Category Archives: Liqueurs

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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Review: Kahlua Midnight Liqueur

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out… and we’re gonna drink this new liqueur from the increasingly huge portfolio of products from Kahlua: Kahlua Midnight.

Midnight is a major departure for Kahlua, which has to date been happy to create new versions of its signature coffee liqueur by adding additional flavorings like you’d find in a coffee shop (various incarnations now include cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, mocha, and peppermint versions). Midnight is something different: A 70 proof monster mix of the classic coffee liqueur with rum.

In truth, even the standard 40-proof version of Kahlua has rum in it (it’s touted on the label), but it’s watered down and sugared up so those Desperate Housewives can sip it all day. At 70-proof, Kahlua Midnight is nearly full-strength booze, more rum than Kahlua — though it’s still just as black as before (caramel color is added). In case you’re unclear, the bottle is completely different than the standard tiki-friendly Kahlua one.

In all honesty, Kahlua Midnight — in taste — is not a great departure from its mother, standard-grade Kahlua. The coffee is clear on the nose and the palate. Rum, as with regular Kahlua, is really just hinted at, indistinctly and more on the undercarriage of the nose than in the body, where the strong coffee character is simply overpowering to anything underneath it. It’s got more of a boozy kick in the middle, but the finish is mild, dominated by a clear, fresh-ground coffee character.

What’s the point of Midnight? It’s primarily meant for consumption straight, on the rocks. God help the hacker that uses this stuff in lieu of standard Kahlua and doesn’t realize what he’s getting into.

A- / $24 / kahlua.com

kahlua midnight Review: Kahlua Midnight Liqueur

Review: Nahmias et Fils Mahia Liqueur

mahia liqueur 199x300 Review: Nahmias et Fils Mahia LiqueurFigs are one of my favorite unsung cocktail ingredients, so I was delighted to see that someone was finally producing a fig liqueur.

Correction: Fig and aniseed liqueur. Hrmmmm.

Mahia actually is a general term for anise liqueur in (Algerian) French, and this spirit (produced in New York) is inspired by that traditional liqueur — distilled from fermented figs — which is made in Morocco.

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Review: Vecchio Amaro Del Capo Liqueur

Amaro del Capo 150x300 Review: Vecchio Amaro Del Capo LiqueurBorn in Calabria — the “toe of the foot” of Italy — Vecchio Amaro Del Capo (or just Del Capo) is a classic amaro made from 29 local herbs and roots. Lightly brown like a brewed tea, it looks a bit like whiskey in the glass but smells far different as it is poured.

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Review: Courvoisier Gold Cognac Liqueur

Courvoisier is at the forefront of the taking Cognac into new markets, with brandy-and-wine blends like Courvoisier Rose. Now the company is back at it with Courvoisier Gold, a blend of Cognac and Moscato wine.

This actually sounds like a great idea — the brisk orange of the Moscato enhancing the citrus notes in the Cognac. In theory, anyway.

Alas, the theory didn’t really pan out this time. The nose of Gold is mild and innocuous, and the body brings out the constituent components of the concoction. Unfortunately, those components just don’t work together. The Moscato wine is understated and doesn’t offer much flavor, just a vague sense of something fruity that approaches apple juice, straight out of the juice box. This is spiked with a touch of Cognac — at just 18% alcohol, there’s really not much brandy in the mix — but it’s not enough to do much to the wine. A hint of vanilla is really all you get — and it turns out to be not very complementary to the Moscato in the end.

If you do try this product, be sure to have it chilled (as the company recommends). Served at room temperature, it’s tepid and raw. Chilled or with ice, at least you can have your apple juice the way God intended.

36 proof.

D+ / $25 / courvoisier.com

courvoisier gold Review: Courvoisier Gold Cognac Liqueur

Review: Prevu Sparkling Liqueur

Blackberries, currants, and raspberries, all steeped in vodka and Cognac and given a light sparkling fizz — every component organic — what could go wrong?

The intriguing Prevu, made in the Cognac region, is a super-sweet concoction ready-made for the Alize set, where a touch of Cognac and a whole lot of fruit flavor rules the roost.

The berry components are heavy on the jam character, massively sugar-infused and ready for spreading on toast if only it were a bit thicker. Sip long enough and you do get all the fruit elements, the oily texture backed up with a fizzy topper. The carbonation isn’t heavy and it fades after 20 minutes or so, so drink fast if you want to get the bubbles.

Prevu is mainly promoted as a straight drink (on the rocks), but with its gooey aftertaste, I’d have trouble finishing a full glass. Consider instead as an alternative to Chambord in cocktails if you’re in a pinch.

C- / $30 / drinkprevu.com

 Review: Prevu Sparkling Liqueur

 

Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

You can pour your Kahlua into coffee, or you can get it in one-stop format, thanks to Kahlua’s new “grab & go” canned cocktails. (I’m not sure where you’re supposed to be “going” with one of these in hand, but that’s another story.)

Each of these pre-mixed cocktails are fairly self-explanatory, and each includes 100% Arabica coffee from Veracruz, Mexico. Each can contains 200ml (6.8 oz.) of cocktail and a mere 5% alcohol. (150 calories each, if you’re curious.) Here’s how the three varieties come across. All three have the appearance of dark coffee, complete with a small layer of crema on top when poured into a glass.

Kahlua Iced Espresso – Mild coffee with mild Kahlua notes, but a reasonable expression of both the constituent components. Somewhat nutty, with burnt caramel notes on the finish. Drinkable, even the whole can. B+

Kahlua Iced Mocha – Sweet, with more chocolate than coffee character, but neither is exceptionally strong. Not bad, but the thick aftertaste starts to coat the tongue after a while. B

Kahlua Iced Coffee with Cinnamon Spice – Like a Starbucks concoction, which is a bit much for my tastes. Very strong cinnamon and sugar on the nose, and plenty more where that came from as you sip. Like the mocha in the cloying department, times three. C+

$2.50 per 200ml can / kahlua.com

kahlua cans Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

 

Review: White Lion VSOA

Billed as the “world’s oldest naturally fermented, single ingredient spirit,” VSOA is a beverage that defies description or easy categorization.

VSOA is part of a group of spirits called arrack, which can can be made from just about anything (the better-known Batavia Arrack is made from sugarcane, like rum). This version (VSOA stands for Very Special Old Arrack) is made in Sri Lanka, and the amber liquid looks like whiskey or aged rum. But rather than being made from grains or sugar, it’s produced from the nectar of coconut flowers.

This nectar self-ferments without added yeast, after which it is distilled then aged in local Halmilla wood barrels for two years before bottling. Caramel color is added.

The flavor is light, delicate, and unusual. The closest analogue I can suggest is a watered-down, spiced rum, with a combination of sugary notes and slightly rough, phenolic notes — that pot-still funk — on the nose. Similar on the tongue: Very lightly rummy, with some baking spice, vanilla, and vague tropical notes in the finish. Coconut is there, but it’s faint. The finish is short, but there’s an aftertaste that lingers after the spirit itself fades — something akin to sandalwood.

The biggest challenge with VSOA is the body: very light and thin, it’s difficult to really get enveloped by. While the story behind it is intriguing, there’s just not enough ooomph to keep you excited.

73.6 proof.

B / $25 / whitelionvsoa.com

white lion vsoa Review: White Lion VSOA

 

Review: Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Let’s start with the natural first question: Mariposa’s not tequila.

Tequila is made from roasted agave hearts which are juiced and fermented. Mariposa is made from agave nectar — a natural sweetener that’s frequently used in margaritas and other applications — plus enough vodka and tequila to bring it up to 60 proof. Rose and gardenia essences are also added.

Mariposa, made by Kentucky’s Heaven Hill, is a true liqueur, and in fact it’s nothing much like tequila at all. Extremely sweet — you can smell the sugar — the nose really just hints at agave. Imagine sniffing a margarita where the bartender forgot the limes and you’re in the ball park.

Take a sip and you’re in for another spin. The sugar rush up front is powerful and almost bruising to the palate. Then comes all the other stuff. Tequila, sure, but that vegetal agave funk is less evident than you’d think. What is surprisingly strong are the floral notes from that rose and gardenia oil. Perfumy notes emerge on the nose as they hit the tongue, doubling down on the very flowery finish. The body is thick, a natural counterpart to the honey-like sweetness that dominates the spirit.

Mariposa is a tough sell, with a lot going on and no clear direction where it’s going. As a substitute for triple sec and sweetener in a margarita? Maybe, but the last thing your typical margarita needs is more tequila flavor. And flowers. It’s something I wouldn’t mind experimenting with and more exotic drinks (and in extreme moderation) but not something I’d likely tough on its own.

As a side note, this is our 2000th post on Drinkhacker. Thanks for being a loyal visitor!

B- / $25 / facebook.com/MariposaLiqueur

mariposa liqueur Review: Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur