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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: Lavish Liqueurs

Tuesday tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we are sampling six different liqueurs from around the world.

Liqueurs occupy an interesting place in the drinks world. They are some of the most important ingredients in some of our favorite drinks. They can also stand alone as an aperitif, digestif or a good old plain shooter. The origin of liqueur goes back hundreds of years when the art of bartending and the science of medicine were often fairly close to one another. Herbal, fruit and root concoctions were blended with alcohol and handed out as remedies for a host of ailments. Even today some people will tell you that liqueur can help problems go away.

For this tasting I gathered together liqueurs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Japan and Italy. They ranged in color from light golden straw to vibrant green. The flavors ranged even more dramatically.

Becherovka: If it were not for a beverage called beer this Czech liqueur might be the national drink. It is light straw in color and has a slightly medicinal nose. Once in your mouth this 76 proof drink is an herbal explosion that goes down very smoothly.

Unicum Zwack: The Shahs, friends from India who do not drink but know that I do, brought me this Hungarian liqueur that they had picked up in Europe as a gift when they attended my daughter's wedding recently. This 80-proof liqueur comes from a recipe that dates back to 1790. Unicum is an interestingly bitter liqueur that is a dark amber color. The liqueur is made using 40 different herbs and aged for six months in oak barrels.

Zen Green Tea Liqueur: This liqueur from Japan is relatively new to the market, reflecting the recent popularity of green tea. At 40 proof, it is very smooth, loaded with tea flavor and finishes slightly sweet. Made using Kyoto green tea leaves, the liqueur has a light lime green color.

Midori: This melon liqueur from Japan's Suntory is an intense green -- Midori is the Japanese word for green. The 42-proof liqueur has a sweet, candy like nose and is flavored like ripe cantelope.

Grand Marnier Cuvee du Cent Cinquantenaire: This liqueur from Moet Hennessy was first made to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Grand Marnier, the French orange liqueur. It uses as its base Cognac from Grand Champagne, some of it aged up to 50 years. It is very smooth, with the essence of orange clearly present and hints of nuts and oakiness.

Villa Massa Limoncello: This 60-proof Italian liqueur is a slightly cloudy yellow color when chilled, but tastes like liquid sunshine. Made from lemons grown near Sorrento, it has a balanced sweet and sour lemon drop flavor profile with the clear essence of lemons present throughout.


Anonymous said...

Rick- great blog! I just discovered it via "Days That End in 'Y'"

I thought your name looked familiar, then it hit me- I read your column in the "Great Lakes Brewing News."

Oh, and good piece on Rolling Rock. Us Pittsburghers are still wearing black armbands. Hopefully we won't have to do it again for Pitt Brewing.

Rick Lyke said...


Thanks for the kind words. Glad to have you as a regular!


Dr.Gray said...

Something like this would also work great in those cocktails - cocktail matcha