LIQUEURS Made by macerating fruit, flowers, or herbs in a distilled neutral spirit and then sweetening with sugar, liqueurs are typically used in cocktails in small amounts to add aromatic complexity and to balance sweetness. They tend to fall into two larger categories based on flavor and use: those that are fruity or floral, and those that are herbal or bitter.
To be classified as a liqueur a drink must:
1. Be based on a spirit - liqueurs can be made with everything from vodka through tequila to brandy, rum or whisky.
2. Contain additional flavourings, the most common being fruits, spices and herbs although many other ingenious ingredients are used.
3. Be of 15% alcohol by volume and have at least 100g of sugar per litre (this is a requirement of European law)
ORANGE LIQUEURS There are two main styles of orange liqueurs: triple sec and curacao. The best known brand of curacao, which tends to be heavier and sweeter than triple sec, is Grand Marnier; Cointreau is the most widely recognized triple sec. Other great versions are Combier and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao.
CRÈME DE CASSIS This French black currant-flavored liqueur is mainly known for its role in the classic Kir Royale, but it is also a superb off-season substitute for fresh fruit in cobblers.
ST-GERMAIN This elderflower-infused liqueur has been around for only about ten years, but it quickly became a favorite of bartenders for use in gin and Champagne-based cocktails. It also works well in drinks flavored with ginger, like the Go-To.
ABSINTHE A French creation, absinthe is traditionally made with anise, fennel, and wormwood. outlawed in the United States for nearly a century (1912 to 2007), it is now available for use as a key component in classic cocktails such as the Sazerac and Death in the Afternoon.
CHARTREUSE The recipe for Chartreuse, originally produced by a Carthusian monastery in the eighteenth century and purportedly containing 130 different herbs, has remained a tightly held secret by generations of monks. The green variety is 110 proof and more highly spiced, while the yellow is only 80 proof and has a much sweeter profile. Find Chartreuse in the Last Word or the frozen Piña Verde.