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 (Chartreuse). Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they are usually not aged for long after the ingredients are mixed, but 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 some contain as much as 55% abv such as Green Chartreuse. The name liqueur originates from the Latin word liquifacere meaning to liquefy. Some liqueurs are prepared by infusing certain woods, fruits, or flowers in either water or alcohol and adding sugar or other items. Others are distilled from aromatic or flavouring agents.
In case of Cointreau, the liquid contains a combination of bitter, sweet & fresh orange peels in its recipe. The orange peel, once selected are steeped for 24hrs in the sugar beet neutral based spirit and distilled to make an extremely concentrated spirit base. The liqueur is then combined with sugar & pure water & bottled at 40%ABV. Cointreau contains 1/3 the sugar of other triple secs in the market.
Licor 43 infuses ripe citrus fruits with selected botanicals 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.
Disaronno is made from 17 different herbs & apricot kernels, not almonds and The Reina family has closely guarded the secret formula for centuries, passing it from one generation to the next.
Tia Maria uses Arabica Coffee, Jamaican Rum and Madagascar Vanilla in its recipe, producing a delicious coffee liqueur which is lower in sugar than rival brands & dates back to the 17th Century.