I had fun writing about triple sec last week. It was one of those articles that almost asked more questions to me than it answered. After all, triple sec is but one liqueur of literally hundreds out there. Why should triple sec have all the fun? Let's take a look at some other fruit liqueurs you have probably encountered, and what to do with them.
Fruit liqueurs are made one of two ways. The optimal method is to let fruits steep in alcohol and sugar, then strain out the solids. This gives a pure, intense flavor. But, they're more expensive than their manufactured counterparts (more on those in a moment), and tend to go downhill after they've been open for about six months. The other way to make them is to start with a neutral spirit base, and add flavorings and colorings to suit. These are very reasonably priced and have an indefinite shelf life, but tend to taste more like fruit candy than actual fruit.
See Also: What the Hell is Triple Sec?
Of the real-fruit liqueurs, one of the most familiar is limoncello, a neon-yellow spirit made from lemon zest. By far the most popular way to consume it is neat from the freezer as an after-dinner tipple. For whatever reason, there are few cocktails that feature limoncello. I'm going to guess it's because lemon juice already does the job. Bartenders: I've found your new surprise ingredient. Now go forth and surprise me with something.
A good number of red fruit liqueurs are made with real fruit. Chief among them is Chambord, made with red and black raspberries. One of the more popular implementations of Chambord is the French Martini, which mixes it with vodka and pineapple juice. Raspberry and pineapple are an unlikely duo, but it works pretty well, with the pineapple's acid cutting Chambord's sweetness. After dinner, try Is Paris Burning?, which mixes Chambord with cognac.
At this point, you might be wondering why I didn't mention mixing Chambord and champagne to make a Kir Royale. There's a simple reason: While Kir Royales are good with Chambord, they're better with crème de cassis, a sweet black currant liqueur. Cassis is practically unknown in the U.S., which is a crying shame. Its tangy flavor is unique and exceptional. I'm especially fond of adding it to hard cider to make a simple Cider & Black.
The rise of manufactured fruit liqueurs can be traced back to the days of disco, when DeKuyper introduced Peachtree Schnapps. As you might guess, it's peach flavored. It seems like any sweet drink with a ridiculous name includes Peachtree. Fuzzy Navel? Peachtree and OJ (Peach fuzz, navel oranges... Get it?). Mix vodka, Peachtree, and cranberry for a Woo Woo. Add orange juice to a Woo Woo and you get Sex on the Beach. Fast forward to the 21st century when frat boys discovered Jägermeister. Take Jäger, add Peachtree and cranberry juice, and you get a Redheaded Slut. The more things change . . .
For manufactured liqueurs, I'm a bit more partial to Midori. It's probably just because I'm fond of the neon green color (A bit of trivia: The name is Japanese for "green"), but it is still a pretty decent spirit. Because manufactured liqueurs are very sweet, they shine best when paired with something tangy or creamy to tame their saccharine nature. In the case of Midori, it's quite nice as a Japanese Slipper, which mixes Midori with triple sec and lemon. Hey look, it's the same spirit/triple sec/tart citrus formula as all those triple sec cocktails I mentioned last week!
I'll bet if you used Peachtree instead of Midori, it might turn that much-maligned spirit from dated to delicious. The best creamy option is the local favorite Jamaican Ten Speed, but that's another story.
See Also: Make it Right: The Jamaican Ten Speed
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French Martini 1 ½ ounces vodka ½ ounce Chambord ½ ounce pineapple juice Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Is Paris Burning? 1 ½ ounces Cognac ¾ ounce Cambord Stir well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Variation: Paris Is Burning Build in a brandy snifter. Swirl to combine. Gently heat until warm, but not hot. Take your pick of heating methods. Cup the glass in your hand for 8 to 10 minutes, hold over a candle flame for a couple of minutes, give it a quick shot with an espresso machine steam wand, or just zap it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
Japanese Slipper 1 ounce Midori 1 ounce triple sec 1 ounce lemon juice Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a de-stemmed cherry dropped in the glass, and a small slice of honeydew on the rim of the glass.