When browsing the liquor store, no other section is quite as intimidating or mesmerizing as the one lined with bottles upon bottles of liqueurs. From the deeply hued crème de violette to the ruby trappings of Campari, many liqueurs boast flavors as intense as their appearances. These big, bold flavors quite often translate well in cocktails when they can be balanced by additional spirits or mixers. But they can often be enjoyed all on their own. Regardless of how you’d like to use them, liqueurs are fantastic additions to any glass. We’ve selected a few unusual liqueur brands that stand out for their unique flavors. Each deserves a spot in your home bar.
When you think of Chartreuse, the bright, grassy green liqueur is typically what comes to mind. But be careful not to forget the equally quaffable, intensely yellow version of the famed French aperitif. It’s just as packed with layers of floral, herbaceous flavor, thanks to the 130 herbs, plants and flowers used in its production since 1838. It’s also a touch sweeter than Green Chartreuse—but don’t let that scare you off. The result is an exquisite balancing act of rich, herbaceous, candied goodness.
A blend of honey and anise, this unusual liqueur requires nothing more than an ice cube and your full attention. Its most dominant flavor is honey—which is no surprise. The liqueur, a tribute to a beverage made centuries ago by Indigenous Mayans, is made with fermented honey produced by bees who feast on the Xtabentún flower. This lends texture, richness and floral undertones to the finished product. Meanwhile, the rum and spices it’s blended with before bottling lend plenty of depth and dimension.
Aloe is clutch during summer months to quench sunburnt skin. But the succulent’s ability to cool and soothe doesn’t end with topical application. Chareau is made from a blend of light, bright ingredients, including aloe vera, cucumber, lemon peel, muskmelon and spearmint. At its base is an unaged, grape-based brandy that lends even more vitality to its flavor. While it can be used in a variety of summer cocktails, sipping Chareau on its own with a little ice will soothe your body after a long, hot day. As an added bonus, it also ensures that you don’t miss any of the delicate flavors.
Chiles are often relegated to being a supporting flavor, but this second release from Ancho Reyes brings bright, spicy character to the fore. Made in Puebla, Mexico, from native poblano chiles, this unusual liqueur manages to strike the ideal balance sweetness and spice. Additionally, it also manages to maintain the poblano’s vegetal, briny flavor. Do keep in mind, though, that like biting into a fresh pepper this liqueur does lean a bit more spicy than sweet. Ancho Reyes Verde is delightful on the rocks or mixed with tequila or gin.
If you were a fan of ants on a log as a kid, odds are you’ll also enjoy this liqueur from Chicago’s Apologue Liqueurs. It blends the earthy flavor of celery root with ingredients like dill, fennel and tarragon. Then a touch of cinchona bark and a dose of sweetness from organic cane sugar create an almost candied bittersweet flavor akin to an amaro—sort of like the raisins that top the nostalgic childhood treat. While there’s complexity and depth to this unusual liqueur, there’s no mistaking that crisp, crunchy celery is the star.
Looking to discover even more unusual liqueur?