When a bottle of liquor reads “Overproof,” “Navy Strength” or “151,” it’s a pretty obvious declaration of how potent the spirit is. Other spirits however, aren't as clearly labeled and are far more potent than they initially appear. Here, seven unexpectedly strong spirits that are far more boozy than you would think.
Cointreau, a brand of triple sec, is not the saccharine orange liqueur you assumed it to be. Bottled at 40 percent ABV, the spirit is as potent as any whiskey, gin or vodka. While we don’t recommend drinking Cointreau straight or even on the rocks, it will make any Margarita or Mai Tai even more boozalicious than it already is.
Another unsuspectingly boozy orange liqueur, Grand Marnier is made from Cognac, sugar and distilled essence of bitter orange. Bottled at 40 percent ABV like Cointreau, this French beauty is just as alcoholic as a glass of straight Cognac. Unlike Cointreau, however, this liqueur is rich enough and flavorful enough to sip straight on its own. Serve it in a snifter like you would any Cognac or Armagnac.
This delightful Italian lemon liqueur is one of the only spirits on this list that actually ranges in booziness depending on whether you make the liqueur yourself or buy it from the store. While store-bought limoncello is typically 30 to 40 percent ABV, if you make it at home with Everclear or grappa, it can be strong enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up. Our recipe for limoncello is boozy enough to use as the main ingredient in cocktails.
If you’ve ever wondered why you got so turnt after a couple rounds of Harvey Wallbangers, it’s Galliano’s fault. Clocking in at 42.3 percent alcohol (84.6 proof), this vanilla and anise-flavored liqueur is shockingly strong. While there aren't many recipes that call for the vibrant, yellow-hued spirit, it will boost the ABV and licorice flavors in any drink it touches. Instead of having sambuca with a shot of espresso for a nightcap, we like to sip this boozy tipple.
Even though green Chartreuse is more brazenly boozy than its yellow sibling, both spirits are high in alcohol. The green is less sweet than the yellow bottled at a whopping 110 proof, while the yellow is bottled at 80 proof. While it’s common to drink them straight in France—chilled—most Americans blend Chartreuse with other spirits or serve them in a Highball. However you enjoy them, be careful because both of them pack a mean punch.
You might think that Campari is low proof like a vermouth, but like most amari, the spirit is bottled at 56 proof—which is somewhere between a liqueur and straight liquor. This is why Campari can function like a vodka or a gin in an Americano and why cocktails like the Negroni are so potent.
There’s a good reason why you’re only adding a few dashes of bitters to a cocktail, and it’s not just because of bitterness. Bitters are higher proof than most liquors you’re drinking. In order to properly infuse herbs and other flavors into bitters—regardless of whether they’re Angostura or another brand—producers use a neutral, high proof spirit. After the infusion, the bitters are bottled without any added water or sugar. Though you can actually use them like a spirit, we don’t you start taking nips off your bottle of Angostura.