The history of liqueurs is long and much-disputed, but it was probably monks who first produced liqueurs on a large scale, initially for medicinal purposes, during the 14th century.
By the 17th century, liqueurs featured in recipe books; by the 18th century, a few monasteries were selling their liqueurs; and by 1880, when Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle began crafting Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge from cognac and fragrant oranges, a number of liqueurs were established brands. Although ‘crème de...’ (cream of...) is a common French name for many fruit liqueurs, none of them contain cream. More recently a new category, the cream liqueurs, emerged after four years of research to create Baileys. This transformed the sector.
Liqueurs are spirits sweetened and flavoured with a wide range of fruits, herbs and spices, not to mention other flavourings such as cream, coffee and chocolate. Baileys is an essential ingredient in shooters such as the B52 and the Mudslide, and coffee liqueur, or Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur with a hint of Coffee can be used in the White Russian and the Black Russian. Grand Marnier can be mixed with cranberry juice and lime juice in the Grand Can, or served with soda water and lemon juice in the Grand Tropez.
Many liqueur drinkers enjoy their favourite liqueurs sipped straight, whether on the rocks, over crushed ice, or in a stylish glass. Romana Sambuca is traditionally served in a snifter, con mosca’ – with three coffee beans floated in a brandy glass.