A liqueur is an alcoholic drink composed of distilled spirits and additional flavorings such as sugar, fruits, herbs, and spices. Often served with or after dessert, they are typically heavily sweetened and un-aged beyond a resting period during production, when necessary, for their flavors to mingle.
Liqueurs are historical descendants of herbal medicines. They were made in Italy as early as the 13th century, often prepared by monks (for example, Chartreuse). Today they are produced the world over, commonly served neat, over ice, with coffee, in cocktails, and used in cooking.
In the United States and Canada, where spirits are often called “liquor”, there is often confusion discerning between liqueurs and liquors, due to the many different types of flavored spirits that are available today (e.g., flavored vodka). Liqueurs generally contain a lower alcohol content (15–30% ABV) than spirits and it has sweetener mixed, while some can have an ABV as high as 55%.
Under the Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870), liqueurs are produced from mixing alcohol with plant materials. These materials include juices or extracts from fruits, flowers, leaves, or other plant materials. The extracts are obtained by soaking, filtering, or softening the plant substances. A sweetening agent should be added in an amount that is at least 2.5 percent of the finished liqueur. The alcohol percentage shall be at least 23%. It may also contain natural or artificial flavoring and color.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates liqueurs similarly to Canada, requiring that alcohol be mixed with plant products and sweeteners be added to at least 2.5% by weight. Wikipedia
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