Learn Your Liqueurs

Liquor bottles behind a bar
Liquor bottles behind a bar. Mitsuhiro Ouchi / a.collectionRF / Getty Images

As you explore the index of cocktail recipes you will find many of them use liqueurs or cordials. These are essential to mixing cocktails as they often add the accent flavors to drinks, though they can also be the main ingredient.

Names like Benedictine, Campari, Cointreau, and Drambuie are common brands and many have proprietary recipes with distinct, unique profiles. There are a number of names for styles of liqueur as well.

Absinthe, creme de cassis, and peach schnapps are just a few examples and are produced by many brands. A number of these are also candidates for homemade liqueurs, which are quite fun to make.

This guide is designed to introduce you to the variety of liqueurs available today. Use it to find a general flavor profile for each brand or style and follow the links to learn more and find great cocktail recipes to use them in.

  • Absante- Pale green, anise-flavored liqueur. Turns opalescent when dripped slowly over ice. Replacement for absinthe.
  • Absinthe- An anise-flavored liqueur that was originally 136 proof and was outlawed for years in most countries. Asante, Pernod, and Herbsaint can be used to replace absinthe in cocktail recipes.
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  • Advocaat- A liqueur from Holland made of egg yolks, brandy, sugar and vanilla that is often enjoyed straight or on the rocks.
  • Agavero- A tequila-based liqueur flavored with the Damiana flower. It was created in 1857, uses a blend of 100% blue agave Anejo and reposado tequilas that have been aged in French Limousin oak. It is popular to drink straight, on the rocks, or in cocktails such as the Bésame Cocktail.
  • Amaretto- An almond flavored liqueur made with apricot pits. This liqueur is commonly paired with a coffee liqueur in drinks like a Toasted Almond or used as a smooth liqueur in shooters like the Alabama Slammer.
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  • Amaro Meletti- A bitter Italian digestif that is flavored with various aromatic herbs including anise and saffron. The flavor profile is surprising and reminiscent of chocolate. It is delicious on its own or over ice and used in a few cocktails including the Twentieth Century and Bugs Cutty.
    Meletti website...
  • Amer Picon- A bitter French aperitif that can be hard to find, particularly in the United States. It has a distinct orange taste.
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  • Aperol- An Italian aperitif produced from a recipe developed in 1919. Its primary flavor is orange but also includes rhubarb, chinchona, gentian an along with other "secret" herbs. Used in many cocktails including the  Aperol Spritz and Rhyme & Reason.
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  • Averna- An Italian bitter liqueur (or amaro) still produced from the original 1868 recipe of herbs, roots and citrus rinds with natural caramel for sweetness. The liqueur is a favorite digestif in Italy and is often served on the rocks, but it also makes a great mixer for cocktails.
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  • Barenjaeger- A honey-flavored liqueur produced in Germany whose beginnings were in medieval Europe.
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  • Ben- An American version of Benedictine.
  • Benedictine- Made of herbs, roots, and sugar with a Cognac base. Try Benedictine in a B&B.
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  • Blackberry Liqueur, Blackberry-flavored Brandy- The flavored brandy is sweeter than the liqueur and makes a wonderful blackberry sour.
    Find blackberry cocktails...
  • Butterscotch Liqueur, Butterscotch Schnapps- A liqueur made from a mix of butter and brown sugar that tastes like butterscotch candy. Sometimes referred to as Buttershots (brand name produced by DeKuyper).
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  • Cacao Mint Nuss- Crème de cacao with a hazelnut flavor.
  • Campari- A bitter Italian apèritif made with a unique blend of herbs and spices with orange being the dominant flavor. The secret recipe was originally developed by Gaspare Campari in 1860 for his Cafè Campari in Milan. Campari is often served on the rocks either by itself or mixed with club soda and is also a key ingredient in many apèritif cocktails such as Negroni and Americano.
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  • Chambord- A liqueur that dates back to 1685 when Louis XIV visited Château de Chambord. Chambord is produced in the Loire valley in France and is made from red and black raspberries, honey, vanilla, and cognac.
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  • Chartreuse- An herbal liqueur produced by Carthusian monks in the French Alps. It is available as either Green or Yellow Chartreuse and as a special V.E.P. bottling of both varieties, which is aged for a longer period of time.
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  • Cherry Heering- A naturally flavored cherry liqueur from Denmark that is used in a variety of cocktails.
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  • Cherry liqueur- A tart fruit accent made of cherries and pits. A great on the rocks sipper as well. Also, see maraschino liqueur...
  • Cinnamon Schnapps- An often clear, higher proof distilled spirit that is flavored with cinnamon and used often in cocktails and shooters.
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  • Coffee liqueur, Crème de Café- Coffee-flavored liqueur. The most popular coffee liqueur is the Mexican Kahlua. Others include Tia Maria from Jamaica, Expresso from dark-roasted Italian coffee, crème de café , and Pasha from Turkey. Any of the coffee liqueurs are great served ice-cold with heavy cream floating on top and are popular ingredients in a variety of cocktails.
    Find coffee cocktails
  • Cointreau- A brand name orange-flavored liqueur that is considered a premium triple sec.
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  • Crème d' Apricots, Apricot Liqueur, Apr- Cream of apricot liqueur from France. Luscious when drizzled in a Champagne flute over cracked ice. Find it in cocktails like the Apricot Sunray and UK Sour.
    Find apricot cocktails...
  • Crème d' Almond- A pink liqueur flavored with almonds and fruit stones. Similar to crème de noyau.
  • Crème de Banana, Banana Liqueur- Cream of banana liqueur that is usually quite sweet and is true to the fruit's flavor.
    Find banana cocktails...
  • Crème de Cacao- Cacao (chocolate) and vanilla bean based liqueur. Available in both white (clear) and brown varieties. The white is used in a Grasshopper while the brown is used in an Alexander.
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  • Crème de Cassis- A sweet, low-proof liqueur made from French blackcurrants. It can be found in cocktails such as the Chimayo, Vermouth Cassis, Kir, Sex on the Beach, and Cardinal Cocktail, and is often paired with wine.
  • Crème de Cerise- A sweet cherry-flavored liqueur.
  • Crème de Coconut, Coconut Liqueur, Batida de Coco- Sweet coconut-flavored liqueurs, typically with a rum base. Batida de coco is a creamy liqueur, others are usually clear, though some are creamy as well.
    Find coconut cocktails...
  • Crème de Framboise- A crème liqueur with a raspberry flavor.
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  • Crème de Menthe- This sweet liqueur flavored with mint leaves and is either white (clear) or green.
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  • Crème de Mûre - A sweet blackberry-flavored liqueur.
    Find blackberry cocktails...
  • Crème de Noyaux- A pink liqueur has a distinct almond flavor and is made with the stones of plums, cherries, peaches and apricots. This is not a very common liqueur but is found in cocktails such as the Pink Squirrel.
  • Crème de Violette- A purple violet-flavored liqueur that was commonly used in classic cocktails such as the Aviation Cocktail. It lost some of its popularity because of import issues until the late 1990's and has since become a favorite ingredient for reviving the classics and using in modern creations. The most popular brand is Rothman & Winter
  • Curaçao- Made of the dried peels of Sarah oranges and was the original orange liqueur, used in many classic cocktails. Normally it is orange in color but can also be white, blue or green.
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  • Cynar- An artichoke-based bitter liqueur that was launched in 1952. Despite its base, it does not have the distinct flavor of the artichoke because it also includes a blend of thirteen herbs and plants. The aperitif is commonly paired with orange juice and soda or tonic and has been used in a number of modern cocktails including the Game Set Match.
    Cynar website...
  • Damiana- A lightly-flavored herbal liqueur produced in Mexico. The primary ingredient is the damiana herb grown in Baha California, Mexico that has long been used as an aphrodisiac. 
    Damiana website...
  • Domaine de Canton- A ginger-flavored liqueur with an eau-de-vie and Cognac base produced in France.
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  • Drambuie- The guarded formula for this liqueur includes Scotch (at least 10 years old), heather honey and herbs. The name comes from the Gaelic drama build each which translate to "the drink that satisfies."
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  • Dubonnet Blanc, Dubonnet Blond, White Dubonnet- One of the two styles of Dubonnet, a French wine based aperitif. Blanc is made by adding herbs and botanicals to fortified dry white wine. Dubonnet Blanc and Rouge are similar to dry and sweet vermouth respectively, with the primary difference being that Dubonnet uses quinine (also used to make tonic water) in its recipes.
  • Dubonnet Rouge, Red Dubonnet- The sweeter, richer of the two styles of Dubonnet. Rouge has a red wine base that is flavored with spices. Used in the aptly named Dubonnet Cocktail.
    Dubonnet website...
  • Ecstasy- This lemon and pomegranate flavored, the clear liqueur is energized with natural stimulants including guarana, taurine, and ginseng.
  • Fernet Branca- An Italian amaro (bitter) liqueur with a strong flavor and aroma that was first produced in 1845. The digestif is made with around 40 herbs, roots, and spices and has a notable menthol-eucalyptus flavor.
  • Frangelico- A hazelnut flavored liqueur made from the infusion of toasted hazelnuts into alcohol and water. It receives additional flavors from toasted coffee, cocoa, vanilla berries and rhubarb root.
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  • Galliano- A smooth, spicy liqueur with overtones of anise and vanilla from Livorno, Italy. Though not used much, it is found in a few favorite cocktails including the Harvey Wallbanger and Golden Dream.
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  • Ginger Liqueur- A ginger-flavored liqueur that is made with a variety of ginger. Herbs and honey are also often added to a brandy, rum or neutral spirit. Domaine de Canton (above) is one of the most popular brands.
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  • Gingerbread Liqueur- A gingerbread-flavored liqueur produced by Hiram Walker that is only available during the autumn and winter seasons.
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  • Godiva- A line of chocolate liqueurs produced by the renowned Godiva Chocolatier.
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  • Goldschlager- A clear-colored cinnamon schnapps that contains 24K gold leaf flakes. It is a fun liqueur to play with and appears in many cocktails and shooters.
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  • Grand Marnier- A distinguished orange liqueur from France with a Cognac base that is considered an essential for a well-stocked bar.
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  • GranGala Triple Orange- An orange liqueur with an Italian VSOP brandy base and flavored by Mediterranean oranges. A substitute for Grand Marnier.
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  • Herbsaint- Another substitute for absinthe.
  • Hpnotiq- This ocean blue tropical liqueur is a nice blend of vodka, cognac and just the right fruits (a family secret) that are a great substitute for blue curaçao.
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  • Irish Cream Liqueur- A creamy liqueur made of Irish whiskey, cream, and chocolate that is used in many cocktails and shooters.
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  • Irish Mist- A sweet, aromatic blend of Irish whiskey, honey, herbs and other spirits made with a recipe that dates back more than 1,000 years. 
    Irish Mist website...
  • Jagermeister- An herbal liqueur produced in Germany with a somewhat notorious reputation and is often served in shooters but can also be enjoyed in fine cocktails.
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  • Limoncello- A sweet, lemon-flavored Italian dessert liqueur made from lemon zests.
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  • Licor 43- A vanilla-flavored liqueur produced in Spain. This liqueur contains 43 ingredients with vanilla being the dominant flavor, while others include citrus, other fruits, herbs, spices, and other secret ingredients in the proprietary recipe.
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  • Lychee Liqueur- Very sweet liqueurs flavored by either distilling or infusing lychee fruit into a base spirit. 
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  • Mango Liqueur- Often a sweet, orange-colored liqueur flavored using the tropical fruit. A number of brands produce mango liqueurs, including Bols, Marie Brizard, and Orchard.
    Find mango cocktails...
  • Maraschino- A clear, dry cherry-flavored liqueur made from the Marasca cherry and pits. This is a popular cocktail mixer, including many of the classics.
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  • Midori- A light green-colored liqueur that has a sweet melon flavor. It's a versatile liqueur for cocktails including the Grinch.
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  • Navan- A liqueur with a Cognac base flavored with natural black vanilla from Madagascar. This premium spirit is produced by Grand Marnier and follows in the company's fine tradition of flavored Cognacs. Discontinued.
  • Ouzo- A popular Greek apéritif liqueur flavored with anise that is usually over 90 proof. Normally mixed four parts water to one part ouzo. 
  • PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur- A super-sweet, red liqueur infused with pomegranates. This premium spirit makes a great POM Martini and is a nice accent for a variety of food dishes.
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  • Patron Citronge- An orange liqueur produced by Patron Spirits, making it ideal for tequila cocktails. Use it as a substitute for other orange liqueurs as well.
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  • Patron XO Cafe- A tequila-based liqueur with the flavor of coffee essence. The liqueur is drier and not as sweet as other coffee liqueurs but is stronger at a much higher 70 proof.
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  • Peach Liqueur- Made from an infusion of whole, fresh and/or dried peaches in brandy or a neutral spirit base.
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  • Peppermint Schnapps- Similar to crème de menthe, but uses less sugar and more alcohol. This mint-flavored liqueur has a strong, snappy mint and is often used in winter cocktails.
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  • Pimento Dram- A peppery Jamaican rum liqueur with an allspice flavor that is found in tiki and classic cocktails. ​
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  • Pimm's Cup- A brand of liqueurs that combines a secret recipe of fruit and spices and adds it to a variety of base liqueurs. The most common are the gin-based, Pimm's No. 1 Cup, which is featured in a favorite mixed drink of Southern England, the Pimm's Cup.
  • Pineapple liqueur, Licor de Piña- A pleasant tart fruit liqueur from the Caribbean or Hawaii.
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  • Pumpkin Liqueur- A pumpkin-flavored liqueur that is usually produced during the autumn and winter months only. Brands available include Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice and Bols Pumpkin Smash.
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  • Raki- A high-proof liqueur with an anise flavor from Turkey.
  • RumChata- A cream liqueur made with Caribbean rum and Wisconsin dairy cream with cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and other ingredients.
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  • St. Germain- A French elderflower liqueur with an eau-de-vie base.
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  • Sambuca- An Italian liqueur made from oils from anise, star anise, licorice, elderflower, and other spices. The flavor is similar to a subtle anise (black licorice) and is showcased in cocktails like the Licorice Stick. Sambuca is available in white, black (a bluish hue), and red colors. ​​
    Learn more and discover why it's a great pairing with coffee...
  • Schnapps- Not typically a liqueur by strict definition, but a distilled spirit that is produced usually with fruits in the fermentation. Schnapps come in many flavors, with apple, cinnamon, and peppermint being favorites.
    Read more about schnapps...
  • Sloe gin- A red liqueur, which is not a gin at all, made from the sloe plums of the blackthorn bush. Some types will produce a creamy head when shaken with ice, this is indicated on the bottle label.
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  • Somrus - An Indian cream liqueur made from a blend of rum and dairy cream and flavored with a variety of spices.
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  • Southern Comfort- An American liqueur made from a whiskey base flavored with peaches. It is an excellent mixer and is 100 proof, adding to its comforting qualities. Two popular cocktails are the Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler.
    Southern Comfort website...
  • Strega- An Italian liqueur made of 70 herbs and spices including mint, cinnamon, juniper, saffron, fennel, and iris. It has a distinct yellow color and is the Italian name for 'witch.'
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  • Sweet Revenge- A wild-strawberry sour mash liqueur made in the United States. It is sweet, has a nice fruit flavor, and is a brilliant pink.
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  • Tangerine- A liqueur made of tangerine with mild spice flavors. It is not a widely used liqueur and few brands are available, though some include Lluvia de Estrellas and Russo Mandarino.
  • Tequila Rose- A strawberry-flavored liqueur made in Mexico. It is a mix of strawberry liqueur and tequila and is used in many cocktails like the Strawberry Kiss and Black Rose shooter.
    Tequila Rose website...
  • Triple Sec- An often colorless orange-flavored liqueur that is often used as a generic name for orange liqueurs and called for in many cocktail recipes. Cointreau and Combier are premium brands of triple sec.
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  • Tuaca- An Italian liqueur supposedly created for the Renaissance era ruler, Lorenzo the Magnificent. The flavors are a subtle blend of vanilla and citrus.
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  • TY KU- A pale green liqueur with sake and Asian vodka base. The flavor is a mix of over 20 all natural fruits and botanicals including pomegranate, ginseng, and damiana.
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  • Unicum- An herbal digestif produced in Hungary using a secret recipe of 40 herbs and spices dating that was originally created in 1790. It is a bitter liqueur and the base formula for Unicum Plum and Zwack.
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  • VeeV Açai Spirit- A unique distilled spirit (technically a liquor rather than a liqueur) made from the açai fruit, which has been a popular "superfruit" as of late.
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  • X-Rated Fusion- A pink liqueur from France that infuses mango, Provence blood oranges, and passion fruit in premium vodka.
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  • Yukon Jack- A popular Canadian whisky-based honey liqueur that is commonly mistaken as a straight Canadian whiskey, though it has a distinct sweetened taste. It is used in drinks like Northern Lights and the Snake Bite shooter. The brand also produces a peppermint schnapps called Permafrost.
  • Zen- A green-colored, green tea-flavored liqueur produced by the Japanese company, Suntory. It is made with Kyoto green tea, lemongrass, and a variety of herbs with a neutral grain spirit base. Used in a variety of cocktails including Dreaming of Zen and Zen Milk Bath.
    Discontinued.
  • Zwack- An herbal digestif liqueur that is less bitter and has more citrus notes than Unicum, on which it is based. This liqueur is popular in the United States as an alternative to Jagermeister.
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