Food & Drink

Bartenders Reveal the Forgotten Liqueurs They Wish Were More Popular

Mark Yocca / Supercall

There are a few liqueurs that are in common rotation behind the bar. Liqueurs like curaçao, Grand Marnier, St-Germain, amaretto and maraschino are all mainstays required to make a majority of the classic cocktail canon. However, there are literally hundreds of other liqueurs available. And while some of these sweet spirits deserve to fade into obscurity, others are worth reviving. Here, bartenders reveal their favorite forgotten liqueurs. Grab a bottle and get mixing.

Rakomelo and Mastiha

“Rakomelo is a super traditional liqueur from Greece that is made by infusing honey and cinnamon in tsipouro, or Greek grappa. It has a delicious natural sweetness and reminds me of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. It works great in bourbon and rum cocktails, and everyone who I give a taste to loves the flavor. Mastiha is indigenous to the Greek island of Chios, which is the only place in the world that produces mastic tears—nature’s first chewing gum. It’s a tree resin that dries into these waxy pebbles that you can chew. The flavor of mastiha is very mysterious and unlike anything most people have ever had. The texture is fantastic and coats your mouth with this rich herbal, refreshing zing. It works great in cocktails and it can be enjoyed neat. I always keep a bottle in the freezer to give little tastes to my bar regulars.” — Johnny Livanos, Ousia, New York, NY


“Its main botanical is cumin, so it has this really weird, spicy, rye bread nose. It's stylistically similar to a pastis or anisette, and could be used in any cocktail you might use Pernod or sambuca in, but would add a spicy, funky twist. It's also really delicious on its own as a nightcap or on the rocks.” — Stacie Stewart, Whiskey Dry and MilkWood, Louisville, KY

D’aristi Xtabentun

“It’s a Mexican honey and anise liqueur. It’s absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t find it for a while, but now that it’s available again I use it whenever possible. It’s great as a sweetener in a Daiquiri or Gimlet, or sub it for curaçao in a Margarita. It’s perfect for spring and summer.” — Robb Jones, Spoon and Stable and Bellecour, Minneapolis, MN

Crème de Cassis

“I wish more places carried Le Jay. It’s a crème de cassis liqueur (blackcurrant) that has the right amount of sweetness and berry flavor. It enhances any cocktail.” — Greg Goins, Roe Seafood and Panxa Cocina, Long Beach, CA

Blue Curaçao

“It’s more than just kitsch and more than just something that was popular in the 1980s. It gives great color to drinks, allows bartenders to craft festive, bright colored drinks for summer, and it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients and flavors in the drink. At Halifax during brunch, we actually serve a Unicorn shot [made with a blueberry-infused vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, a lavender-infused whipped cream and sprinkles] that incorporates blue curaçao for great color.” — Carlos Arteaga, Halifax, Hoboken, NJ

Yellow and Green Chartreuse

“Chartreuse is a classic liqueur that I tend to utilize when crafting more complex cocktails—both the yellow and green. Both spirits have a nice herbal note that rounds out [cocktails] while adding complexity. The green is more pungent, herbaceous and bold. The yellow is lighter and sweeter. If you are ever crafting a cocktail that leaves you saying, ‘but it’s just missing something,’ that something is usually Chartreuse!” — Paul LaFleur, Michael Jordan’s Steak House, Uncasville, CT

Cynar and Sloe Gin

“For me, a couple [liqueurs that] come to mind right off the bat are sloe gin and Cynar. Both are wonderfully tasty, versatile and unique, but you just don’t see them being utilized in many cocktail programs aside from the occupying of a statuesque position on the back bar.” — Matt Harwell, General Manager at Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, NV