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Educate me: Liqueur

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I don't drink. Doctor's directive you know.

Anyway, my friends were drinking last night, some honey liqueur. I asked if it was mead, as that is the only honey spirit I know of.

No, I was told, mead is effervescent, this isn't, it's a liqueur. Further inquiry as to what made a liqueur different than other alcohols was not enlightening.

Are liqueurs distilled like brandy? or fermented with a live culture (effervescent to a degree?)

Educate me please.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #2 of 27
All alcoholic beverages start out as fermented beverages. That is where the initial alcohol comes from. Too achieve a higher alcohol than 15-17% (I believe that is as high as fermentation will get alcohol) the beverage must be distilled. Since alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water and thus condenses at a lower temp. also, the distillation process is basically a process of removing water from the beverage, thus increasing the alcohol content.

A beverage that is naturally fermented may not neccessarily have some effervescence. Effervescence only comes about when the CO2 (a byproduct of fermentation) can not escape from the vessel in which the beverage is being fermented. The CO2 then dissolves back into the beverage creating pressure. When the pressure is released the CO2 forms bubbles and rises out of the beverage. That is effervescence and not all wines will have any.

Now to your main question, What is a liqueur. A liqueur is a distilled beverage, usually of medium strength (though this varies). What usually sets a liqueur (or cordial) apart from liquors is the addition of sugar, which makes these drinks quite sweet. Liqueurs are often times based on neutral spirits (flavorless spirits) but can be based on stronger flavored beverages such as scotch or whiskey. Of course, this is a relatively generic explaination of liqueurs, and there are many expections and variations to this, but this should give you a good idea of what a liqueur is.

By the sounds of it, your friends might have been drinking Barenjager (sp?), which is a liqueur based on honey.
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I kind of thought a liqueur was concocted and mixed more than distilled or brewed. Although I suppose many are also steeped.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #4 of 27

Further Question

I've drank mead. I didn't care for it, but I drank it.

The mead I had certainly wasn't effervescent. It was considered a wine. A very, very sweet wine. I would very nearly have classed it as a liqueur but it didn't have the right mouth feel.

Which brings me to my question. Liqueur's seem thicker than wines or liquors. Is this a factor of the added sugar or part of the defining characteristics of a liqueur?

Oh, and is mead effercescent or not?

post #5 of 27
Mead is a "wine" made from honey and usually has an alcohol content about the same as wine. Just like wine, mead can be made many different ways: still or sparkling, sweet or dry. It all depends on the yeast you use and the methods you employ. I used to be a homebrewer (really need to get back into it) of beer, and tried my hand at mead a few times (and also cider). I have made both still and sparkling.

Liqueurs are often quite syrupy, this is due to the high high sugar content. Nowadays they also often times add glucose to help make it more viscious. You can make liqueurs at home very easily. There are numerous books and websites devoted to the making of these. Usually it just envolves mixing together fruits, sugar and a liquor such as vodka, and letting it set for a month or two and then straining it. Though thicker than the initial liquor, these recipes will often suggest adding glucose to more closely resemble storebought products.
post #6 of 27
Mmmm...Liquer. Love the stuff, great way to finish an evening meal. So, the question arises, what is your favorite liquer for sipping and why?

Mine? Midori. I just love that watermelon flavor.

post #7 of 27
Personally, I find the majority of liqueurs too sweet for after dinner. My drink of choice after a nice meal is Calvados, or maybe (on the sweeter side) a B&B.
post #8 of 27
Matt, I think Midori is a honeydew liquor.

I love cooking with them, so many flavors! I just did a bunch of truffles for a party, and ended up dividing the recipe into three, and adding three different liquors, because I couldn't decide which I liked the most!!
"Like water for chocolate"
"Like water for chocolate"
post #9 of 27
post #10 of 27
I've been experimenting with liquers a bit lately. I recently made 'absinthe' according to an early Swiss recipe. It's not bad, for absinthe. It involves macerating several herbs (such as wormwood, anise, sweet flag, orange, and more) in the neutral spirits (vodka works). I listened to a CBC radio programme the other day and they were discussing the absinthe renaissance!

Ros Solis, an old Roman liquer takes my fancy. I've never even tried it. It's just because a principal ingredient is the Venus Fly-trap!
post #11 of 27
I always wanted to taste absinthe but heard the one available isn't close to the real thing. Have you tried it James?
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
post #12 of 27
Have I tried *real* absinthe. Hmmm....last year, I was partying with a poet fiend, er, friend in Vancouver and we went to some bar on the east side (called the montmartre or St. Germaine or something). It was a beatnik style poetry reading. We were served 'absinthe', apparently from Hungary where it is legally produced. I was in Montreal in Feb. of this year and picked up a bottle of 'Versinthe' at a liquor store. I think it is from France. I believe absinthe is legal in some countries (including Canada) and illegal in others (US). I don't really know though.

I have read that absinthes available have significantly lower quantities of thujone (the psychoactive essential oils found in wormwood which is the main ingred. in absinthe).

The recipe I use has lots of wormwood (hence lots of thujone) and it also contains sweet flag. Sweet flag rhizomes were (are?) traditionally chewed by Iroquoian peoples for their debatably hallucinogenic effects. This adds an interesting spin to the recipe. I have not had enough to vouch for the effect, I have just had a few shots.

Isa, do you live in Montreal? I visit there sometimes, I could probably bring some to you. Also, I will likely be moving there in Jan. to go to McGill....
post #13 of 27
Another thought, I could probably mail some, b/c I probably won't make it to Montreal for a few months (heading to Nova Scotia for a while)...
post #14 of 27
I think abshinte is one of those thing I like to dream about but will never taste. It belongs to the past, the bistrots where all those great French artists drank it while planning their next masterpiece.

What can I say I'm a dreamer.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
post #15 of 27
Well, you won't be missing a whole lot if you don't try it. It is bitter, and I think it was 'of an era'. Maybe someone will correct me?! It's just an interesting thing...
post #16 of 27

Green fairies

Did you pour it over the sugar cube with a splash of water to release the green fairies?;)

A friend brought some back from his last trip abroad and we had it as part of
a collection of mind altering party favors. Unfortunately, hard to say what got us off. I love things with ritual and bitter flavors ( Fernet Branca, anyone?), so absinthe seems destined as part of my liqueur cabinet. The stuff the liquor rep dropped off at the restaurant does not have the same hallucinatory effect that the imported stuff has...

There was a great book on Toulouse Laturec put out by the same group that published 'Monet's Table". It contained some cooking journals and I remember quite a few cocktail recipes involving liqueurs, particularly absinthe. As the book has somehow disappeared into the black hole that is my life I can't remember all the details... :rolleyes:

"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
post #17 of 27
I did, I did! You know, it turns milky when water is added b/c some of the oils (thujone, asarone, etc.) that are present in Absinthe are soluble in alcohol and only paritally so in water so that when you add water, they precipate out!

I plan to indulge heavily in a few weeks when I go to Nova Scotia. I can't wait. I know lots of good Chantarelle picking spots too!

I have never tried Fernet Branca, but I have always wanted to. I'd love to try Chartreuse also!

I find bitter food and drink very interesting! It's like, what gives? And usually something does...a cholesterol binding molecule, a psychoactive compound, a cardiac stimulant...
post #18 of 27
Ok James, if I have the chance, I will try it.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
post #19 of 27

Bitter flavor

I think I'm attracted to the bitter taste because it's like the last of the frontiers... It always seems so much more interesting to me than regular 'sweet' taste - I mean I KNOW what sweet tastes like, it never seems to have a huge depth of quality to me. But bitter...it's so unknown - it's like looking at pain to figure out what color it is and what you can stand... what it LOOKS like...
Bitter is figuring out what it's made of and identifying the different components...it forces you to think about what it is...
and in the long run how it makes you feel (usually good in an interesting sort of way;) )
It's like giving in to the "dark side" Obi-Wan:lol: :lol: :lol:

It all reminds me of a line from 'Venus in Furs' by the Velvet Underground:

I am tired, I am weary, I could sleep for a thousand years.
A thousand dreams, that would awake me,
Different colors, made of tears

Ah, bitterness, it's what makes life sweet

an under the influence Monkey
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
post #20 of 27
I worked in northern BC, in a First Nations community, for a couple of years as an ethnobotanist. My next door neighbour was a shaman. Part of the processes of identifying the medicinal properties of different plants involved getting a 'feel' for the plant (maybe it's personality).

Most of the plants used for medicine and food were very bitter. I'll bet those people have/ had a broad repertoire of descriptive terms for bitterness. Wouldn't it be interesting to try to broaden our concept of bitterness (as you suggest Monkeymay) by exploring other cultural concepts of it?! I think that the extent of this sweet obsession is pretty new in human evolution.

My fav. VU album is New York!
post #21 of 27
As for a sweet obsession being fairly recent in human evolution, I think I'd have to disagree with you there.I think man's desire for sweet is primal. It's the first thing we taste as babies. Breast milk is sweet. Usually our first foods are sweet- mashed bananas, applesauce...it's always much easier to feed kids something sweet than say, mashed broccoli:) (And I know cause I've got 2 kids).
So I think as we get older and our taste buds grow, we learn how things taste, and the bitter becomes more acceptable. Remember taking a sip of your parents cocktail and thinking it's the most disgusting thing in the world? Well, now I love the taste of that smoky scotch. Black coffee and nicotine - why is that the first thing I want in my mouth in the morning? Maybe the desire for bitterness develops as our buds degenerate because it's what we can REALLY taste?

On a side note, have you read Micheal Pollan's "The Botany of Desire"?
Great book, especially for an ethnobotanist as yourself.He proposes that plants have evolved to gratify human desires so that humans will help them multiply. He uses four examples to illustrate this theory -
Desire sweetness - the apple
Desire beauty - the tulip
Desire intoxication - marijuana
Desire control - the potato

The apple is interesting because it's cultivation in nineteeth century America developed out of a need pioneers had for a source of sweetness in their diet and sugar to make alcohol. So out of human desire for sweet, the apple (with the help of Johnny Appleseed) was able to proprogate an entire new continent. Facinating how this stuff works!

(BTW VU New York is one of my fav's too)

"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
post #22 of 27
Hey, sorry for taking so long to reply. I've just been running around in the woods with some fiends (err, friends).

I've heard of that book. Great last name, eh? That's like the mycologist David Pilz at OSU. I knew a biology prof. whose first name was Darwin. I often wonder if some people's careers are predestined?

You know, it sounds as though this pollen fellow is suggesting that plants can anticipate human desires and therefore manipulate them to survive. He is probably assuming too much. Natural Selection predicts that the organisms best suited to their environment will survive to pass on their genes. So, it's sort of conciousness-less.

I love the bitter thing. I've got a great curry recipe that uses freshly ground coriander and cardamom that is quite bitter. Another of my favourites is a Cordero Al Chilindron that I picked out of a Basque ethnology. This is different from other Chilindron that I have tried. Man, it just blew my mind the first time I had it. It was just so barbaric. It is basically chunks of lamb seared then dregded then bathed in a sauce of pureed brandy, mulatto peppers, and roasted garlic. I sometimes throw some rosemary branches on top while it is simmering. The brandy is so concentrated that the flavour assaults your mouth, then dissappears! Each time I eat it, I feel like Kublai Khan's armies are on the warpath and my mouth is the steppes. It is so interesting. If you want I can post a more detalied recipe (with my modifications).

Have you read the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One hundred Years of Solitude? It's great! Your comment on black coffee makes me think of one of the main characters who morning sustenance is a steaming mug of it. If you haven't, read it! He's great b/c he seems to be able to eloquently blend fantasy with reality (hence the genre magical realism). His books are full of plaster eating girls, gypsies selling ice, people dying of love-sickness. Great stuff!
post #23 of 27
Nice to see you back, out of the fiendish woods...

Marquez, huh? Reminds me of my other favorite bitter line, from 'Love in the time of Cholera' -
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."

I LOVE that line, there's something about it I can't even describe... when I eat little amaretti cookies with my coffee I always think of it...

One Hundred Years of Solitude - thank you!!! So great, haven't read it in years, now will be at the top of my summer reading list...

As for the Pollan book, read the chapter on Marijuana - it's a hoot - it might cause you to rethink natural selection and plants anticipating and manipulating humans....

BTW do you know anything on Terrence McKenna? An old aquaintance used to rave about him and his theories - not all of which I'm clear on, but the one that stands out was man's evolution was brought on by use of halucinogenics by primates who deliberately sought out psycotropic mushrooms and plants to bring on visions (of maybe what they could be;) )
Any of this sound familar???

Oh yeah, and I do want the recipe.

"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
post #24 of 27
Funny you mention McKenna, I was going to post about him in my last one. He was great! He was like the Tim Leary of this era. A bardic kind of guy. I think he believed that hallucinogenic mushrooms came from space or something. He had devised an elaborate argument to support it, too.

I managed to procure a clipping of an ayahuasca vine from the one that T and D McKenna collected in the Amazon. It's hanging on ;) , but barely.

That is a great line from Marquez (from the beginning, I think). That stuff's food.

Have you read any Salman Rushdie? His stuff is great too, not in the intoxicating, all enveloping way that Marquez is, but in a sort of poetically playfull way and invigourating. He is neat b/c he gets right to the great mythic questions in an indirect, but intimate way. I really liked the Satanic Verses and the Ground Beneath her Feet.

Here is that recipe. To me, it's unusual. Which is it's appeal.

a couple handfulls cubed, well aged lamb
1 whole onion
1 T. flour
1 cup cognac or brandy
2 garlic cloves, roasted
cayenne (little bit)
1 roasted pepper (I use mulatto)
balsamic v.

Slowly fry onion in lard (or olive oil) until golden, add lamb and flour.

Blend brandy, cayenne, garlic, mulatto, and vinegar. Add to browned lamb simmer until lamb is tender. You can always alter the sauce with extra lamb stock.

I also place a sprig or two of rosemary on top and you can add a few tablespoons of tomato paste.
post #25 of 27


What do you serve with it? Just curious. I like the flavor profile of it. Tell me, do you fry your tomato paste with the lamb also, or are you adding it later?

As for Rushdie, alas no. Another in a big stack of must reads...

What is an ayahuasca branch - something I'm not familar with.

Speaking of mushrooms, I recently cooked a party for a client who handed me a bag of the 'magic ones' and asked me to fix them into something edible.As we were serving wild mushroom quesadillas (his inspiration for bringing out the bag), I soaked and incorporated them into the mix of chanterelles, morels and crimini, thyme, garlic and fresh cilantro. They were great!
They were served to a select group (myself included) and it's been one of the best ways I've ever enjoyed them!
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
"Life is a banquet - and most poor suckers are starving to death" - Auntie Mame
post #26 of 27
If I add tomato paste, I just pull a bit of the sauce out and mix it in, then add it back to the whole lot. I am just an amateur, so, there are probably better ways of going about it.

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink consumed by many indigenous groups in the Amazon River Basin. It is a mixture of the Ayahuasca vine and other DMT containing plants. The interesting thing is that DMT is not orally active (which is why it is popularly smoked or historically snuffed). Compounds in the vine render DMT orally active by disrupting the enzyme system in our stomaches that would normally break it down (MAO). It is known as the 'plant teacher' because it apparently 'tells' the people things when they take it...

I have a friend who did his Msc. work in the Peruvian Amazon. He said it was amazing. The only thing that the people he worked with (Quechua?) bought were flash lights, gasoline and pots. Everything else came from the jungle. Anyway, he gained their respect and trust over the course of time and before leaving, a community shaman told him that he should try Mama Ayahuasca! He did, and said that he hallucinated for hours that his body was crawling with snakes. Finally, a huge anaconda reared its head and swallowed him whole.

I've never taken it. I also grow Peyote, but I've never tried that either. Here in Canada both are legal (thankfully). I would try them, it's just that I have spent so much time trying to keep them alive! :)
post #27 of 27
Tolouse Lautrec used to have a cane with a secret glass tube filled with absinthe. Maybe you are also talking about the cocktail he invented? The Earth Shaker :lips: it's absinthe, cognac and red wine. Better to just add cold water very slowly to see the white dance called the "Louche"
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