Review – Tia Maria Dark Liqueur
You can’t be a big spirit brand without an unusual story as to your beginnings, and Tia Maria is no exception. Said to date back to the 17th Century when a young Spanish aristocrat fled the colonial war in Jamaica, the original recipe for Tia Mari was supposedly included on a manuscript given to her by a maid. Sure enough, we then have to jump forward to 1950 when a chap by the name of Dr Evans rediscovered said manuscript and started production. Tia Maria is produced from neutral spirit infused with vanilla and roasted coffee, with a touch of Jamaican rum added for good measure.
Neat: A little too dilute, yet cloyingly sweet with the briefest of orange notes on the entrance, swiftly followed by dark coffee. A touch of bitter chocolate helps to balance, whilst the vanilla provides a much needed bolstering of the mid-palate. The slightly plasticky overwhelmingly sweet finish fades quickly in character and sadly the rum is not at all evident.
Mixing: The combination of a low abv, high level of sweetness, and limited complexity of flavour makes Tia Maria a troublesome prospect for mixing. This is not to say it is entirely unrewarding, but it may not be considered the go to coffee liqueur for staples such as the Espresso Martini which although perfectly serviceable and indeed reasonably quaffable, relies mostly on the espresso for it’s success. Equally accessible is the simple Maria L’Orange; it turns out that sweet orange and coffee work quite well together. Although, not evident in the neat tasting, the small rum component of this liqueur is highlighted in the signature (recipe below) Green Garden. Pick a fruity rum and a spicy ginger beer and you have all the complexity you need for the Tia Maria to wrap thing sup nicely with a delicate sweet coffee kick at the end. Fruity doesn’t always work however, as the inclusion of pineapple juice in the often outstanding Flutter reveals. Nor is it a reliable solution to head long and simple as the Tia Ginger (simply mixed with ginger beer) reveals with its peculiarly soapy taste in need of balance. It is perhaps best suited to the creamier style of drinks such as the Blushin’ Russian where the combination of Tia Maria, amaretto, cream and milk with vodka is found to be far removed from sophisticated, but very easily drinkable.
Signature Cocktail – Green Garden
25ml Rum, 25ml Tia Maria50ml Passion Fruit Juice, Ginger Beer
Pour first three ingredients over ice in a highball glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a mint sprig and cucumber slice.
Tia Maria is a little too sweet, a little to dilute, and a little lacking in complexity to make it the first choice for coffee liqueurs when mixing. Refined it is not, but for many it will always be a secret guilty pleasure. Rating: ★★★
Tia Maria is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: 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.