9 Liqueurs to Try (and the Best Way to Enjoy Them)

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If you've ever dug through the back of a well-stocked bar, you've probably come across a bottle of liqueur—slightly dusty, super-full, and maybe even with its seal still intact. These misunderstood members of the booze family come with cool labels and in pretty bottles that make them a go-to housewarming gift, but unless you're a professional mixologist, you may not know what to do with them. Below, we've rounded up a few of the liqueurs you're most likely to encounter on menus—or in the depths of your liquor cabinet—and how to drink them.


What it is:

Orangey and herbal at once, Aperol is the sweetest member of a big family of liqueurs known as apéritifs, which are used to stimulate your appetite. Although it's classified as a bitter, it has a lighter flavor, less alcohol, and higher sugar content than Campari, its nearest sibling.

What to make: The best thing to make with Aperol is the Aperol Spritz, the preferred happy-hour drink of pretty much the entire population of Italy. Mix three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, and a splash of soda in a large wineglass over ice; garnish with an orange slice; drink; repeat.


What it is:

A liqueur flavored with elderflower, St. Germain boasts a sweet, floral profile and an uncommonly gorgeous bottle that makes a perfect vase once the booze is gone.

What to make: Add a dash of the liqueur to your white wine for a dessert-worthy drink. Or, to cut the sweetness, put one ounce in a shaker with the juice of half a lemon, a jigger of gin, and some ice, and pour into a cocktail glass. Float champagne on top and garnish with a curl of lemon peel.


Courtesy of Chartreuse

What it is:

A high-proof, complex-tasting herbal liqueur with a serious history; the original Chartreuse dates back to 1605 when it was brewed by French monks as a medicinal elixir. You'll recognize it by its distinctive green color.

What to make: Chartreuse mixes well with a sparkling white wine and a dash of Maraschino liqueur (Queen Elizabeth is rumored to enjoy Chartreuse in her champagne), but lately, it's having a moment on the dessert cart because of how nicely it pairs with chocolate. Avid pastry chefs can try this Chartreuse Panna Cotta with Chocolate Mousse, but if you just want to see what the fuss is about, try drizzling the liqueur over your chocolate ice cream.


What it is:

A black raspberry liqueur in a booty-licious bottle with a big gold belt on it.

What to make: Chambord is the subtle star of a drink called the French Martini: shaken, not stirred (although you're unlikely to catch James Bond drinking this one regardless.) Shake two parts vodka, one part pineapple juice, and one-quarter part Chambord with ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass.


What it is:

A blend of cognac, orange essence, and sugar. The original Grand Marnier is called Cordon Rouge—red ribbon—in reference to the signature decoration on the bottle.

What to make: Apart from being a must-have in your fancy French toast and crepes Suzette recipes, Grand Marnier adds a dusky orange profile to cocktails made with bourbon, whiskey, or rye. Try shaking two parts bourbon over ice with one part Grand Marnier, one part sweet vermouth, the juice of half a lime, and a sprig of mint, and strain into a champagne coupe. Enjoy one on Derby Day and you'll never drink a boring old mint julep again.


What it is:

A sweet, almond-flavored liqueur from Italy that isn't made from almonds at all. (Amaretto gets its distinctive flavor from peach pits.)

What to make: Keep it simple with an Amaretto Sour: Mix Amaretto and fresh lemon juice in a glass over ice in whatever proportions you like (less lemon makes a sweeter cocktail, of course). Or, keep it simpler still and drizzle the liqueur over a dish of vanilla ice cream.


What it is:

A super-sweet Irish cream liqueur, and a miracle of modern science: Despite having actual cream in it, Baileys will supposedly keep for two years without preservatives or refrigeration.

What to make: If you'd put cream in it, you can put Irish cream in it, which makes Baileys a perfect addition to coffee—hot or iced. You can also use it to give your milkshake a grownup kick. Just don't mix it with lemon or tonic; the cream will curdle on contact.


Cyclonebill via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 

What it is:

An alcoholic response to the 1915 Parisian ban on absinthe, pastis has all the anise flavor of its predecessor but none of the (supposed) hallucinogenic side effects. Stateside, the brand of pastis you're most likely to find is Pernod.

What to make: One of the coolest things about Pernod is the way it clouds on contact with water. For a super-light summer cocktail, put one ounce of Pernod, one ounce simple syrup, the juice of half a lemon, and about half a cup of water into an ice-filled shaker. Shake, strain, and serve in a coupe with a basil garnish.


Courtesy of Lillet

What it is:

Unlike most of the entries on this list, Lillet is actually a fortified wine—or, more accurately, a blend of wines with just a dash of citrus liqueurs mixed in. The classic Lillet (i.e. the one you're most likely to get as a gift) is white, but both red and rose versions exist as well.

What to make: Although Lillet is perfectly tasty on its own as an apéritif, poured over ice with a sprig of basil or mint as a garnish, it's also the foundation of a classic Depression-era "hangover cure" cocktail known as Corpse Reviver No. 2. (Before you ask: Yes, there is a Corpse Reviver No. 1, but most people find it unpalatable.) In an ice-filled shaker, combine one ounce each of Lillet Blanc, gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add a dash of absinthe, shake, and strain.

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