A liqueur is an alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit that has been flavoured with fruit, botanicals, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts, often with added sugar or other sweeteners.


Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in how Australian drinkers are engaging with the current alcohol landscape – where once beer and wine reigned supreme, a renewed interest in high quality spirits and cocktails has emerged, leading to exponential growth in the liqueur category.

Liqueurs have a rich heritage as medicinal elixir: even before sugar reached Europe, elixirs from complex blends of herbs and secret ingredients were being made to cure any and all illnesses. Because of the believed medicinal properties, liqueurs were most often produced by monks and alchemists, being called anything from the aforementioned elixir, to balms, oils, tonics, even aphrodisiacs and love potions.

Although some people drink liqueurs neat before or after dinner, they are most commonly used in cocktails, with most (if not all) popular cocktails containing at least one liqueur. Liqueurs contribute unique flavours that help balance cocktails and are essential in some of the world’s most iconic drinks – after all, what’s a white Russian or espresso martini without a coffee liqueur like Tia Maria?


Liqueurs traditionally refer to sweet, flavoured, distilled liquor that has a proof usually ranging from 15-30% ABV. Liqueurs have been around for a long time, with the name liqueur originating from the Latin word ‘liquifacere’ meaning to liquefy. They are typically quite sweet because, unlike whisky or other spirits, the ageing process is comparatively very short, meaning the sugars are not burned off during production. Despite the shorter ageing process, after the ingredients are mixed, certain liqueurs may have resting periods during their production to allow flavours to marry. Most liqueurs have a lower alcohol content (15-30% ABV) than spirits, but there are exceptions with some containing as much as 55% ABV such as Green Chartreuse.

Although liqueur production varies depending on ingredients and region, they are generally created by combining a base alcohol such as wine, brandy or vodka with fruit or herbs, with modern versions even incorporating ingredients such as coffee or chocolate. The mixture is then sweetened using a sugar syrup.

Some liqueurs are prepared by infusing wood, fruit, or flowers in either water or alcohol and adding sugar or other items. Others are distilled from aromatic or flavouring agents.  In the case of Cointreau, the liquid contains a combination of bitter orange and sweet orange peels in its recipe. The orange peels, once selected are steeped for 24hrs in the sugar beet neutral-based spirit and distilled to make an extremely concentrated spirit base. The orange liqueur is then combined with sugar and pure water then bottled at 40%ABV. Cointreau contains 1/3 the sugar of other triple secs in the market. This iconic French orange liqueur is a primary ingredient in the classic margarita, and is considered a must-have in every bartender’s arsenal.


Licor 43 infuses ripe citrus fruit with 43 selected botanicals and spices and macerates it in a mixture of alcohol, water and sugars, allowing it to steep and release flavours and essential oils. Once the flavour has been achieved, the macerate is aged from 6 to 9 months to allow the flavours to further mellow and harmonise, leading to that great citrus taste. Licor 43 is known for its citrus, and vanilla taste, with underlying notes of spice and is commonly used in cocktails such as the Espresso 43 and mini beer 43 shot. Licor 43 also pairs well with coconut flavours, making it the perfect addition to a pina colada.

Disaronno is an Italian liqueur made from 17 different herbs and apricot kernels. Despite being an amaretto, Disaronno does not contain almonds but is used in classic amaretto cocktails such as the amaretto sour and other almond-flavoured drinks. The Reina family has closely guarded the secret formula for centuries, passing it from one generation to the next.

Tia Maria is a Coffee liqueur that, similar to Cointreau is often found in a bartender’s liquor collection due to its versatility. Tia Maria uses Arabica Coffee, Jamaican spiced rum and Madagascar Vanilla in its recipe, producing a delicious coffee liqueur which is lower in sugar than rival brands and dates back to the 17th Century. The sweet coffee flavour makes Tia Maria a perfect addition to cream or chocolate cocktails like mudslides.


There are many different types of liqueurs. However, they are generally created by combining a base alcohol with fruit or herbs, and modern versions can include ingredients such as coffee or chocolate.

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