Letter from the Editor: Welcome to Liqueur Week

Toasting with snifters of liqueur
Throughout the twists and turns of the cocktail world's colorful history, liqueur has been there for it all. (Photo: Håkan Dahlström via Flickr)

In any industry, trends come and go. In the history of the cocktail world, certain types of bottles shift in and out of vogue, putting their stamp on an era before slipping back into the shadows (from which they’ll inevitably be resurrected years or decades down the line, as the cycle goes). But one category that’s been along for the ride the entire time? Liqueurs. From sipping aperitifs in 19th-century France to the curacao-tinged tiki days of the midcentury; from the Harvey Wallbanger’s disco prime to the fast and loose days of blue drinks and sugary shots in the ‘80s, liqueur was there for all of it. It has been a mainstay on backbars for decades, a stalwart amidst decades of the ebbs, flows and shifts of the cocktail world.

Today, liqueur has become no less valuable as producers push the envelope with new expressions and breathing new life into once-forgotten recipes. It’s hard to talk about modern-day liqueurs, for instance, without mentioning the innovation of people like Rob Cooper, who brought Creme Yvette back to life and, later, unveiled an unusual elderflower liqueur that’s now so commonly invoked in cocktail recipes, it’s been called “bartender’s ketchup.”

From its early roots to its modern metamorphosis, the evolution of liqueur is a fascinating one. That’s why we’re excited to dig in this week to the category all week long. And who better to help us bring this week to life than our friends at Marie Brizard? The French portfolio of liqueurs has played a crucial role in the category from the time Marie herself, an intrepid entrepreneur in an era when women couldn’t even sign legal documents, first set out to share her beloved anisette recipe. Over two-and-a-half centuries later, Marie Brizard’s liqueurs — from apry to white cocoa to, yes, that herbaceous anisette — still remain a fixture in craft cocktail bars, employed by bartenders to add a touch of that je ne sais quoi to their creations.

This week, we’ll explore some of the interesting historic threads, such as the category’s inextricable link with early medicinal claims, and how bartenders are employing it in thoroughly modern ways (this isn’t your grandfather’s after-dinner drink). We’ll pay a visit to a revered New Orleans cocktail bar for a lesson on working with liqueurs in two timeless drinks with memorable presentation. We’ll get some smart, practical advice from bartenders on working with different ingredients and striking the perfect balance in a liqueur-driven drink. And, of course, we’ll share plenty of recipes that employ liqueurs of all kinds — from anisette to creme de menthe to, of course, blue curacao. (We can't say no to a blue drink.) You can find it all right here.

We’re happy you’re here, and we hope you’ll join us in raising a glass to the sweet life. Cheers!

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