Apricot is a tricky flavor to work with, but if you’re exploring classic cocktails, you’ll find apricot brandy or liqueur a component in dozens of recipes. When recipes call for apricot, they often call for plenty of it. The PDT Cocktail Book offers a recipe for an Apricot Flip which includes a healthy 3/4 oz of the liqueur (not to mention a whole egg). The Liberty Bell cocktail is equal parts whiskey, sloe gin, and apricot brandy (plus a dash of bitters).
As with most liqueur categories, the apricot liqueur world has moved upmarket in recent years, and while you’ll find plenty of artificial, candy-colored products on the bottom shelf of your local liqueur store, the five liqueurs (and one brandy eau-de-vie) reviewed here are all authentic, made from real apricots — sometimes just apricots, sometimes plenty of other ingredients, as you’ll see below.
For this review, I tasted all of these samples neat. Here they are ranked by preference, starting with the best.
Distillerie Purkhart Blume Marillen Apricot Eau-de-Vie – Austrian, an unaged distillate of Klosterneuberger apricots — 4.5 pounds of which go into each 375ml bottle. This is the only clear spirit in this roundup, and it’s arguably the purest expression of distilled apricot you will find. The nose is clean and lightly cottony — and gently perfumed with initially indistinct floral elements. The palate proves itself to be quite pretty and refined. The earthiness that you find in any fruit eau-de-vie claws a bit at the back of the throat, but what emerges in short order after that fades is a vibrant expression of genuine, semi-sweet apricot, lively with notes of authentic fruit, some fresh citrus, and hints of baking spice. I kept going back to this over and over again; the gorgeously floral perfume notes left in the glass, even after it’s empty, are nothing short of enchanting. It’s not a traditional liqueur that you’d use in a cocktail — but it was still my favorite experience in this lineup. 80 proof. A / $30 (375ml)
Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur – Austrian. This is also made at Distillerie Purkhart, from a base that starts with Blume Marillen brandy, plus Klosterneuberger apricots and a light-handed spray of sugar, making for a more traditional liqueur structure. It’s an immediately engaging spirit, with a clear, fresh apricot note that comes across as authentic and ripe, and never overtly sweet. Naturally, one wants some level of sugar in a liqueur, and R&W’s expression manages to ride a fine, almost perfect line between its sweet and sour notes. I missed the bold florals of Blume Marillen, but they would likely be washed away in a cocktail anyway. It’s an absolutely solid mixer and my easy pick for the top traditional liqueur in this category. Great price, too. 48 proof. A- / $22
Luxardo Apricot Albicocca Liqueur – Italian. This higher-proof liqueur as a simply “infusion of apricots’ pulp in sugar beet alcohol.” Lots of caramel coloring gives this a distinctly cola-colored hue. This liqueur is fruity but not overwhelming with apricot character, with notes that feel closer to peach, with citrus a secondary note. There’s a significant almond character here, much more prevalent than than in most of the other liqueurs in this roundup, which makes it work as an amaretto substitute, should you find yourself in a pinch. 60 proof. B+ / $25
Marie Brizard Apry Apricot Liqueur – French. “Apricot infusions, alcohol, Gautier Cognac, and rum from Martinique.” The nose is quite sweet but full of apricot fruit, with a clear almond kick on the nose akin to Luxardo’s. It’s silky on the tongue with a distinct creaminess, featuring vanilla and almonds in significant proportion, the apricot surprisingly taking a bit of a back seat. This sips more clearly as a sweet after-dinner liqueur, and while it goes down easy (it’s the lowest-proof spirit in the lineup), the apricot element is ultimately a bit lost. Solid value. 41 proof. (A 60 proof version is apparently out there somewhere, too.) B+ / $15
The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur – German, made from “the juice of sun-ripened apricots with an apricot schnapps that was distilled from the same fruit and just the right amount of sugar.” Sweet and floral on the nose in equal proportions, with a palate that lands somewhere between peach and apricot, with a caramel-heavy sweetness and a bit of orange peel thrown into the mix. A vanilla note on the finish only enhances the sweeter side of the liqueur, which culminates in a slightly cloying finish. 44 proof. B / $30
Merlet Lune d’Abricot Apricot Liqueur – French. A brandy made from two varieties of Rousillon apricots, blended with young Merlet Cognac. Quite a different animal on the nose, where an aggressive fruit note greets the drinker. Candied apricots, lemon peel, and grapefruit all combine to make for a quirky aroma. The palate emerges as equally odd: Very sharp and sour, with a floral note that feels more like potpourri rather than fresh fruit blossoms. There’s way too much going on here, making for a liqueur that is curious at its best; off-putting at its worst. 50 proof. B- / $28