A liqueur (US: /lɪˈkɜːr/ li-KUR, UK: /lɪˈkjʊər/ li-KURE, French: [likœʁ]) is an alcoholic drink composed of spirits (often rectified spirit) and additional flavorings such as sugar, fruits, herbs, and spices. Often served with or after dessert, they are typically heavily sweetened and un-aged beyond a resting period during production, when necessary, for their flavors to mingle.

Bénédictine, a traditional French herbal liqueur
Licor Beirão, a traditional Portuguese spice liqueur.

Liqueurs are historical descendants of herbal medicines. They were made in Italy as early as the 13th century, often prepared by monks (for example, Chartreuse). Today they are produced all over the world, commonly served neat, over ice, with coffee, in cocktails, and used in cooking.


The French word liqueur is derived from the Latin liquifacere, which means "to dissolve".[1][2]

In some parts of the United States and Canada, liqueurs may be referred to as cordials, or schnapps.[3][4] This can cause confusion as in the United Kingdom a cordial would refer to a non-alcoholic concentrated fruit syrup, typically diluted to taste and consumed as a non-carbonated soft drink.[5] Schnapps, on the other hand, can refer to any distilled beverage in Germany and aquavit in Scandinavian countries.[6]

In the United States and Canada, where spirits are often called "liquor", 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[7] and it has sweetener mixed, while some can have an ABV as high as 55%.[8]


Under the Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870), liqueurs are produced from mixing alcohol with plant materials.[9] These materials include juices or extracts from fruits, flowers, leaves or other plant materials.[9] 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%.[9] It may also contain natural or artificial flavoring and color.[9]

European Union

The European Union directive on spirit drinks provides guidelines applicable to all liqueurs.[10] As such, a liqueur must

United States

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates liqueurs similarly to Canada. Liqueurs (and also cordials) are defined as products created by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with fruit, plant products, natural flavors, extracts, or sweeteners. These additives must be added in an amount not less than 2.5% by weight of the final product.[11]


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 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 coalesces when the alcohol concentration is reduced; this is known as the ouzo effect.[12]


The B-52 is a layered drink prepared using Grand Marnier atop Irish cream over a base of coffee liqueur


Liqueurs are sometimes mixed into cocktails to provide flavor.[13]

By adding Liqueurs to your cocktail, this can change the flavour and appearance of the cocktail. Whilst some liqueurs are coloured and designed to make the cocktail pop in colour, others are clear to prevent the liqueur from taking over the colour of the base spirit or garnish.[14]

Layered drinks

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.[15]

See also


  1. Owens, B.; Dikty, A.; Maytag, F. (2011). The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits: An Enthusiast's Guide to the Artisan Distilling of Potent Potables. Quarry Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-61673-555-5. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  2. Etkin, N.L. (2009). Foods of Association: Biocultural Perspectives on Foods and Beverages that Mediate Sociability. University of Arizona Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-8165-2777-9. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  3. Lichine, Alexis (1987). Alexis Lichine's New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (5th ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-394-56262-9.
  4. 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"
  5. Dietsch, Michael. "9 Easily Confused Cocktail Terms You Should Know". Serious Eats. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  6. Prial, Frank (27 October 1985). "Schnapps, the Cordial Spirit". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  7. "How to Tell Your Liquor From Your Liqueur". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  8. "Liquor alcohol content". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  9. Branch, Legislative Services (23 June 2021). "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Food and Drug Regulations".
  10. "Consolidated text: Regulation (EU) 2019/787 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the definition, description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, the use of the names of spirit drinks in the presentation and labelling of other foodstuffs, the protection of geographical indications for spirit drinks, the use of ethyl alcohol and distillates of agricultural origin in alcoholic beverages, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 110/2008". 25 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "27 CFR 5.22 – The standards of identity". Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  12. Sanchez-Dominguez, M.; Rodriguez-Abreu, C. (2016). Nanocolloids: A Meeting Point for Scientists and Technologists. Elsevier Science. p. 369. ISBN 978-0-12-801758-6. Retrieved 2 August 2018. O/W and W/O nano-emulsions can also be formed without a surfactant by self-emulsification, using the so-called Ouzo effect. The major components of Ouzo (a Greek drink) are trans-anethole, ethanol, and water. Anethole is almost insoluble ...
  13. Meehan, Jim (12 June 2012). "Embellish Like Bartenders". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  14. "What are Liqueurs? Find out from the Experts!". Spirits of France. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  15. "Know the Density of Your Liquor To Make the Best Layered Drinks". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 1 August 2018.

Further reading

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