Let's face it: These days we take our
liqueurs for less-than-medicinal purposes. We don't expect
eternal life; we'll settle for a fuzzy feeling in the general
vicinity of the solar plexus.
The history of liqueurs goes back at least to medieval times, when
alchemists and magicians sought elixirs of eternal life. Not only
did these pointy-hatted wizards try to create gold out of base
metals, they also suspected that with the right combination of
herbs, spices, and alcohols, time itself could be brought to a
standstill. (They obviously never sat through an entire episode of
Even if these elixirs didn't extend life indefinitely, some of them
turned out to be effective cures for specific ailments. What's
more, they were just darned fun to drink. People began to discover
that they didn't really need a case of lumbago to justify a daily
dram of their favorite concoction.
Americans used to call these sorts of drinks "cordials" (from the
Latin cor meaning "heart"), a charmingly old-fashioned term that
indicates their cockle-warming qualities. They come in an amazing
array of flavors - herbs and spices, anise and camomile, coffee and
chocolate, citrus and berry, agave and pomegranate, hazelnut and
honey - and just about any other aromatic that can be infused in
alcohol and captured in a bottle.
These three very different liqueurs show how our modern-day
alchemists approach this time-honored tradition.
JUST DESSERTS CRÉME BRÛLÉE CREAM LIQUEUR
The quest for new liqueur flavors is evidently endless. Cream
liqueurs were first perfected in Ireland in the mid-20th century,
when fresh dairy cream was blended with Irish whiskey. It was found
that, after stabilization, no refrigeration was necessary. These
creamy concoctions were great as after-meal treats, especially for
those who wanted to forgo a complete dessert course.