Originating from the Latin word liquifacere [to liquefy], liqueurs are spirits flavoured with fruit, herbs, nuts, barks, spices, flowers, or cream and bottled with additional sugar. Ingredients are macerated in the spirit for resting periods ranging from a few days to a few months. Although in some portions of the world the words cordial and liqueur are interchangeable, there are distinct differences between these two sweet spirits.
Liqueurs are descendants of medieval herbal medicines prepared at monasteries. There are still a number of monasteric liqueurs in production including Bénédictine and Chartreuse. Cordials, on the other hand, are derived from spirits or wine blended with fruit pulp or juices. Because of this wide variation, liqueurs and cordials have varying ABV degrees, ranging from 15% to as high as 55%.
There are literally hundreds of liqueurs and cordials produced. In France, Italy, and Spain there are numerous products made and sold locally as regional specialties that never see international or natoinal distribution.