The Netherlands is internationally known for its fine quality and large diversity in liqueurs. This is based on our urge to trade. In the Golden Age, when Dutch ships took home herbs, fruits and seeds across the oceans and from all corners of the world, people started to experiment and it emerged that a lot of delicacies could be made with these “new” ingredients. Dutch liqueur distilleries utilised their creativity to their heart's content and thus many new liqueurs were rapidly introduced. The recipes were of course kept strictly secret; after all, each distillery had its own version.
The liqueurs were immensely popular and they were also said to have medicinal powers. Each minor ailment had its own liqueur, whilst specific liqueurs were also drunk according to occasion.
During the course of the years new liqueurs continued to be developed. Meanwhile the Dutch range of liqueurs is a bestseller across the world.
There are different manners in which liqueurs can be prepared;
· By means of distillation: This is done especially with herbs and seeds and peelings of in particular citrus fruits.
· By means of maceration: Maceration is an alcohol-based extraction process with fresh or dried fruits. After a couple of weeks the alcohol has extracted sufficient flavours from the fruits.
· By means of percolation: This method can be compared to the operating principle of an automatic coffee-maker. A heated mixture of water and alcohol is pressed through the herbs for a couple of days in order to absorb the flavours.
· By means of fruit juices: This method is frequently applied, often in combination with one of the other methods.
Liqueurs are characterised as a sweet drink and prescribe a minimum alcohol percentage of 15%. This is the lower limit for distilled drinks. In the Netherlands, distilled drinks may not be sold in supermarkets. However, there are lighter variations called liqueurettes. They can be found in the Dutch supermarkets.
Liqueurs can be used in numerous different ways. They used to be drunk mostly straight. In addition to straight consumption, they are often used in countless cocktails these days. Liqueurs are also extremely suitable for use in pudding, on ice-creams in fruit salads, with pancakes, to flambé and as a flavour for sauces for instance.