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A liqueur, also called a cordial, is a sweet, flavored alcohol that is distilled to achieve its unique flavor. Generally, liqueur is divided into two categories: generics and proprietaries. Generics are the liqueurs that many manufacturers can make, such as crème de menthe. Proprietaries are liqueurs with unique brand names, such as Kahlua and Grand Marnier. Within these two categories of liqueur are many flavors, which depend upon the ingredients that are infused into the liquid and how long the mixtures rest.
A liqueur is a blend of two or more ingredients, which typically include an alcohol base, a sweetener, and sometimes herbs. A flower, fruit or other flavoring may also be added. Flavor types include berry, chocolate, coffee, floral, fruit, herb, nut, crème and cream. Crème liqueurs have one primary flavor, as in crème de menthe, which has a mint flavor. Cream liqueurs have dairy cream added.
The distillation process, or redistillation, is the key to the taste of liqueur. Distillation involves processing a liquid—usually by boiling. The steam that is created passes through cooling tubes and becomes a liquid, which is captured in bottles.
Different manufacturers of the same flavors of generic liqueur make products that can taste very different from each other. This may be due to the base alcohol used, how long the mixture rested to allow the flavors to mix, the process of distillation used, and how closely standards are followed. Most liqueurs have high alcohol content per volume—as high as 50%—compared with wine, beer, and other spirits.
Liqueur is often requested as an after-dinner drink, sometimes taking the place of dessert. Other times, liqueur may be enjoyed as an appetizer, or aperitif, served before the meal. It may be served in a variety of methods, similar to serving any cocktail: neat, on the rocks, or straight up. A drink that is shaken with ice and then strained into a chilled glass is served “straight up.” A single, unmixed drink poured into a glass without adding any water, mixer or ice is served “neat.” Requesting a drink “on the rocks” simply means “over ice.”
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