A Crash Course in Cordials and Liqueurs

Sweet and colorful liqueurs are a familiar component in both cocktails and shooters. They are used to soften the sharp taste of alcohol and color the cocktail. The oddly shaped decanters and jeweled colors of liqueurs also greatly enhance the look of your home cocktail bar.


Cordials are a hybrid where brandy, whiskey, or to a neutral spirit like vodka


Although there are thousands of liqueurs and cordials available on the market here are some of the basics you might want to have on hand for a cocktail party.


Bailey’s Irish Creme

This is a very popular and smooth Irish Whiskey that is flavored with cacao and cream.



This sweet dark brown liqueur is named after the Benedictine monks who first produced it at the Abbey of Fecamp in the 16th century. It is made of herbs and peels.



Campari is a very bitter aperitif that is flavored with various herbs, but the actual ingredients are a closely guarded secret. Gaspare Campari invented it in 1860.



Chartreuse is very strong flavored liquor that comprised of 130 herbs and spices. It is either a sunny yellow or light green in color. It was invented by monks in 1605, boasted a 90% alcohol content and was originally called the “Elixir of Long Life.”



This is a fragrant high quality brandy based liqueur that is a flavored with sweet and bitter orange peels. It is a premium brand of Triple Sec. Both are used to flavor Margaritas.


Creme De Cacao

This is a chocolate flavored alcohol distilled from cacao beans that is sold as a clear or brown colored liqueur.


Creme De Menthe

This is a mint-flavored alcohol that is sold either as a clear or a bright green liquid. It is used to make Stingers and other classic cocktails.



Curaçao traditionally is made from the peels of the bitter oranges from the island Curaçao. It is a type of Triple Sec. Curaçao can be colored orange, blue or left clear (white). All of these taste the same, but provide a different visual effect.



Galliano is a sweet golden liqueur infused with many herbs, including anise that gives it a bit of a strong licorice flavor.


Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier is a very sweet golden cognac that is blended with distilled orange peels and sugar syrup.



This is a high quality chocolate flavored alcohol distilled from coffee beans.



This sweet liqueur is worth mentioning because it is the favorite shooter of Goth, Rave and other alternative crowds. It has a sweet, medicinal taste that is probably due to the fact that is made from a fermentation of over 120 botanicals and herbs .



The unique licorice flavor of Pernod comes from a secret blend of essential fennel oil, and extracts of aromatic plants obtained through distillation. It is a thick yellow colored liqueur that is common substitute for Absinthe in cocktails.


Triple Sec

Triple Sec is an orange flavored liquor. The term Triple Sec means triple dry.