Traveling is all about visiting different cities, countries, or even continents, and experiencing new cultures, environments, and ways of life. It is most certainly an enriching and exciting experience that allows people to learn about the world and themselves. In this context people who are going abroad like to taste food and beverages traditionally made in the foreign country as a means of experiencing local habits and getting an idea of the way people live there.
We thought it would be interesting to have a trip around Europe and present to you the most famous liqueurs together with the places where they are made from. Many countries have a long tradition of making liqueurs domestically, although some of them are very famous globally and people can find them everywhere due to their very well-established fame together with the exceptional quality they provide. Liqueurs date back hundreds of years; the first time we have a recorded reference of a distilled spirit flavored with herbs was about a medicinal drink by an Italian monk Arnold de Villanova back in the 13th century.
Throughout time, due to the popularity of liqueurs, distilleries began to produce them more and people would consume liqeurs for their taste rather than their medicinal properties. During the 16th and 17th centuries, liqueurs became widely available and were enjoyed by people of all social classes. Nowadays, liqueurs are enjoyed by people all over the world and are a popular component of many cocktails and mixed drinks.
Italy is home to many famous liqeurs, the list is endless and you can choose from a wide range of flavors and styles. Cynar is a bitter liqueur that was first launched in 1952 by Angelo Dalle Molle. Termoli, in Italy, is the location of production for this liqueur which is created through a cold infusion process using 13 herbs and plants. The most prominent flavor comes from artichokes.
Aperol is especially known for its famous cocktail Aperol spritz which is enjoyed in all corners of the world. It was invented in 1919 by the Barbieri brothers in Padua. The original recipe is secret and consists of an infusion of bitter and sweet oranges, rhubarb, herbs, and alcohol. The production process carefully follows this traditional recipe.
Campari. Who doesn’t know Negroni? A unique cocktail made from Campari. This Italian liqueur is infused with an extract of various bitters and aromatics such as pomegranate, ginseng, orange peel, the bark of cascarilla trees, and citrus oil.
Limoncello is another famous ‘aperitivo’. It originates in Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri, where it was first patented in 1988. Limoncello is known for its bright yellow color and its fresh, sweet, and aromatic flavor with prominent citrus notes.
Fernet dates back to 1845 when it was invented by Bernandino Branca in the Milan-based Fernet Branca. Today is enjoyed in Argentina as a mixed drink, the iconic fernet-cola. This special liqueur is typically made with a blend of various spices and herbs such as saffron, juniper, rhubarb, aloe, chamomile, and mint. This extensive list of ingredients gives Fernet its complex, usually bittersweet flavor. Its uniqueness is understandable.
Sambuca was produced by Luigi Manzi in Civitavecchia, in the mid-1800s. There are many varieties of this aniseed liqueur that use different combinations of flavorings, but the most popular option is the light-bodied white version. In Italy, it is occasionally served with coffee beans, then set on fire before drinking, like this, sambuca is infused with a subtle coffee flavor. Of course, you can enjoy Sambuca neat, on the rocks, or blended with water. if you wanna do it like a true Italian combine it with a shot of espresso and enjoy a caffè corretto.
Strega, in Italian means witch. This liqueur takes its name after the city of Benevento which has long been associated with legends of witches and wizards. It was first produced in Benevento by Carmine Vincenzo Alberti and his son Giuseppe Alberti in 1860. Strega is a distillation of 70 different spices, botanicals, and herbs that include Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, mint, juniper, cloves, and saffron. Italian desserts like tiramisù or torta Caprese are commonly made with this liqueur.
Disaronno originates from north Italy, from a city called Saronno. According to the brand, the original amaretto was invented in the 16th century, and throughout history, its production has been overseen by the Reina family. Disaronno is known for its unique flavor, which is a combination of almonds and apricot. This is achieved through the use of apricot kernel oil in the production process.
Frangelico comes from Piedmont, a city in the northeast of Italy. According to tradition, the origin of hazelnut distillates can be traced back to Christian monks living in the Piedmont region. These monks are said to be the first to produce this type of spirit. Frangelico is a well-balanced, sweet liqueur, characterized by its strong hazelnut, chocolate, and vanilla aromas.
Izarra is a type of herbal liqueur that comes in two variations. The first is a bright yellow, aromatic version, while the second is flavored with peppermint and is green in color. It originated in Bayonne, a city in the southeast of France, and was produced by Joseph Grattau in 1906.
Triple Sec means triple dry and is a term for clear, orange-flavored liqueurs. There is some debate, which goes on until today, over the origin of triple sec, with the Combier distillery in Saumur claiming that they produced the first version in 1834. However, others believe that Cointreau was the original producer of this type of liqueur.
Picon is produced in Marseille in 1932 by Gaétan Picon, who was an apprentice at a distillery before he was stationed in Algeria. It actually has been to different parts of the world until it was stationed in Marseille. As stated, the creator of the drink, originally produced it in Algeria. However, after refining the formula and winning a bronze medal at the London World’s Fair in 1862, Picon moved his production to Marseille, where it is still made today. Picon is very commonly paired with a beer.
Pastis, the National French drink, is made from sweet star anise as well as herbs and spices such as sage, melissa, verbena, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper. It originates from Provence where Paul Ricard produced it for the first time in 1932. Pastis is typically served diluted with ice-cold water, which causes the drink to turn cloudy. It can be enjoyed on the rocks, making it a refreshing choice for the summertime.
Bénédictine is produced in Fécamp, north of France. There is a theory that claims Alexandre Le Grande obtained the original recipe from a Benedictine monk and started producing it in 1863. Bénédictine is a rich liqueur infused with saffron and honey, its secret recipe includes 27 herbs and spices.
Chartreuse is the oldest and more popular liqueur in France. According to legend, the recipe for this drink was contained in an ancient manuscript that was delivered to the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the early 18th century. In 1764, the Carthusian Monks deciphered the instructions and created the first version of the elixir, which was primarily used as a medicinal remedy. In 1840, the monks modified the recipe to create the first iteration of Green Chartreuse liqueur. This original formula, which is still used today, includes around 130 herbs, spices, and other botanicals. The mixture is distilled and then aged in oak barrels. The exact recipe for Green Chartreuse is a closely guarded secret.
Grand Marnier is one of the essential ingredients of the famous crêpes Suzette, it dates back to 1880 and was created by Louis Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. It contains the essence of bitter oranges and it enjoys slow aging in French oak casks.
Crème de cassis is sweet and sour, purple color since its made from blackcurrant. It has its origins in French Burgundy and its believed that it dates back to the 16th century. Although, its commercial production started in the mid-1800s. Crème de cassis is a popular ingredient in cocktails, including the classic Kir and its various variations, as well as the Arnaud, El Diablo, and Vermouth Cassis.
Underberg is an amber-colored, herbal drink, with notes of spices and licorice which dates back to 1851. It contains 43 different herbs. Its origin is Rheinberg, a city in middle east Germany.
Dooley’s a blend of premium vodka, quality Dutch cream, and the best selection of Belgian toffee. Its production started quite recently, in 2000 by the family company BEHN in Eckernförde, North Germany. Dooley’s offers flavors beyond the classic toffee option, including licorice, egg cream, and white chocolate.
Kräuterlikör is a term used to refer to various types of European herb liqueurs, most commonly from Germany. These liqueurs, which are also known as halbbitter or “half bitters,” were first created shortly after the development of distillation and were originally intended for medicinal purposes.
Ginjinha, also known as Ginja, is a famous traditional Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries. It is particularly associated with the towns of Óbidos and Alcobaça, but it is enjoyed throughout Portugal, especially in Lisbon and Algarve. Only natural products are used in making this liqueur and the recipe comes from Cistercian monks.
Beirão is a herbal liqueur that contains 12 different botanicals. The recipe is secret and dates back to the 19th century when a Port salesman fell in love with the daughter of a pharmacist in Lousã. The couple stayed in Lousã and started creating and selling various health remedies, including a liqueur for stomach pain. This liqueur was eventually named Beirão and became popular in Portugal. In 1940, the company that produced Beirão was bought by José Carranca Redondo, who helped to promote the liqueur and make it one of the most popular in Portugal.
Goldwasser is one of the oldest liqueurs in the world. A herbal liqueur that is easily distinguished by flakes of real gold is believed to have first appeared in 1598, according to written records. It was created by a Dutch man named Ambrose Vermollen, who developed a recipe based on a secret combination of 20 different herbs and roots. Goldwasser is a liqueur that has a long history with Poland. However, due to political turmoil and the Second World War, it is now produced in Germany. Despite this, it remains a symbol of the city of Gdańsk.
Krupnik is made from a neutral spirit, such as vodka or fruit brandy, that is infused with honey. It dates back to the 16th century when the Benedictine monks at a monastery in Niaśviž first produced it. You can also find it in Belarus and Lithuania.
Licor43, known as cuarenta y tres, means forty-three in Spanish and it gets its name from the 43 ingredients that contain. This sweet liqueur was first produced in the 1940s by Diego Zamora and other members of the Zamora family. They claim that the recipe for this liqueur was based on an ancient liqueur known as liqvor mirabilis (marvelous liquid). Until today the recipe has been kept secret. After being aged and filtered, the final result is a smooth and dense liqueur with a golden color and aromas reminiscent of vanilla, citrus fruit, and spices. Due to its sweetness, people also use it for culinary purposes.
Becherovka is made by combining a variety of spices and herbs, including 20 different ones, which are macerated in alcohol to create a base. Then they add water and sugar to this base and leave it to age in oak casks. The resulting liqueur is sweet, rich, and complex, with a distinct blend of flavors from the various spices and herbs used. There is a long history associated with Becherovka as well. It is believed that a British doctor Frobrig first created it as a medical remedy in 1807 and gave it the name English Bitter. Political turmoil took place during the 20th century but Becherovka managed to remain a leading Czech product. It is still produced according to the original recipe which remains secret today.
Unicum was originally created as a stomach remedy by Dr. József Zwack in 1790. After the Second World War, the company that produced this bittersweet liqueur was taken over by the state. The Zwack family, who had created the original recipe for the liqueur, fled the country and took the recipe with them. The family bought back the company in 1989 after the fall of Communism and the production continued to produce the product which still remains a popular and beloved product. Currently, Unicum is considered the iconic Hungarian liqueur and is often served as well-chilled or lukewarm. It has a unique and complex flavor that is loved by many people in Hungary and beyond. And why not? It is made with a combination of 40 carefully selected herbs and spices, including ginger, angelica root, lemongrass, and orange peel. These ingredients are blended together and aged in oak casks for six months to allow the flavors to fully develop. The resulting liqueur is unique and complex.
Baileys was produced n Dublin in the 1970s and it still remains one of the most outstanding Irish brands. This highly praised cream liqueur is made with a blend of neutral alcohol, triple-distilled Irish whiskey, and cream sourced from small Irish family farms. The liqueur is further enhanced with the addition of vanilla, cocoa, and caramel, resulting in a unique toffee flavor. You can serve it neat or together with coffee or hot chocolate.
Sheridan’s comes in a double-sided bottle and originates in Dublin. Begun with the production in 1994 by the distiller Thomas Sheridan & Sons. One side of this product is a light liqueur that combines Irish cream and vanilla flavors. The other side is a chocolate-flavored, whiskey-based dark coffee liqueur. To create a visually striking layered drink, the coffee liqueur should be expertly poured into the glass first, followed by the cream on top.
Drambuie means ’the drink that satisfies‘ and dates back to the 18th century when allegedly Prince Charles Edward Stuart passed down his secret recipe to Clan Mackinnon. In 1914, Malcolm MacKinnon obtained the secret recipe and registered it as a trademark, subsequently founding The Drambuie Liqueur Company in Edinburgh. It is a secret blend of aged Scotch whiskey, honey, herbs, and spices.
Sloe Gin is being used to make tarts but not only that. It is originally made at home, by soaking sloe berries (blackthorn) in gin and adding sugar or sugar syrup. The mixture is allowed to infuse for several months, resulting in a deep ruby or mahogany-colored drink with a bittersweet flavor and herbal aroma.
Pimm’s was invented in 1840 by James Pimm, owner of a London oyster bar, who initially served it to his guests as a health tonic. The recipe is secret and a combination of herbs and spices. The original Pimm’s No. 1 is based on gin. Pimm’s is commonly mixed with soft drinks, lemonade, ginger ale, or sparkling wine, and often includes sliced fruits and mint as well.
We hope you enjoyed this trip around Europe and really got a taste of some of the most famous liqueurs. There are more producers and interesting liqueurs, the list is endless. This lies mostly in the fact that there is a long history and people enjoyed, and still do, the company of liqueurs. They not only use it for mixing it with other drinks or making cocktails but they also use it in cooking for they take each recipe to a higher level.