The difference between an aperitif and a liqueur is that the first is normally served before a meal and the latter thereafter. The word aperitif is French and is derived from Latin “aperire” and the meaning is “to open.” The aperitif is a drink served to stimulate the diner’s appetite, drinks such as dry white wine, dry sherry, dry Vermouth and dry Sparkling wine. These drinks are best served chilled for this purpose. A wine aperitif for instance is a wine with a flavour added. Liqueurs are alcohol based and flavours and sugar is added; sugars can be herbs, fruits or nuts.
Because the function of the aperitif is to stimulate the appetite, it will never be sweet. It is a dry and an alcoholic beverage, a drink such as dry sherry or dry wine. Cream Sherries are not considered an aperitif since they are too rich. Other dry drinks that are used for aperitifs are fino, vermouth, amontillado and champagne/sparkling wine, in all instances the dry variety.
Liqueurs are very popular because they are sweet and tasty. Sugar is added to an alcoholic beverage and flavours added to enhance the taste. These can be anything form fruits and herbs to nuts. The alcohol content differs can be from 15% to 55%. Creamed liqueurs are popular in South Africa, just think about liqueurs made of fruits such asamarula and strawberries. There are quite a large number of coffee liqueurs, many made from brandy or whisky, and they work well as after dinner drinks. Other favourites are those made with a base of whisky but the ultimate must be the chocolate liqueur.
The list of cream liqueurs is equally long and the favourite alcohol used with these seems to be rum, vodka, tequila and whisky. Flower liqueurs are an interesting bunch, who would have thought that a flower can be made into an after dinner drink? Think about a rose liqueur or one made from lavender, hibiscus or violets. Honey liqueur is in a class of its own and almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia and pistachios are used to make nut liqueurs. Liqueurs are reminiscent of herbal medicine and have been manufactured ever since the Middle Ages.
They are served in many different ways; on their own, as dessert, over dessert, poured over ice, with coffee, added to a variety of cocktails, before or after dessert. Various kinds of liqueurs can also be used to make layered drinks. Pour the first one over a spoon into a glass, then the second one etc; the reason for the use of the spoon is to prevent the layers from mixing. Many people drink them as shooters such as melktertjie or springbokkies. Many people also use liqueurs to cook with. The word liqueur is derived from the Latin “liquifacere” to liquefy and hardly ever had the industry used their talents in a better fashion than to provide man with this drink.