With so much attention these days being focused on cocktails and premium spirits, it’s easy to understand why liqueurs and cordials are frequently relegated as passé and out of step with contemporary tastes. They’re not glitzy, and rarely—if ever—get coverage in the media. After all, who sips crème de menthe frappés any more?
Fact is, any bartender worth his or her salt will attest the cocktail’s phenomenal renaissance is due in large part to the overlooked contributions of liqueurs and cordials. Their brilliant flavors and lush, satiny bodies temper the enthusiasm of high-octane spirits and provide the heart of most notable cocktails.
The liqueur and cordial segment remains vital and well supported by suppliers. Mixologists on the lookout for new and exciting flavors are driving demand and suppliers are only too pleased to fan the flames with intriguing releases. So in the event that you missed the fanfare over their initial release, here’s the scoop on the hottest prospects of the past year or so.
Agwa de Bolivia — An emerald green liqueur made in Amsterdam from handpicked coca leaves grown in the Andes Mountains. A proprietary process removes in the leaves narcotic compounds before they are blended with 36 herbs, a mix that includes Guarana, Ginseng and Yerba Mate. Delicious and intriguing are an unbeatable combination. (30% alcohol)
Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur — Handcrafted in Brooklyn, Barrow’s is made with more than 200lbs. of fresh ginger per batch. It contains four ingredients—ginger, sugar, cane spirit and filtered water—and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The liqueur is appropriately named. It has a semisweet and spicy nose and an intensely spicy palate. There’s nothing quite like it. (22% alcohol)
Bols Yogurt Liqueur — This dairy-based product is a creative substitute for more staid and conventional cream liqueurs. Bols Yogurt is made on a foundation of real yogurt. Unlike ordinary cream-based liqueurs that curdle when mixed with an acidic juice or drink mix, the new import enjoys no such restrictions. (15% alcohol)
Faretti Biscotti Famosi — The liqueur is handcrafted in Tuscany from an infusion of citrus, nuts, fennel and caramel, which combine to recreate the flavor of fresh biscotti twice baked in rustic brick ovens. The liqueur is a dead-ringer for the traditional Italian dessert—only without the accompanying crumbs. Top-notch. (28% alcohol)
Hpnotiq Harmonie — Hpnotiq is the country’s 5th largest selling imported liqueur. New to the portfolio is Hpnotiq Harmonie, an infusion of French Vodka, berries, flowers and Cognac crafted in the tradition of Pineau de Charentes. Its vibrant color is the result of the violets and lavender in the blend. The versatile liqueur is light-bodied and aromatic with a lingering fruit and brandy finish. (17% alcohol)
HUM — This American-born, amaro-styled liqueur derives its brilliant character from a blend of pot-stilled Martinique rhum, fair trade hibiscus flowers, organic ginger, green cardamom, kaffir lime and raw Hawaiian sugar cane. It has peppery spice and wafting floral notes and long-lasting, palate-warming flavors. It’s a culinary triumph without equal. (35% alcohol)
Kringle Cream — There are large swathes of the American Midwest where a riot will ensue if a bakery runs out of kringles. A kringle is a hand-rolled Danish pastry that is rested overnight before being shaped into an oval and filled with fruit, nuts and spices. It is then baked and slathered with a heavenly icing. The namesake cream liqueur is made in Wisconsin on a foundation of rum, local diary cream and a proprietary blend of spices and natural flavors. (15% alcohol)
Matteo’s Lemon Soprano Crema di Limoncello —Matteo’s Lemon Soprano takes the limoncello experience to the pinnacle by adding a splash of dairy fresh cream into the mix. It has a creamy, opalescent yellow hue, a velvety textured body and a beckoning bouquet of sun-drenched lemons and citrus zest with light vanilla notes. As enticing as the aromatics are, the palate is even better. (17% alcohol)
Metcalfe’s Vermont Maple Cream — The liqueur is made by Vermont Distillers of Marlboro, Vermont on a foundation of rich cream and neutral grain spirits. Metcalfe’s derives its irresistible flavor from pure Vermont maple syrup. Metcalfe’s Vermont Maple Cream is one of those rare products that is as delectable sipped straight—or slightly chilled—as it is featured in a cocktail. That said, the liqueur makes an extraordinary ingredient in mixed drinks. (17% alcohol)
Rivulet — This artisanal liqueur is made on a foundation of barrel-aged brandy and flavored with American-grown pecans. It has a wafting caramel, vanilla and cinnamon nose and a delectable palate of maple syrup and toasted pecans with a generous helping of spice on the finish. If you’re looking for a new flavor to promote in your craft cocktails, Rivulet may be just the ticket. (30% alcohol)
RumChata — Who wouldn’t swoon over a horchata-laced cream liqueur infused with Caribbean rum? RumChata is delicious and devoid of the cloying finish that plagues some cream liqueurs. If you can’t have fun with RumChata behind the bar, perhaps you’re no longer breathing. (13.75% alcohol)
Tippy Cow Rum Creams — These flavorful cream liqueurs feature flavors long popular with generations of Americans. They are made with real diary cream from Wisconsin and imported Caribbean rum. The bottles are even shaped like old-fashioned milk bottles. The range includes an irresistible version of the Dreamsickle. Another tastes remarkably like soft serve ice cream. (14% alcohol)
Travis Hasse’s Original Apple Pie — This all-American product is made in Temperance, Michigan according to an old family recipe using several varieties of apples, cinnamon, baking spices and premium neutral spirits distilled from locally sourced grain. The liqueur is bottled unfiltered. The liqueur has the look of freshly pressed cider and smells like an apple pie right out of the oven. (20% alcohol)