6 New American Liqueurs To Try Now

These delicious, US-made liqueurs are designed not just for sipping, but for enhancing cocktails as well.

Six great American liqueurs

Jennifer Causey / Food Stylist Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist Lydia Purcell

"This is French tarragon. It's volatile, so we cut small batches, and it goes under alcohol within 15 minutes. Those bushes are common myrtle. We macerate it for Mirto, which Sardinians use to baste wild boar. And this spiky plant is a cardoon. In northern Italy, it's prized as a vegetable."

Renato Vicario was leading visitors around the organic garden he cultivates for his vibrant liqueurs: tarragon for licorice-tinged Dragoncello, cardoons for a barrel-aged amaro. The author of Italian Liqueurs: History and Art of a Creation, he's been making such elixirs since his childhood in Piedmont, Italy, when his grandmother taught him how.

But Vicario's garden is nowhere near Italy. Instead, it's at the South Carolina microdistillery he shares with his wife, Janette Wesley. Dubbed the Garden of Earthly Delights, the property is just one verdant site within the exciting new realm of American-made liqueurs.

 "There's cool stuff going on in American liqueurs," says Eric Bachli, the maker of Le Moné citrus aperitifs. "I come from the beer and spirits worlds, where I saw redundancy. From my perspective as an innovator, liqueurs seemed like a fun space to play in."

Liqueur is made by redistilling or macerating flavorings—spices, herbs, fruits, even vegetables—into a base spirit, then sweetening it. Aperitifs, which stimulate the appetite, often fall into this category, as do amaros, which historically were meant to help digestion. Low in alcohol compared to spirits (and, thus, best stored in a cool, dark place), with origins in herbal medicine, liqueurs have a centuries-old history in Europe. Bachli's family hails from Switzerland, where a glass before dinner is "quite traditional."

For the original Le Moné flavor, Bachli infuses Meyer lemons into dry white wine and fortifies it with California brandy, a citrus-based spirit, and organic agave syrup. Served over ice, Le Moné makes for a festive toast, especially when blended with sparkling cider, or maple syrup and bourbon; like most new American liqueurs, it's designed not just for sipping but for enhancing cocktails.

American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial starts with house-distilled cherry, apple, and grape brandies and is sweetened with macerated Montmorency cherries. It can sub for sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, and I think it trounces maraschino liqueur in an Aviation. It can also amp up desserts, co-owner Jeremy Kidde says. "Mix it into a filling and you have a more adult pie." Kidde's been at this for more than two decades now. In 2001, Warwick Valley Distillery was New York's first craft distillery since Prohibition, harkening back to a century when orchardists turned their surplus fruit into liquor. "The town of Warwick alone had five distilleries pre-Prohibition," he says.

Some liqueur ingredients came to the Americas on slave ships, notes Jackie Summers, the creator of hibiscus-based Sorel (and a 2022 F&W Drinks Innovator of the Year). "In West Africa, they knew hibiscus to be a powerful medicine. It's full of antimicrobials and antioxidants," Summers says. "Then people and spices were stolen from Africa by the slave trade. But the knowledge traveled alongside and took root in the Caribbean, where each island has a different version of a hibiscus drink."

Caribbean sorrel isn't always alcoholic. But Summers, who was born in Queens, New York, and whose family is from Barbados, blends Sorel liqueur with grain spirit and dials down the sweetness. "It's a celebration of perseverance in a bottle; proof that the culture cannot be erased." With its accompanying Spice Route ingredients — Nigerian ginger, Indonesian cassia and nutmeg, Brazilian clove — Sorel adds panache to a holiday rum punch, mulled wine, or hot toddy.

Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur honors history, too. Says founder Nicola Nice, "It's inspired by gins popular with women 150 years ago." Nice worked in spirits marketing but found that the industry was "underrepresenting the female consumer as a core purchaser, entertainer, and mixologist," she says. So she created her own liqueur, based on 19th-century gin cordials "served after dinner to lady guests in the parlor." Pomp & Whimsy is redistilled with fruits like raspberry and a host of zingy citrus, seeds and roots like fennel seeds and angelica, jasmine and other florals, and warm spices. It's a flexible mixer that goes just as well in a Bee's Knees as it does in a French 75.

At Utah's tiny Waterpocket Distillery, Julia and Alan Scott also go beyond gin's signature juniper notes. Their Long Lost Minthe is a dry spirit inspired by a 19th-century Milanese liqueur concocted from citrus and peppermint. Containing mugwort, myrrh, and other unusual flavors, Minthe is a many-layered, more interesting answer to crème de menthe. It can be warmed with ginger, honey, and turmeric; sweetened with simple syrup and sipped chilled; or stirred with grapefruit, lime, and St-Germain for a refresher between holiday dinner courses.

Minthe is a harbinger of more to come. "If you're looking at what new ground the American cocktail movement could cover, it's with a new range in botanicals," says Alan Scott. "Some of the most interesting work we'll see in the future with plants, barks, flowers, and that kind of thing." In other words, American liqueurs are just getting started.

American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial ($15 for a 175-ml. bottle) uses Montmorency cherries, a tart variety with cinnamon undertones, and tastes just like cherry pie; try it in a Kir Royale.

Waterpocket Distillery Long Lost Minthe ($30) is dry and potent, offering waves of flavor that are fascinating in a sour: cardamom, peppermint, bitter herbs, and bright orange.

Le Moné Meyer Lemon Apéritif ($35) is wildly aromatic, with a sweet tang that fully evokes the flavor of Meyer lemons; a much more interesting option for cocktails than a standard vermouth bianco.

Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur ($35) tastes, says its founder, "as if Hendrick's gin and St-Germain had a baby." It's full of wild flowers and earth, with a bitter finish that makes you want more.

Sorel ($42), a winter-holidays liqueur if ever there was one, has a tangy hibiscus base overlaid by cake spices. It's just as delicious chilled as it is warmed.

Vicario Quintessence ($48), an amaro infused with 36 herbs and spices, has the piney flavor of Fernet-Branca, only more complex and with a sly, culminating sweetness.

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