Review: Harlem Kruiden Liqueur

A new liqueur called Harlem is making a splash in the cocktail scene, its goal nothing less than knocking Jagermeister off its precious perch at the top of the “grimace and swallow” shot category.

That’s an awfully tall order: Jager has 70 years of history and sick college students behind it, all unabashedly downing ice cold shots and Jagerbombs as if their lives depended on it.

Similarities — squared off bottle, dark color, herbal aroma, bittersweet flavor, and syrupy consistency — aside, Harlem is a quite different experience than Jagermeister.

It’s darker in color — a deep brown vs. Jager’s red-hued ochre, and it’s stronger in alcohol, 80 proof to Jager’s 70. The body is different too, more sweet and less bitter, with a flavor that tastes of root beer and orange peel. Though Harlem looks ominous, the finish is smooth, with light bitterness that is more pleasant than the grimace-inducing finish that Jager invariably leaves on your face.

Meant to be consumed straight from the freezer, I’ve tried it both cold and at room temperature, and it’s actually acceptable both ways, though superior when it comes out of the icebox.

Harlem hails from the Netherlands, by the way, hence the name — it’s not (in theory, anyway) a reference to the Manhattan neighborhood.

For an even more root beer-toned liqueur, check out Root.

A- / $23 /

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