If there was one thing we learned during the endless lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 was how to hone our bartending skills. During those interminable 24 months of bubbles and social distanced gatherings at home, we served drinks to many more people than usual. And do you know what? We loved it.
Now that bars, pubs and restaurants are back to functioning at full speed, we’re not 100% sure that we want to go back to the old normal. In fact, we loved connecting in our front rooms with our BFFs so much that we don’t really want to go to a packed bar. Not to mention the terrifying price tag - at around 15 quid for a cocktail in Central London, we’re quite happy to Hoover the floors, hide the mess in a cupboard and invite people back to ours instead.
This brings us to the crux of this piece. How much do you really know about the liqueurs that make your domestic cocktail concoctions go with a bang? When they are made with care and quality ingredients, cocktails are delicious 100% of the time. Yes, we love our G&Ts, our Negronis and our Old-Fashioneds but that perfection doesn't stop us from wondering if just once things could be a little … different. To quote French writer Voltaire, “better is the enemy of good”, but come on, isn’t it time to shake things up a little? Back in the day, bartenders used to add a bar spoon of “something” to classic cocktails in order to ring in a few changes. Not enough to completely change the flavour profile you understand, just enough to give it a bit of an interesting edge. Kind of like when you discover that your partner was a trumpet player or a champion swimmer in their youth.
The problem is, is that up until recently liqueurs (aka the “something” that those barmen used to add to their cocktail recipes) were not very good. There were the classics such as Grand Marnier of course and Cointreau, but the rest were a Technicolor spectrum of fruity monstrosities that even your teenage daughter’s friends wouldn’t touch. Fair enough if you wanted to add a little go to your G&T, but let’s be honest, does anyone really want a melony Manhatten? No, we thought not.
Except, like with gin and whiskey, liqueurs have had a bit of a glow-up of late. Ever since 2Pac immortalised Alizé and the liqueur was catapulted into being something the cool kids drank, people began to look at liqueurs in a new light. It’s goodbye to the lurid concoctions of yesteryear and hello to new entries in old categories that aren't based on a teenage girl’s sugar cravings. Today your drinking cabinet simply isn’t complete without a liqueur or two.
Whether you want to pimp your prosecco, swirl something naughty around a tumbler, or flex your mixology muscles, liqueurs are the name of the game.
What is Liqueur?
Put simply, a liqueur is a sweet alcoholic beverage, made from a distilled spirit and flavoured and sweetened with fruit, florals, cream, herbs and spices. Liqueurs are relatively simple alcohols, typically composed of three primary components: distilled sprit, flavouring and sweetener. Technically, all liqueurs are liquors, as they go through the same fermenting and distillation process, however liqueurs have flavourings and sweeteners added to the neutral base spirits (brandy, whiskey, rum, gin, vodka or tequila). This additional process allows liqueurs not only to have a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) but it gives master distillers the space to be as creative as they want.
Liqueurs that you need to know about
Let’s get one thing straight. Liqueurs these days are cool. We don’t mean the dodgy liqueurs gathering dust at the back of your drinks cabinet; the dodgy bottle of Ouzo brought back from Crete in 2012, or the time when you went through your coffee liqueurs phase and bought six bottles of Tia Maria. Today, liqueurs are all about empowering the flavour of the spirit and giving it a little bit of modern-day magic. Here are some of our favourites:
Rapper’s delight Alize has long been loved by the hip-hop community. The drink has been immortalised many times in music, and everyone who’s anyone - including Prince, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake - has a passion for Alizé. Even better, everything about Alizé is authentic - from its 100% natural ingredients to its well-deserved praise. Gold Passion expertly blends tangy passionfruit with Alizé V.S Cognac and premium French Vodka for a liqueur that is smooth, sweet and very, very sexy. Channel your inner 2Pac with a "Thug Passion" (one of the United States’ most popular cocktails that mixes Alizé Gold Passion and Cristal champagne) or go a little softer and mix the liqueur with apple juice for a different way to take your five a day. Gold Passion is the original Alizé, but lovers of cranberry will no doubt enjoy the Red Passion while the Bleu Passion, infused with real passionfruit, fresh cherries and a hint of ginger makes perfect drinking if you like things slightly spicer. Our verdict? If you’re going to go for anything, then go for gold.
Hold on to that taste of summer all year with this yumtastic gin liqueur. Gin liqueurs have become one of the world of liqueurs most popular choices, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know which one to choose. The supermarket shelves are groaning with every kind of flavour: from herbal liqueurs to chocolate ones to caramel, candy floss or spicy versions. Choosing well is not easy so we’ve done the hard work for you. Award-winning Bloom Strawberry Gin Liqueur combines notes of pomelo, chamomile and honeysuckle to create the perfect fruity floral fusion. Mix it with Prosecco for a Strawberry Royale, sip it straight over ice, or add to lemonade for a summery gin spritz. It’s strawberry very good.
Greenall’s Gin has a 250-year history, and their original London Dry remains unchanged from the original recipe. So you know that when this gin company introduces a new flavour, you can be pretty sure that they’ve done their homework. We love this version: both punchy and fruity, Greenall’s Blood Orange, Fig & Ginger Liqueur opens the world of gin to non-gin drinkers. We also love the wintery-ness of this; the ginger adds a bit of spice and balances the sweetness of the orange and fig. Drink it on the rocks or with prosecco, garnish with orange peel and mint or lavender and you’ll be joining the legions of ginthusiasts in no time.
When you think of whiskey-based liqueurs, we bet you think of Irish cream. Despite serious whiskey drinkers usually turning their noses up at whiskey liqueurs (we are thinking of a particular milky, calorie-ridden drink that is popular at Christmas), Dubliner’s Irish Whiskey liqueur will change all that: the trilogy of Dubliner whiskey, honeycomb and caramel flavours is a super sippable sweet medley. Named after James Joyce’s hometown, all Dubliner whiskeys are an indulgent treat and offer an authentic taste of the Emerald Isle. This is the liqueur to enjoy if don’t want to risk whiskey ridicule next time you're shooting grouse.
A good liqueur is not only a matter of personal taste, but it's also about the right moment, the weather, and the right occasion. Are you looking for something bitter to finish the night? Or a zesty summer sipper to enjoy in a cocktail? Check our full range of liqueurs!