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Frequently Asked Questions About Cordials and Liqueurs

What is the difference between liqueurs and cordials?

Liqueurs and cordials are very much the same. The only difference is that while liqueurs and cordial describes a liquor (which is an alcoholic beverage) that has been flavored with herbs, spiced and sweetened, in the U.K., cordial refers to a sweetened non-alcoholic drink. But in the booze world, both terms mean the same.

Liqueur vs Liquor

With the advent of traditional spirits like vodka being flavored today, it becomes difficult to differentiate liqueur from liquor, against what was obtainable years ago when it was easy to separate vodka, whisky, gin, rum, etc., into liquors and benedictine, baileys, kahlua, chartreuse and schnapps into liqueurs.

One very quick way to tell their difference today, which is like more of a rule of thumb, is to take note of their taste. Liqueurs are sweet and syrupy for the better part of it, while liquors are not.

Also, liqueurs usually have lower alcohol content, mostly between 15 to 30 percent ABV. This is of course not definite, there could be exceptions.

What Does Cherry Cordials or Liqueur Taste Like?

Generally, liqueurs have a sweet taste, but we want to describe the taste profile of maraschino liqueur, otherwise known as cherry cordials, which has a somewhat different taste.

Maraschino is a cherry-flavored liqueur, made from Marasca cherries. It first began production in eastern coast of Croatia before spreading to other parts of the world. One notable thing about this liqueur is in its taste. It has a bitter-dry flavor profile and is one of the most enjoyed cordial in the world.

It has a taste of sour cherry and hints of almond. It has an underlying sweetness that is unique to it, though it isn't as sweet as other liqueurs.

How long can you keep liqueurs once opened?

When liqueurs (sweetened, distilled spirits, with added flavors like herbs, fruits, or spices ) are opened, they can last up to six months before it gets bad. Cream liqueurs should always be kept cold in the fridge. This helps to increase their shelf life.

Information About Cordials and Liqueurs

Meaning of Cordial & Liqueur

Cordial and liqueur are terms often used interchangeably to refer to sweet spirits. They are essentially the same except for a little difference, especially in the U.K. where cordial can be used to describe sweet non-alcoholic drinks. But in other regions, the two terms mostly mean the same, though later in this article there is a detailed section that points out the differences between them.

The word “liqueur” is derived from the Latin word, Liquefacere, which literally means the process of dissolving something in liquid. Cordial comes from the Latin word Cor, which means Heart. Liqueurs are heavily sweetened and unaged way beyond the resting period during production. This is necessary for their flavors to mingle seamlessly.

In simple terms, cordial or liqueur refers to distilled alcoholic beverages that have been flavored and sometimes sweetened.

History of Cordials and Liqueurs

The origin of liqueurs can be traced to herbal medicines that were made in Italy in the early 13th century. They were often prepared by monks, an example is the Chartreuse.

Generally, the history of the distillation of wine into aqua vitae and flavoring of spirits using various herbs and spices began with the writings of Catalan Arnold de Vila Nova in his Boke of Wine. He and other alchemists believed that these liquids had the power to restore life. Raymond Lully, one of Arnold’s followers, became so passionate about the beliefs and writings of his master, that he proclaimed that the production of these liquids was a divinely inspired gift from Heaven. The liqueurs produced in this era were regarded as alchemical potions, rather than as pleasure drinks.

Subsequently, the drinking of these liqueurs became very popular in Italy and France in the 14th century. It is said that the drinks were brought to France by Catherine de Medici, from Tuscany. However, there is some evidence of an earlier presence of the drinks in France before the arrival of Catherine, and even if the pieces of evidence were correct the Court of Catherine helped increase the use and acceptance of the drinks, especially among the nobles of France.

By the 14th and early 17th centuries, the alchemists and monastic orders were producing these liqueurs in greater quantities than others. The popular drink, Benedictine, dates to the monk in the Abbey of Fecamp, Dom Bernado Vincelli, around the year 1510. The Chartreuse recipe was originally an “Elixir de longue Vie”, that was given in 1605 by a captain under Henri IV, the Marechal d’Estrees to the Carthusian monastery near Paris. The recipes for the herbal liqueurs of Carmeline, Trappastine, La Senancole, and Aiguebelle were also originally monastic elixirs.

However, the production of liqueurs was not limited to the monasteries alone. Towards the end of the 16th century, several distilleries began producing liqueurs in large commercial quantities. Some of these distillers were the Der Lachs German distillery which began the production of Danzig Goldwasser in 1598, and the Dutch distillery of Bols, which was founded in 1575.

Types of Cordial or Liqueurs

Broadly, there are two types of cordials or liqueurs:

  • Generic: This type of cordials or liqueurs are produced from recipes that are universally known. A good example of a generic liqueur is Amaretto, Irish cream, triple sec, and absinthe.

  • Proprietary: These are liqueurs or cordials whose recipe is not universally known. They are often kept secret from the public. An example of such liqueur is Benedictine, Tuaca, Galliano, Frangelico, and Drambuie.

Liqueurs or cordials are often labeled as “after-dinner drinks.” They can likely serve as aperitifs and digestifs, but they are more digestif than an aperitif because of their sweet nature. They are very great when served straight with dessert.

Examples of Liqueurs

There are several examples of liqueurs, some of these drinks are described below:

  • Abstante: This is a pale anise-flavored green liqueur. It turns opalescent when dripped gently over ice. Abstante is a perfect substitute for absinthe and other anise-flavored liqueurs.

  • Absinthe: This is also an anise-flavored liqueur that was banned by law for many years in several countries. It was originally 136 proof. It can be replaced in cocktail recipes with Abstante, Herbsaint, and Pernod.

  • Advocaat: Often referred to as the Dutch version of eggnog, Advocaat is a sweet liqueur from Holland made with egg yolk, sugar, brandy, and vanilla. It is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

  • Amaretto: Amaretto is one of the most popular cordials that are always available in any well-stocked bar. It is an almond-flavored liqueur made using apricot pits. It is commonly paired with a coffee cordial or taken smoothly in shooters.

  • Agavero: This was created in 1857, and uses a blend of 100 percent reposado tequilas and blue agave Anejo, aged in French Limousin oak. The tequila-based liqueur is flavored with the Damiana flower. It is often taken over ice or neat and does well when mixed with cocktails. Damiana liqueur is very similar to Agavero.

  • Amaro Meletti: This is a bitter Italian digestif, flavored with several aromatic herbs including saffron and anise. It is a delicious drink on its own or on the rocks in a few cocktails. The flavor profile of Amaro Meletti is very surprising and reminiscent of chocolate.

  • Coffee Liqueur: This is a group of coffee-flavored cordials varying in style, flavor, and cost. Kahlua is the most popular coffee liqueur. Most coffee cordials are easily substituted for each other and are served ice-cold with plenty of cream floating on top. They make very great ingredients in a lot of drinks. It is a must for every bar.

Liqueurs can also be grouped into twelve types based on the dominant ingredient:

  • Berry liqueurs

  • Coffee liqueurs

  • Chocolate liqueurs

  • Cream liqueurs

  • Crème liqueurs

  • Flower liqueurs

  • Fruit liqueurs

  • Herbal liqueurs

  • Honey liqueurs

  • Nut-flavored liqueurs

  • Whiskey liqueurs

  • Other liqueurs

Main Ingredient

Below are some classic liqueurs and the main ingredients that infuse their unique flavors. Some of these liqueurs are centuries old with top-secret formulas.

  • Amaretto: Almond

  • Limoncello: Lemon is the main ingredient for making this cordial

  • Benedictine: Citrus, honey, and herbs

  • Chambord: Black raspberry

  • Frangelico: Hazelnut

  • Curacao: Bitter orange

  • Cointreau: Sweet and sour oranges

  • Bailey’s Irish Cream: Cream and whiskey

  • Creme de Cacao: Chocolate

  • Jagermeister: Spices and herbs

  • Creme de Cassis: Currant

  • Creme de Menthe: Mint

  • Ouzo: Anise

  • Pastis: Anise

  • Schnapps: Peach

  • Triple Sec: Sweet and bitter oranges

  • Sambuca Romano: Elder bush

  • Kahlua: Coffee

  • Midori: Melon

  • Maraschino: Cherry

  • SouthernComfort: Bourbon/peach

Cocktails of Some Cordials

Liqueurs are very great for cocktails. Here is a list of some delicious cocktails from some of the most popular cordials.


  • Godfather

  • Italian Amaretto Margarita

  • Dirty Bedtime Story

Blue Curacao

  • The Perfect Mai Tai

  • Electric Lemonade

  • Blue Angel

Bailey’s Irish Cream

  • Irish Cream and Coffee

  • Bailey’s Banana Colada

Creme de Cacao

  • Nikki’s Special Chocolate Martini

  • Butter Cup

  • Coffee Nudge


  • Sidecar

  • A Perfect Margarita

  • Cosmopolitan

Triple Sec

  • Banana Margaritas

  • Margaritas on the Rocks

How to Make Cordial

To know how to make a liqueur is pretty much as important as understanding what a liqueur or cordial is. As we earlier defined, a liqueur consists of a base spirit and then the addition of spices, herbs or nuts, the cream, and sugars or any kind of sweetener like honey.

The mixture of the spices and herbs plus the sweeteners is what creates the unique flavor profile of the liqueur.

Some base spirits to use are:
- Gin
- Rum
- Whiskey
- Brandy
- Tequila
- Vodka

The kind of flavor profile you desire determines which of these base spirits to use and how to go about the flavoring.

Flavoring liqueurs involves three methods.


This method involves crushing and soaking fruits in water. This process can often take a year to let the fruit’s taste be fully absorbed into the water. The liquid is then stored in tanks and filtered after several days. The fruit is then distilled to extract any flavor left.

Next, the liquid that has been distilled from the fruit and the filtered liquid is then combined. Finally, sugar or/and syrup are added to add a sweetening taste.

This method is very similar to Maceration. The only difference is that in Maceration, the crushed fruit is soaked in alcohol instead of water. The product is then filtered and the liquid from the distilled fruit is added. It is finally sweetened and bottled.


This method involves pumping a base spirit (like any of those listed above) through an apparatus that contains herbs or leaves. This activity can continue for days, weeks, or months. The herbs or leaves are then distilled and the distillate is added to the liquid obtained from the percolation process. Sweeteners or coloring agents are added and bottled.


The distillation process involves the use of heat to extract flavor. Flavoring agents such as seeds or flowers are soaked in alcohol for a long period of time, probably hours. The product is now placed in a copper pot still containing additional spirits and distilled. The product is then sweetened and colored before bottling.

How to Use Liqueurs and Cordials

A great benefit of liqueurs is in their versatility. Like many other spirits, liqueurs can be mixed in drinks, served on the rocks with coffee, or mixed with other beverages that are non-alcoholic like milk or cream. Liqueurs can also be served neat.

Liqueurs are also used in cooking, baking, or the highlight of many desserts. Liqueurs can also be used in layering, and this has become very popular to create neat striped drinks. This is done by floating various liqueurs slowly over the back of a spoon which ensures the layers do not mix together. Try these types of cocktails when next you hit the bar or at a party and, yes, you’re welcome.

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