One of the things questions I regularly get asked is ‘what is the difference between Creme Liqueur and a Liqueur?’. Some people get confused thinking that a Creme Liqueur is a Cream Liqueur like Baileys Irish Cream. It isn’t. Not that surprising since the word creme (crème to give it it’s is proper French accent) is the French word for cream, the dairy product. So what are Creme de Fruits, Creme de Noix or Creme Liqueurs.
The first thing to do is to define what a liqueur is. European Law from 1989 states that a liqueur must have a minimum of 15% alcohol and a minimum of 100g of sugar per litre.
A liqueur is essentially made made from three components.
- A distilled spirit – this could be a neutral grain, fruit, grape or molasses spirit. However, some of the world’s most famous liqueurs use finished spirits such as whisky, cognac, brandy or rum as their base spirit.
- A sweetener – generally this can be sugar or a sugar syrup (perhaps fructose or fruit sugar syrup) . Other sweeteners can include honey or sweet wine.
- Some sort of flavouring – liqueurs can be flavoured with just about anything. Common flavourings are fruits, nuts, herbs, flowers, roots, bark, beans, cream and spices. The flavouring of a liqueur can be simple, such as just simply blackcurrant fruit for a Creme de Cassis, or the flavourings could be a long list (usually a closely guarded secret) of herbs, flowers, spices etc. For example, Green Chartreuse has 130 ingredients.
A liqueur always has sugar added, which distinguishes it from flavoured spirits such as flavoured vodka, and they are usually bottled at an alcoholic strength of anywhere from 15% (the minimum) to 55% ABV.
To dispel any confusion over a Creme versus a Cream Liqueur, a Cream Liqueur is simply alcohol and sugar flavoured with dairy cream (and other flavourings). Without doubt, Baileys Irish Cream is the most famous of the Cream Liqueurs but there are many others including Amarula from South Africa, all sorts of chocolate and coffee flavoured cream liqueurs, and those that use rum, whisky, tequila et al. for their spirit base.
What is a Creme Liqueur?
A Creme Liqueur has a more specific definition. It is liqueur made with alcohol that is sweetened and then flavoured.
However, a Creme Liqueur must contain at least 250g of sugar per litre, compared to a “normal” liqueur (100g/L) as above. Creme Liqueurs are normally made from fruit or nuts and are therefore known as Creme de Fruits or Creme de Noix.
There are exceptions of course. For example, Creme de Cassis de Dijon is more regulated, limited geographically and must have minimum of 400g of sugar per litre compared to standard Creme de Cassis. Creme de Cassis de Dijon must also contain at least 25% of the Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrant variety.
What does this mean?
Due to the higher sugar concentration Creme Liqueurs tend to be more viscous, more syrupy, heavier and (obviously) sweeter than standard liqueurs. In practice this perhaps means that when you are using them in cocktails or other recipes you may not have to use as much of a Creme Liqueur compared to a normal liqueur. I also recommend using a much smaller amount of the Briottet Creme de Fruit liqueurs when adding them to white or sparkling wines for example in a Kir or Kir Royale.