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Liqueur: The Production

Liqueurs are known as the candy of alcohol. The name Liqueur comes from the Latin word “Liquifacere” which means “to dissolve or melt.” The neutral spirit is literally melted with herbs, fruits, spices, nuts, cream or other materials.

Just like any other alcoholic drink, Liqueur has its own unique history. Its history can be traced back to the 13th Century when it was made by Italian monks as an herbal remedy. During these times, medicine consisted of herbs and flowers. The monks discovered that the herbs, flowers and spices can be preserved longer when infused into alcohol instead of water. Little did they know, that over time it would become a tasty drink. Only sugars from sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla where some of the final ingredients added to sweetened the taste of the drink. The first Liqueur to ever be produced by these monks was Chartreuse. Till this day it is the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green color.

With most beverages, people strive to find their perfect food match. Liqueur's perfect partner is chocolate; the two flavors marry well together to create a fantastic mouth-watering fusion.

Liqueur production
The methods used to produce liqueurs fall into four techniques, Maceration, Infusion, Percolation and Distillation.

For all the techniques, raw materials and alcoholic spirit are used. The raw materials include coffee, cocoa, vanilla, nuts and fruits. They are roasted or crushed to facilitate the extraction of aromas and flavors. The spirit used in the production can be Gin, Cognac, Brandy, Vodka or Whiskey.

The maceration process takes as long as a year. It involves soaking the raw materials in the raw alcohol until the spirit absorbs the flavors. The final product is called “Tincture” and forms the basis of the liqueur.

This method is very similar to maceration; however during this method the raw alcohol is heated. The heat is maintained for several days and the result is a more flavorful and less expensive product.

Percolation can be done either hot or cold. The raw material is placed in a container and through heating of the alcohol the rising vapors will rise and extract the flavors and aromas. When it falls back into the main pot, the flavours mixes with the spirit. The resulting product is called “Extract”.

Usually done in a pot still, distillation uses heat to extract flavor. The alcohol is mixed with the raw material until it is well infused with flavors. Then it is distilled and re-distilled to remove any impurities that can influence the flavor of the final product.

Afterwards, the resulting final product is compounded to a recipe to produce the desired flavor. The liqueur is placed into oak casks to develop more flavor and character. Before bottling, the liqueur is refined in order to remove any impurities that are still suspended in the liquid. A substance is added to the liqueur to which the impurities attach. It is then filtered to remove the remaining impurities.
Finally, the liqueur is mixed with sugar syrup to adjust the sweetness. Harmless vegetable dyes are then added to the varieties that are supposed to have a color. All types of liqueurs go through a final filtration to ensure absolute clarity before bottling.