Bartenders Guide: Liqueurs & Cordials

The least you need to know:

A liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that has been flavored with fruit, herbs, nuts, spices, flowers or cream and bottled with added sugar. This addition of adulterants after distillation is the chief distinction between a liqueur and a liquor.

Liqueurs and cordials are usually not aged for long but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry. Their high sugar (and occasionally fat) content can cause them to be more vulnerable to spoilage than liquors. Cream liqueurs are especially susceptible to clotting and spoiling and should be refrigerated if not used immediately.

Although the term "cordial" used to refer specifically to a beverage with medicinal value, "liqueur" and "cordial" are now used fairly interchangeably.

Liqueurs and cordials may be enjoyed on their own or used as the basis of a cocktail. Appropriate glassware should be based on the type of cordial and personal preference. When enjoying a cordial neat, a snifter is almost always appropriate.

Many liqueurs and cordials are intensely flavored and should only be used sparingly in conjunction with other ingredients. Midori, for example, is overwhelmingly sweet and should be used cautiously.