Pronunciation: [lih-KYOOR; lih-KER]

A sweetened spirit flavored with ingredients like seeds, fruits, herbs, flowers, nuts, spices, roots, leaves and barks. The base can be brandy, rum, whiskey or other spirit and may be flavored in four ways: distillation — alcohol and flavoring agents are blended before being distilled; infusion — flavorings are steeped in hot water, which is then mixed with the alcohol base; maceration — flavoring agents are steeped directly in the alcohol base; percolation — alcohol is dripped through the flavoring agents to extract their essences. Proprietary liqueurs (such as bénédictine, galliano and southern comfort are made exclusively by specific liqueur houses with secret formulas, some of which have been closely guarded for centuries. Generic liqueurs (like amaretto and crème de cacao) are made by various producers using fairly standard recipes. Quality brands are typically flavored with the finest ingredients, essential oils and extracts; less expensive examples often use artificial flavorings. Cream liqueurs are flavored mixtures that have been homogenized with cream. They have a rich mixture that's velvety smooth and creamy, and they require no refrigeration. Crème liqueurs (such as crème de menthe) are distinguished by being sweet and syrupy. Liqueurs range widely in alcohol content, generally from about 15 percent (for some irish cream liqueurs) to 55 percent (green chartreuse), although a few "baby liqueurs" like Kahlúa Mudslide contain only 6.5 percent alcohol. Although the word "liqueur" is common usage today, such potables are also called cordials and, less frequently, ratafias. Liqueurs were originally used (and some still are) as a digestive. They are now usually served after dinner but also play an important role in many cocktails. Liqueurs can also be used in cooking, particularly for desserts.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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