the history of liqueurs...


When people are asked to name a liqueur, 9 times out of 10 they will think of the classics Irish Cream or Baileys. Liqueurs are also known as cardials. They are sweet flavoured spirits.

The word liqueur is derived from the Latin word liquifacere which means ‘to dissolve or melt’. It’s these dissolved flavours ranging from fruit, nut, herbs and spices which give each liqueur its characteristic taste.

Like wine and beer liqueurs too have their own unique history.

One of the earliest writings on the subject of flavoured alcohols and its medicinal properties dates back to 1240, that which was written by the 13th Century alchemist, Arnold de Vila Nova. It seems many alchemists across Italy and France were keen to try their hand at making herbal liqueurs.

In 1605, the Marshall of artillery for King Henry VI, Francois Hannibal d’Estrees presented the Chartreuse monastery, in Vanvert with an ancient manuscript entitled ‘An Elixir of Long Life’. Monks tried for many years to unravel the secrets of the manuscript, with little success. The manuscript was finally sent to the orders headquarters - La Grande Chartreuse, where in 1703 the complex recipe with its 130 herbs, flowers and secret ingredients were finally unveiled. The monks then went into production. The ancient recipe was called Elix Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse with an alcohol content of 71%, 142% proof. The drink had a distinctive natural green colour and became known as Green Chartreuse.

The drink proved to be more popular for its taste than for its medicinal qualities. The monks recognised this and decided to reduce the alcohol content to 55% alcohol, 110% proof, without losing any of the drinks authentic characteristics.

In 1838 the Chartreuse monk developed a milder sweeter form of the original Green Chartreuse, which contained 40% alcohol, 80% proof with a distinct yellow colour, which has become known as Yellow Chartreuse.

With most beverages people strive to find their perfect food compliment like in the case of wine, it works well with cheese and biscuits. Liqueurs too have a perfect partner that is chocolate; the two flavours marry well together to create a fantastic mouth-watering fusion.