substances. A sweetening agent should be added in an amount that is at least 2.5 percent of the finished liqueur. The alcohol percentage shall be at least 23%, it may also contain natural or artificial flavouring and colour.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ What are Schnapps and Cordials? Retrieved 2012-05-28
  2. ^ Lichine, Alexis (1987). Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (5th ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 198. ISBN 0-394-56262-3. 
  3. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 2010. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-19-539288-3.  cordial: "another term for liqueur"
  4. ^ "The Cook's Thesaurus". Retrieved October 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Food and Drug Regulations". 

External links[edit]