By Bruce Collier
If you browse liquor stores like I do—constantly telling helpful staff that you’re just looking, and meaning it—you might find yourself drawn to the liqueurs, your eye pulled by the array of colors. And none are more colorful than those of fruit liqueurs.
“Liqueurs” are different from “liquors.” Here’s how the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines “liqueurs” (to add confusion, they’re also called “cordials” in parts of the country):
27 CFR 5.22 The Standards of identity: (h)Class 8; cordials and liqueurs. Cordials and liqueurs are products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 2 1/2 percent by weight of the finished product.
Sexy, right? These Class 8 beverages incorporate every known flavor on earth—chocolate, coffee, butterscotch, nuts, herbs, spices…and fruits, all kinds. I love fruit, and if I can drink mine, so much the better.
Here are six liqueurs I sampled. Four are available locally, two I bought on a trip to New York last Thanksgiving.
$22.99 for 375 ml.
Loganberry is a hybrid of raspberry and blackberry. The berries are macerated in clear fruit brandy. The liqueur is dark, blackish purple, opaque. Heady, rich perfumy scent, with traces of plum and vanilla, crushed ripe fruit. Full bodied, sweet and oily, mouth-filling, but with a tart finish that calls for seconds. The makers suggest it be drunk neat or served as an ice cream topping. It’s a true berry experience, like a homemade preserves but not overly sweet.
$21.99 for 750 ml.
Distilled in Michigan by Temperance Distilling. Orange pink color. Scent is orange peel and pith, perfumy, sharp and bittersweet. Light and very thin-bodied, like juice. The citrus peel/pith flavor predominates, with a short, floral and pithy finish. Not really a sipping drink, but would be good for blending in cocktails or highballs—Old Fashioned, or with tonic or club soda. Almost a flavoring agent.
$35.99 for 750 ml.
Macerations of both fresh and dried mandarins, reportedly flavored with green tea, clover, coriander, cumin, and 20 botanicals. Tangerine and spices, Cognac base. Scent is tangerine peel and pepper, warm spices. Tastes similar to Grand Marnier, but spicier, strong tangerine/orange, anise, pepper, candied orange peel like marmalade. Long finish, full bodied. Good on its own or mixed with rye or rum in a streamlined Old Fashioned with a dash of sour orange juice (no need for sugar or bitters), or with club soda and lemon twist in a long drink.
$24.99 for 750 ml.
Pomegranate juice with vodka and tequila base. Color in glass—blood orange red. Tart citrusy scent. Bracing, sweet-tart taste, hits the tongue, with a little bit of heat. Cranberry, blood orange notes, very citrusy. Light bodied, with pithy, slightly bitter finish. Good with club soda, or in a Negroni (1 oz. gin, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, 1 oz. Pama on ice) in place of Campari.
$19.99 for 375 ml.
From Dijon. Dark, opaque almost blue color in glass. Fruit and vegetal scent. The taste is rich and full-bodied dark berry, slightly syrupy, with tart followed by sweet. Hint of herb and vanilla. Use a few drops of this in white wine (Kir) or champagne (Kir Royale), a traditional aperitif in France.
$23.99 for 750 ml.
Luxardo also makes maraschino cocktail cherries in syrup—world’s best ice cream topping—and a maraschino liqueur. Sangue Morlacco means “blood of the Morlaccos,” a warrior nation that fought the Turks for Venice. The scent is cherry syrup, like in Cherry Coke. The taste is more grown-up, dark cherry, sweet but with a spicy edge, full-bodied and slightly oily. Try 1/2 to one ounce of Sangue with two ounces of scotch, over ice with a lemon twist. It’s called a Highlander, and I made them with Loch Lomond single grain (barley), single-malt Glenmorangie and Oban, and Grant’s Family Reserve. I preferred Loch Lomond, but the peatier Grant’s also goes well with the deep cherry.