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What is the difference between a liqueur, a cordial, and a syrup?

Updated: Feb 29

The terms liqueur, cordial, and syrup can sometimes be used interchangeably and are often used in the context of flavored and sweetened beverages, but they have distinct differences in terms of their composition and usage.



Liqueurs are alcoholic beverages that are sweetened and flavored. They have a lower alcohol content compared to spirits or liquors but typically have a higher alcohol content than cordials and syrups. They are made by infusing or distilling spirits with various ingredients such as fruits, herbs, spices, or nuts. They are often more concentrated in flavor and used to add depth and complexity to cocktails. They can be enjoyed on their own or used as ingredients in a wide range of cocktails and mixed drinks. There are several popular brands that produce high-quality liqueurs which include Amaretto Disaronno, Baileys, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, Kahlúa, Drambuie, Campari, Chartreuse, and Chambord. Schnapps is also considered a Liqueur.



Also known as “liqueur cordials”, are sweetened and flavored alcoholic beverages. They have a lower alcohol content compared to liqueurs. Cordials are generally lighter and less concentrated in flavor. They are often enjoyed as a dessert drink or a digestif. Cordials can be sipped on their own or used as an ingredient in cocktails, similar to liqueurs. They add depth, complexity, and sweetness to a wide variety of beverages, making them a versatile ingredient in the world of mixology. The term "cordial" is more commonly used in British English, while "liqueur" is more widely used in American English. They are made by infusing or distilling various ingredients, such as fruits, herbs, spices, or nuts, in a base spirit, which is typically brandy or neutral grain spirits. The infusion process allows the flavors and aromas of the ingredients to be extracted, resulting in a distinctive and flavorful beverage. But one key difference between cordials and liqueurs is the sweetness level. Cordials are generally sweeter than liqueurs, often containing a higher amount of sugar or sweeteners to create a rich and syrupy texture. They are typically enjoyed in small quantities due to their concentrated flavors.

Some examples of popular cordials flavors include cherry cordial, coffee liqueur, chocolate liqueur, and crème de menthe. Each cordial has its own distinct flavor profile and can be enjoyed in different ways. There are many cordial brands available, offering a wide range of flavors and options. Example of some well-known cordial brands include Monin, Torani, Bols, DeKuyper, and Giffard.


Syrups refers to a concentrated, non-alcoholic sweeteners used to add flavor to beverages. They are typically made by dissolving sugar or sweeteners in water and adding natural or artificial flavors. Syrups are highly concentrated and are used in small amounts to sweeten and flavor drinks like coffee, tea, cocktails, and mocktails. They are also used in baking and dessert recipes. Syrups can come in a variety of flavors, such as vanilla, caramel, fruit, or mint.

There are various cocktail syrups available that add flavor, sweetness, and complexity to cocktails. Here are some examples of popular cocktail syrups (check my “Cocktail Syrups” post where I show you how to make some those syrups with a *).

Simple Syrup*

It is a versatile syrup used in many cocktails to add sweetness without altering the flavor profile significantly.



A syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. It adds a sweet and tangy flavor to cocktails and is commonly used in drinks like the Tequila Sunrise and Shirley Temple.



This syrup is a sweet almond syrup used in classic tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai. It adds a nutty and slightly floral flavor to drinks.


Honey Syrup*

Another versatile syrup that adds a natural sweetness and distinct flavor to cocktails and is a popular choice for drinks like the Bee's Knees.


Mint Syrup*

A syrup infused with fresh mint leaves. It is commonly used in cocktails like the Mojito and Mint Julep to add a refreshing and aromatic element.


Ginger Syrup*

A fun syrup made from ginger root and sugar. It adds a spicy and slightly sweet flavor to cocktails and is often used in drinks like the Moscow Mule and Dark 'n' Stormy.



This is a Caribbean syrup with flavors of lime, almond, ginger, and spices. It is used in tropical cocktails like the Zombie and Caribbean Punch to add a complex and tropical twist.


Coconut Syrup

A sweet syrup made from coconut sugar or coconut water. It adds a tropical and creamy flavor to cocktails and is commonly used in pina coladas and tropical drinks.


These are just a few examples of popular cocktail syrups. There are many more options available, including flavored syrups like raspberry, vanilla, and caramel, which can be used to customize and enhance your favorite cocktails. There are several popular brands that produce high-quality cocktail syrups. Some examples of well-known cocktail syrup brands would be Monin, Torani, Small Hand Foods, Liber & Co, Fee Brothers, B.G. Reynolds, and Royal Rose to name a few.


In summary, liqueurs are alcoholic beverages with a higher alcohol content, cordials are alcoholic beverages with a lower alcohol content, and syrups are non-alcoholic sweeteners used to flavor beverages. Each has its own unique characteristics and uses in the world of beverages.




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