Cordials or liqueurs, as they are also called, are made by distilling spirits with flavorings such as fruit, flowers, nuts, herbs, or spices.


Although almost all spirits can be used as a base, brandy is the most common one. The main distinction between a cordial and a flavored spirit or desert wine, is the added amount of sugar as must contain a minimum of 2 ½% sugar but most contain up to 40% . The percentage of alcohol in cordials ranges from 15-55%. Some popular cream liqueurs do not actually contain cream but have been sweetened to the point of developing a thick, syrupy consistency. Irish cream liqueurs are of a different variety and are actually made with real cream.Cordial Drink
Producing a cordial can be done one of three ways, with some producers combining methods.

  • Percolation consists of placing spirits at the bottom and a basket of fruit at the top. As the spirits are pumped to the top and drip through the fruit, they absorb the flavor of the fruit.
  • Maceration is the process of steeping fruit directly in the spirits until all the flavor has been extracted from the fruit.
  • Distillation involves the fruit being placed in a still with the spirits. The distillate is then reduced with syrup to lessen the high proof.


Cordials date back from the Middle Ages when monks were searching for the elixir of life and other herbal medicines. Italy was one of the first countries to produce cordials and together with France is still recognized as producing some of the best known. From this region cordials such as Chartreuse, Benedictine, Galliano, and Grand Marnier are produced.
Nowadays many countries around the world produce cordials with a variety of tastes, qualities, and textures. Popular ones include Drambuie from Scotland, Kahlua from Mexico, and Midori from Japan, just to name a few. The United States is home to many producers of cordials who do so under the brand name of the company. Schnaps are popular liqueurs based on neutral spirits with flavors that include peppermint, peach, cinnamon, etc.

Bartending Tips

Cordials can be served in many ways: neat, over ice, or in cocktails. While they are often served after the meal as a dessert, they can also be used in cooking. Shots are commonly made with a variety of liquors, with bartenders often layering different colors to present visually appealing as well as delicious drinks. The B-52 and the Traffic Light are two examples of such layered shots. The astounding number and variety of flavors of cordials, combined with the intense flavor they contain, mean they are often used in cocktails such as the Melon Ball, or Singapore Sling.

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