Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Sweet taste of success and the bitter truth

By Don Kavanagh

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Don is the editor of Thirst magazine.

Chartreuse Green, RRP $89. Photo / Supplied
Chartreuse Green, RRP $89. Photo / Supplied

Liqueurs - even the name sounds thick, rich and sweet. But are they glutinous, fruit-based sugar syrups, or is there something a bit more to them? Well, of course there is.

Liqueurs can be made from anything, but are mostly classified as fruit, herb, cream, spice or flower liqueurs, depending on what has been used to flavour them.

While the sweet liqueurs are the most familiar, the most interesting are the herbal ones. Most of them were originally intended to be medicinal and you can certainly taste those origins in the likes of Benedictine, Underberg and Campari, with their earthy, bitter flavours.

My favourite, though, is Chartreuse. This chlorophyll-coloured, 55 per cent alcohol blend of 132 herbs is a stunning achievement. Made by monks in eastern France, it is winning over a new generation of drinkers.

I spent some time with the managing director of Chartreuse, Jean-Marc Roget, and his export manager Philippe Rochez, who were here to help boost the liqueur's image by planting a bartender here to advise local bars on how to use it.

It is a spectacular cocktail ingredient. Even something simple like a Chartreuse Orange (30ml of green Chartreuse, 120ml of orange juice, 10ml of lemon juice over ice) is elegant and refreshing.

The thing to remember about liqueurs is that while sweetness is a good thing, you need a little bitterness in your life, too.

Sambuca Isolabella
RRP $51.90
Sambuca is a much-maligned drink, but this stands out like a shining light. Lovely aniseed and elderflower nose, the palate is all aniseed, with a sweetness down the centre. Crystal clear and completely true to style, this is intense and lovely stuff.

Chartreuse Green
RRP $89
A curious blend of bitter and sweet. As it warms up, the sweet heart comes to the fore and it makes a very satisfying sipping drink, especially after a big meal. With ice, it is noticeably sharper, with hints of liquorice, cinnamon and nutmeg. A glorious drink.

- NZ Herald

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