Category Archives: Liqueurs

Tasting the Liqueurs and C2 Cognac/Liqueur Blends of Merlet

Merlet C2 Citron 101x300 Tasting the Liqueurs and C2 Cognac/Liqueur Blends of MerletWe covered Merlet’s new Cognac a few weeks ago, but the company is arguably best known for its fruit liqueurs, which we’re finally getting around to covering them. All of them, actually. Thoughts on these high-end liqueurs and two unique Cognac/liqueur blends follow.

Merlet Triple Sec – Triple sec is perhaps the toughest liqueur there is to mess up, and Merlet’s, made with bitter orange, blood orange, and lemon, is perfectly solid and is at times a bit exotic with its melange of interrelated fruit flavors. A very pale yellow in color, the lemon is a touch more to the forefront than I’d like, lending this liqueur a slight sourness, but on the whole it’s a perfectly worthwhile and usable triple sec that I have no trouble recommending. 80 proof. A- / $30

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Review: LeSutra Sparkling Liqueurs

LeSUTRA Bottles 285x300 Review: LeSutra Sparkling LiqueursTo call the LeSutra line of liqueurs garish would be a vast understatement. Decked out in pastel colors, emblazoned with tiny fleur-de-lis icons, and sporting oversized metallic stoppers, you don’t walk past the lineup of four LeSutra bottles and not ask, what the heck is that?

Launched by producer Timbaland, these are (duh) club-friendly spirits intended as sippers at the table in your fancier bottle service establishments. Obviously they work as mixers, Alize-style, too.

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Review: Dekuyper JDK&Sons Crave Chocolate Chili Liqueur

crave liqueur 204x300 Review: Dekuyper JDK&Sons Crave Chocolate Chili LiqueurWho doesn’t love chocolate? With its new line of chocolate liqueurs, dubbed Crave, Dekuyper isn’t content to stick with just the lowly cocoa bean. Its three new expressions are all chocolate blended with something else: mint, cherries, or habanero chili, as is the case with the version of Crave that we received for review.

This ink-black liqueur is awfully close to what it promises on the label. The nose suggests only chocolate syrup, with a hint of coffee.

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Review: Tuaca Cinnaster Liqueur

tuaca cinnaster 119x300 Review: Tuaca Cinnaster LiqueurTuaca is a famed vanilla liqueur that’s been around for hundreds of years in various incarnations. Now it’s getting its first line extension: Cinnaster, which adds cinnamon to the mix.

Here’s how it tastes.

Strong vanilla hits your nostrils first as you pour a glass, making you wonder how much cinnamon impact there could be. But stick your nose in the glass and the cinnamon comes along quickly — Red Hots more than freshly grated sticks.

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Review: Belle de Brillet Poire Williams

belle de brillet poire 300x300 Review: Belle de Brillet Poire WilliamsI’ve had a mini of Belle de Brillet around for years. So it came as quite a surprise to find out that Kobrand would be “bringing” this brand (which launched in the 1980s) to the U.S. (The bottle I have was imported by Pasternak.)

I figured I’d crack it open and give it a spin. Assuming the recipe hasn’t changed — it takes Williams pears (Poires Williams) from the Alsace region of France and blends them with Brillet Cognac to create this liqueur — it’s an exotic and fruit-filled spirit. Extremely sweet, the authentic pear character on the nose can’t hold a candle to the massive amount of sugar that lies beneath it. Those nutty, somewhat earthy pears are just doused in syrup — a bit like a canned fruit cocktail. The finish lasts for days. Fine in small quantities.

60 proof.

B / $43 / kobrandwineandspirits.com

Review: Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters

woodford reserve spiced cherry bitters 214x300 Review: Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry BittersI’m not sure why it’s taken so long for a whiskey company to get into the bitters business, but Woodford Reserve has finally opened that door, introducing its first bitters, barrel-aged and spiced cherry-flavored. Crafted in conjunction with Bourbon Barrel Foods, the bitters are specifically designed for use in a Manhattan cocktail (and presumably one with Woodford Reserve Bourbon in it).

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Review: Ventura Limoncello and Orangecello

Based in Ventura County, California, Ventura makes limoncello year-round from SoCal lemons and produces orangecello from local blood oranges on a seasonal basis. (A limoncello crema is also made.) We sampled the two main products. Thoughts follow.

Both are 58 proof. No artificial colors or flavors added. Continue reading

Recipe: St. Germain Seasonal Variations

The other day during our daily news briefing, we made mention of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and the customized, high-end bicycle now being sold on its web site. Along the way, we also noticed updated cocktail recipes, and tried a few out last night over a marathon Magnum P.I. session, courtesy of Netflix Instant.

winter cup 300x250 Recipe: St. Germain Seasonal VariationsWinter Cup 

1 part St. Germain
2 parts spiced rum
1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
1 slice strawberry, lime, lemon, orange
1 pinch of mint
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a shaker, gently muddle fruit and mint. Add remaining ingredients and shake lightly. Pour mixture into a rocks glass, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

St. Germain Bohemianbohemian 284x300 Recipe: St. Germain Seasonal Variations

1 part gin (Nolet Gin preferred, but any will do)
1 part St. Germain
¾ part freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters

 

 

Shake all ingredients with ice and serve in a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

UPDATE: While we were  filing this post for deadline, we received word over the PR wire that St. Germain has been acquired by Bacardi for an undisclosed amount. Quite the coincidence. No word on whether or not the bikes will be staying around during this merger.

Review: Cacao Prieto Single Origin Cacao Rum Liqueurs

 Review: Cacao Prieto Single Origin Cacao Rum LiqueursSingle-origin coffee beans? Sure. Single-origin chocolate bars? Why not?

How about single-origin cacao liqueur, then?

Can turning cacao beans from a single estate really make a difference? Is it actually possible for the individual character of a cacao bean to make it through the distillation process and into the finished product? Well, we’re about to find out, thanks to Brooklyn’s Cacao Prieto, which produces three cacao and rum liqueurs, all made from cacao beans sourced from different estates in the Dominican Republic.

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Review: Bepi Tosolini Saliza Amaretto

Saliza amaretto 148x300 Review: Bepi Tosolini Saliza AmarettoIf amaretto isn’t the most under-appreciated liqueur in the world I don’t know what is. Creme de menthe, maybe?

It isn’t every day that a new amaretto hits the market, but here comes Saliza, a traditional Italian amaretto made from alcohol-steeped almonds (not apricot pits, as many amarettos are), flavored with sugar and colored with caramel. Saliza’s “secret recipe” includes a few drops of brandy in the finished product to make it a touch more exotic. Continue reading

Review: Mandarine Napoleon XO Grande Reserve

mandarine napoleon xo 163x300 Review: Mandarine Napoleon XO Grande ReserveMandarine Napoleon relaunched in early 2012, and now owner DeKuyper is out with a new expression — an ultra-luxe, limited-edition release that has been produced on and off for 100 years called Mandarine Napoleon XO.

What’s the difference vs. the $30 standard bottling? Like the original Napoleon, it’s a blend of Cognac and distilled mandarin orange peels (enriched with 27 herbs and spices). But while there’s probably precious little Cognac in the original Mandarine Napoleon, here the Cognac percentage hits up to 43 percent — and the Cognac used is 30 years old instead of 10. Continue reading

Review: Kinky Liqueur

Kinky liqueur 88x300 Review: Kinky LiqueurTechnically a flavored vodka (5x distilled), Kinky is a bright pink “liqueur” flavored with mango, blood orange, and passion fruit, a clear shot across the bow of Alize, Hpnotiq, and its ilk.

The look and taste are actually heavily reminiscent of pink lemonade. Of the three fruits named in the mix, the passion fruit is the most present, but it’s mostly vague, lemony citrus that dominates. It’s sweet and sour, actually not at all bad to sip on and not nearly as saccharine as the neon color would indicate.

That said, it’s not the most complex spirit, but it’d make a great addition to a fruity cosmo-class drink, or as a topper to a glass of sparkling wine.

34 proof.

B / $20 / crosbylakespirits.com

Review: FAIR Vodka and Cafe and Goji Liqueurs

FAIR. Products US 300x249 Review: FAIR Vodka and Cafe and Goji LiqueursYou have to appreciate a company that wants to do some good in the world, even while it’s getting people liquored up. FAIR (technically “FAIR.” with a period) bills itself as the first Fair Trade-certified spirits manufacturer. Based in France, the company offers a vodka and two liqueurs. We tasted them all. Thoughts follow.

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Reivew: Kahlua Gingerbread Liqueur

Kahula Gingerbread 114x300 Reivew: Kahlua Gingerbread LiqueurEvery year Kahlua puts out a festive limited edition version of its coffee liqueur for the holidays. Last year it was Cinnamon Spice. In 2010: Peppermint Mocha.

For 2012 Kahlua turns to the Christmas classic of gingerbread, with Kahlua Gingerbread Liqueur.

Gingerbread is one of my favorite cookie/cake varieties… and it makes ample sense to put the flavors together in a liqueur… a liquified version of noshing on a bit of gingerbread alongside your coffee. Continue reading

Review: Amaro Tosolini

Amaro tosolini 154x300 Review: Amaro TosoliniGrappa impresario Bepi Tosolini is expanding into the U.S. with its amaro, and an amaretto which we’ll be reviewing soon.

The amaro, Amaro Tosolini, boasts a recipe that dates back to 1918, is made with 15 different herbs and spices, is aged in ash barrels for four months, and is finally brought down to proof with water from the Alps. Continue reading

Review: PunZone Vodka, Lemoncino, and Originale Liqueur

Ppunzone vodka and liqueurs 300x234 Review: PunZone Vodka, Lemoncino, and Originale LiqueurunZone (accent on the e) is a new Italian brand that produces vodka and a pair of spirits, all organically. The vodka is actually the newest part of the equation. The liqueurs are old family recipes — blends of vodka, sangria, and fruit essences. We tasted all three spirits. Thoughts follow.

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Review: Hum Botanical Spirit Liqueur

Hum Botanical Spirit liqueur 146x300 Review: Hum Botanical Spirit LiqueurA unique liqueur on the market today, Hum has been available for a few years, but I rarely see it on cocktail menus. It’s made from pot-distilled rum and infused with fair trade hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom, and kaffir lime. Sounds simple. It is anything but.

This is a complicated liqueur. The color and consistency are Robitussin maroon. The nose, intensely floral, features an undercurrent of raisins and wild cherries. The body is a powerhouse: The floral elements build and build until (mercifully) the ginger root takes over, cutting the sweetness with that unmistakable bite. Cardamom is clear, but it’s not as powerful as I was expecting — perhaps being “green” makes a difference.

Hum is frankly difficult to process; there’s so much going on in this spirit that “balance” is an utter impossibility. The ginger element really grows on you though, which really surprised me. Use in cocktails, one drop at a time.

70 proof.

B- / $47 / humspirits.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Germain-Robin Pear de Pear Liqueur

germain robin pear de pear 80x300 Review: Germain Robin Pear de Pear LiqueurThe pear gets minimal respect in the booze biz. Heck, even apples have high-end brandies dedicated to them — in multiple countries, no less. In comparison, pear brandies are normally unaged quickie spirits. Finding a pear spirit that’s spent time in oak is almost unheard of. Craft Distillers’ Joe Corley cares not for any of this: He’s put together this limited edition aged pear liqueur (not a straight brandy), and it’s a mighty success.

Inspired by the pear liqueur of the same name from the now defunct RMS Distillery in Napa (sold only at its tasting room, it was never released to the open market), Corley uses Lake County and Mendocino County Bartlett pears as the basis for this rich and exotic liqueur.

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Review: “Art in the Age” Rhubarb Tea Liqueur

art in the age rhubarb tea 174x300 Review: Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea LiqueurArt in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’s latest niche liqueur turns to the humblest of roots: The rhubarb.

Formerly known as “Rhuby,” AitA went with a more descriptive name for this product for reasons that must sound obvious but are in fact due to legal problems with the original name. (Current bottles actually have the new label pasted over the original one.)

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