Educate me: Liqueur

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by phatch, Apr 10, 2002.

  1. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    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.

    Phil
     
  2. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks. I kind of thought a liqueur was concocted and mixed more than distilled or brewed. Although I suppose many are also steeped.

    Phil
     
  4. nancya

    nancya

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    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?

    Nancy
     
  5. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  6. matthew357

    matthew357

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    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.

    Matt
     
  7. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  8. marmalady

    marmalady

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    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!!
     
  9. david jones

    david jones

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    Huh?
     
  10. james2

    james2

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    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!
     
  11. isa

    isa

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    I always wanted to taste absinthe but heard the one available isn't close to the real thing. Have you tried it James?
     
  12. james2

    james2

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    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....
     
  13. james2

    james2

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    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)...
     
  14. isa

    isa

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    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.
     
  15. james2

    james2

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    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...
     
  16. monkeymay

    monkeymay

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    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:

    Monkey:)
     
  17. james2

    james2

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    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...
     
  18. isa

    isa

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    Ok James, if I have the chance, I will try it.
     
  19. monkeymay

    monkeymay

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    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
     
  20. james2

    james2

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    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!