Major Cream Liqueurs
To find a cream liqueur on a cocktail menu today, you’ll probably need to head to a student town and find a bar with laminated menus listing a three-digit number of drinks, most of which will be fluorescent in colour and given a ‘sexy’ name. Unless you are a student, or you are lacking in self-respect, you won’t be returning. One brand of cream liqueurs you won’t find in such establishments however are the incredibly fresh-tasting Major Liqueurs from Italy.
Take some quality pistachio ice-cream, melt it and lace it with alcohol and you’ll have something that tastes pretty much like this liqueur. Packed full of pistachio flavour, focusing on the lighter/greener notes rather than the earthy nuttier notes, with the cream very much playing a supporting role rather dominating the flavour profile. A conservative level of sweetness and balanced alcohol levels are just high enough to carry the flavour, but hold short of becoming cloyingly sweet or unnecessarily boozy. Used in a Batida de Coco in place of coconut cream, or as an alternative to hazelnut liqueur in drinks such as the Fosbury Flip this makes for an excellent mixing ingredient as well, often just a little extra sugar is required to help bring forward the pistachio flavours when competing for attention with other ingredients.
The ability to identify that that is a mandarin liqueur rather than any other small orange-like fruit is quite remarkabke. From first-sniff to the lingering finish, there is a purity of mandarin character that is really very impressive. Compared with the pistachio, the alcohol base feels a little more balanced, although the intensity of the mandarin flavour makes this a liqueur to sip at conservatively rather than pour a whole glassful. This is not to say it is ‘too much’ in the mouth, in fact the journey from sweet floral through earthier, and then just ever so slightly bitter flavours on the finish means that this is a liqueur with a complexity to bely its single-flavour profile. Switched for the cream in the Cognac and Amaretto Orange Brûlée, this is a succesful cocktail ingredient that stands it’s ground to other bold flavours. Alternatively, for a slightly more sophisticated profile, used again in place of cream in the Brandy Alexander, the pairing of chocolate with orange is a match made in heaven.
If you can’t be sat on a beach somewhere hot, eating a freshly picked melon, this liqueur is the very next best thing. As with the rest of the range the cream takes a backseat, this time to allow all the flavours of perfectly ripe galia melon to shine, complete with a hint of that bit between soft fruit flesh and skin where the flavours turn just a bit funky; in a good way. This liqueur lends itself to drinks in which a taste of the tropical is desired, such as in a rum-based Flip where it may be used in place of the cream, or as a twist on a Pina Colada by adding a half-ounce to the standard recipe.
Very nearly as thick as melted chocolate, you almost wish it came in a squeezy bottle. The relatively low sweetness means the chocolate flavours don’t hit first up, leaving the whisky to do all the talking on the entrance. The alcohol is obvious, but not overpowering and the whisky character is restrained, something that on balance probably gives this liqueur wider appeal. Rich dark chocolate notes come through no the mid-palate and are a balanced medley of cacao, red fruits and a touch of spice. Finishing dry and with a lingering clean chocolate flavour, this is an altogether more indulgent and viscous alternative to other chocolate liqueurs. The only small downside is an ever-so-slightly granular texture when consumed neat, but this really is nit-picking for I could gladly consume far too much of this liqueur. The viscosity does need to be taken into consideration in cocktails, but doing so yields some moreish libations. Increasing the milk content just slightly when replacing the cream in the classic trio of coffee, chocolate and hazlenut in the Insomniac Cocktail will be enough to keep anyone awake, whilst a little boost on the port in the Cognac-based Chatham Hotel Special helps to keep things fluid whilst maintaining a balance of flavours that are quirky, but intriguing.
More creamy and slightly sweeter upfront than the others, but quickly follwed by a pure anise flavour, which moves back towards cream on the finish. The almost fleeting (but bold when it reaches a crescendo) nature of the anise only serves to make it all the more appealing, as you just can’t help but go back for one more sip. Just a tingle of heat is left to remind you that it isn’t all gone. Although cocktails such as the Dream Cocktail in which this liqueur might replace the anisette are perfectly serviceable, the real joy comes from enjoying this aquamarine beauty on its own.
Major Cream Liqueurs offer an extraordinary freshness and purity of flavour that is rarely associated with the category. With toned-back levels on both the sweetness and creaminess, ,these are a far more sophisticated range of liqueurs that are well worth exploring. Rating: ★★★★
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.