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Difference Between Liquor & Liqueur

The words liquor and liqueur may seemingly be confusing for newbie consumers and bartenders alike. The chances of mistakenly interchanging one for the other as bar ingredient are higher for those uninitiated.

So before you end up making one disastrous cocktail using these crucial bar ingredients, let’s step in to simplify the matters for you.

Liquor or ‘spirit’ is basically any distilled alcoholic beverage. It is produced by distillation of fermented grains, fruits or vegetables.

They are used as base ingredients in many cocktails.

The word liquor is derived from the Latin verb ‘liquere, which means “to be fluid”. The first usage of the liquid for drinking dates back to the 14th century.

Liqueur, on the other hand, is an alcoholic drink which is sweetened by infusing fruits, herbs, spices, nuts, flowers to the base liquor. Historically liqueurs were used for medicinal purposes, however, over the centuries the production and consumption has expanded across the world.
The word liqueur has Latin roots in ‘liquifacere’, which means ‘to dissolve’. They are commonly served straight up, in cocktails, coffee, with ice, and some liqueurs are also used in cooking.

Methods of Production

The liqueur has been around for centuries now and the sweet-tasting alcobev still remains relevant because it has evolved with time. The versatility of liqueurs makes them key ingredients in many cocktails.

The steps of production are as follows.

Step one involves the selection of alcohol, wherein neutral base alcohol is selected. Rum, gin, vodka are the preferred types of neutral alcohol used.
The other raw materials used are fruits, herbs, spices etc which contain the natural flavouring agents within seeds, zest, petals, roots, pulps etc.

Step two includes extraction by infusion; maceration; percolation; distillation.

Step three involves blending, ageing, filtering and bottling. Generally, sugar is the last ingredient which is incorporated to make a perfectly delicious liqueur.

The infusion of flavours and sweetness in liqueurs is a primary factor which makes them distinct from liquors.

The ageing process can be anywhere from a period ranging from a few months to a few years in oak casks or barrels. Bold enough to be consumed as a stand-alone drink or used in cocktails, its strength varies from 15- 55% with at least 100 gms of sugar content.
Some of the types of liqueurs are crème Liqueurs, chocolate liqueurs, coffee liqueurs, fruit-based liqueurs, schnapps, spiced liqueurs, herb-based liqueurs, nut-flavoured, whiskey-based liqueurs etc.

Liquors are considered to be the backbone of any cocktail, and unlike liqueurs, they are not sweet. They made by the process of distillation of the fermented grain mash which purifies the liquid, thus removing diluting components like water. The extraction process gives liquors a relatively high concentration of alcohol content.

Even though alcobevs like beer, wine, sake, mead and cider are fermented, they do not fall under the category because they are not distilled.

Whisky, brandy, rum, vodka, gin, tequila, baijiu are the common types of liquors.

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