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K&L Staff Recommendations
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92 points Wine Enthusiast: "A classic, can’t-go-wrong workhorse spirit that provides a versatile option for a wide range of cocktails. This clear liqueur has a bright, true orange scent with a hint of bitter orange on the aroma. The flavor mix is of candied orange slices and lightly bitter orange peel. The finish is warm and clean. Good balance." (2/2012) K&L Notes: A must-have classic.
Fernet Branca is an Italian amaro developed in 1845. The family's secret recipe still has never been disclosed, but what they can tell you is that it is a combination of 27 different herbs picked in four continents and aged for more than a year in oak casks. Perfect as a digestive, try it with your meal.
96 points Wine Enthusiast: "Tawny and bright in the glass, this mellow, bittersweet beauty offers caramel and vanilla, braced by allspice and bitter orange. Although Nonino is best known for its grappas, this amaro, flavored with herbs from the mountains of Friuli, is worth seeking out. Consider it for dessert pairings or an edgy spin on a negroni." (4/2014) K&L Notes: From Distillatori Nonino in Italy's Friuli. This amaro is a grape distillate infused with herbs and aged in barrique, the Quinessentia Amaro Nonino shows fragrant mountain herbs. It's delicious as an aperitivo served with a slice... Read More »
96-100 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Classic/Highest Recommendation* The seductive bouquet offers wonderfully floral, fruity, guava- and melon-like fragrances of elderflower, becoming richly pear- and quince-like following aeration time. The palate entry is soft and firm; the midpalate is integrated, harmonious and exquisitely balanced between alcohol level, sweetness, acidity and floral impact. A perfect liqueur." (4/2008) K&L Notes: Double Gold Medal at the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, plus *Five Stars/Highest Recommendation* from Paul Pacult of the Spirit Journal and Wine E... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "New to the U.S. market in 2012, this 'dry' Curaçao is intriguing and should work well as a sophisticated sweetener alongside bitter-edged spirits and darker, biting spirits like rye whiskey. While not precisely dry, this golden liqueur has its vanilla sweetness tempered by a wash of bitter orange. The scent is rich and agave-like, with a touch of mezcal-like funkiness." (2/2012) K&L Notes: Designed by renowned cocktailian David Wondrich, this is perhaps the finest orange liqueur available for mixing. Try it in a Sidecar or Corpse Reviver for spectacular results.
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "The bouquet is lovely, balanced, properly astringent, ripe and juicy with scents of cherry stone and cherry juice. The palate entry is decadently sweet and textured with vibrant tastes of cherry compote and cherry preserves at midpalate. The finish is svelte, moderately syrupy and downright delicious. An outstanding liqueur: use it in an Aviation Cocktail." (12/2007) K&L Notes: From Esquire Magazine: "For every great new bar popping up that knows how to turn out a life-changing cocktail, there are two or three that look like they do but don't. There's one sure way of... Read More »
*5 Stars from Paul Pacult - Highest Recommendation!* Gran Classico Bitter is based on the original Bitter of Turin recipe dating from the 1860s. This classic aperitif is artisanal-made in a small Swiss distillery from an infusion of numerous herbs and roots including bitter orange peel, wormwood, gentian, rhubarb, and other aromatic plants. Gran Classico Bitter’s color is a natural result of the herbs and plants infused into pure grain spirit produced to the highest Swiss standards and is not artificially colored in any way. It is amazingly complex and ... Read More »
Velvet Falernum is a longtime staple item of resorts and bars in Barbados, and today for its use in Tropical, Tiki and Caribbean drinks such as the Rum Swizzle, Mai Tai, Zombie, Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Corn n’ Oil. It is made from an infusion of spices and lime juice into sugar cane syrup and Barbados Rum. John D Taylor’s Falernum is considered by many as the original Falernum, and is today produced by famed rum distiller R.L. Seale Ltd.
From the distillery: "Ready for a bigger, better, bitterer bar? Say hello to Bruto Americano! With a bracing dose of bitterness, a bright pop of citrus, and intriguing sylvan notes inspired by distiller Lance Winters’ formative experiences growing up in California in the 1970s, Bruto is a bitter aperitivo liqueur that makes us as proud as it does thirsty. Compare it to the other aperitivos you’ve been drinking and experience what you’ve been missing. A variety of herbs, roots, and other botanicals. Though the exact number of ingredients and formulation a... Read More »
95 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top 50 Spirits of 2011* This light green liquid features musky, herbal and botanical aromas: star anise, tarragon, basil and Dutch licorice. Flavors are bold and sweet, with a slight earthiness and alcohol heat. Finishes sharp, herbal, grassy, floral and complex. Thick and viscous. A classic for gin-based cocktails." (2/2011)
Wine Enthusiast: "Dark purple, nearly opaque, with a wine-like scent. Warm and rich, this black currant spirit coats the tongue and palate with big, grape-berry flavors. It’s best lightened with bubbly, as in a Kir royale." K&L Notes: There may be no better aperitif for an outdoor spring meal than a glass of dry rosé. Then again, we would not sniff at a chilled Kir, either. Made with any ol' simple white wine (Aligoté is the traditional choice, but a Mâcon or Pinot Blanc work just fine) and the addition of a healthy dash of Crème di Cassis, a Kir is refreshing, palate awakening and th... Read More »
An artichoke based bitter enhanced by the infusion of 13 different herbs and plants. Totally natural with rich perfumes it is a modern and versatile digestivo. A great way to end your day.
If you're a Campari fan, but have never been able to find something outside of the Italian legend that scratches that same itch, then this might be the one thing that finally captivates you. The Leopold brothers have gone back to the drawing board and created an all natural version of the bitter aperitivo that uses real cochineal (like Campari used to) to color the liquid and brings a much bolder, more bitter flavor. It mixes like a DREAM into a Negroni and works wonders in an Americano. If you think you've got the Negroni cocktail mastered, think again.... Read More »
Giffard is one of France's highest quality liqueur producers. They're sourcing the highest quality fruits and spices for their liqueurs and have committed to using local ingredients where ever possible. Because Giffard liqueurs are truly designed specifically for use in cocktails, the aromatic profile is the most important aspect of this product. While the flavor on the palate is excellent, the depth of flavor on the nose is second to none. The grapefruit is snappy, tart, and fresh. Incredible
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "The first aromatic blast is seductively anise-like, then it mellows, turning softer, more herbal, and plumper. At palate entry the intensely bitter taste of anise both enlivens and cleanses the palate; at midpalate the pleasant sting of alcohol and the zest of rooty/woodsy botanicals make for memorable imbibing. Finishes elegant and smooth." (10/2005) K&L Notes: While the prohibition of absinthe in 1915 put a damper on wormwood spirits, it created a market for anise-flavored liqueurs like Ricard. With its characteristic licorice flavor, Ricard is a light and refreshi... Read More »
Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur combines juice from the seasonal harvest of Austria's famed Klosterneuberger apricots with an eau-de-vie produced from this same fruit. Destillerie Purkhart selects its apricots each season from family orchards in the Danube Valley and surrounding regions. Ideal for perfecting so many classic cocktails. Try the Golden Dawn Cocktail: 2/3 oz. Dry Gin, 2/3 oz. Orchard Apricot Liqueur, 2/3 oz Calvados, 2/3 oz. Cointreau, 1 dash Grenadine.
The elusive Génépy (Génépi) from Dolin is a type of liqueur that has long been sought-after, but only recently become available in the US. Its character is derived from the various alpine shrubs of the genus Artemisia. More commonly known as wormwood, Genepi is an iconic alpine botanical associated with the kingdom of Savoy and the regions in France, Switzerland, and Italy that once made up that kingdom. It's been used for centuries to flavor liqueurs, digestifs and various tonics. The flavor profile falls somewhere in between modern absinthe and chartre... Read More »
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "The brisk, invigorating scent of this amaro hovers between herbal and medicinal. On the palate, it skews sweeter, with rich caramel and hazelnut flavors and just enough bitterness and baking spice to keep things interesting." (4/2014) K&L Notes: Leave it to the Italians to make a bottle of "bitter" so beautiful and so tasty, too. This is an infusion, made from a secret recipe of aromatic herbs in alcohol, with the addition of a small amount of water and sugar. The result is a digestivo like none other, and just the thing to follow up an espresso after a rich, Italian... Read More »
Brennivin is Iceland's most classic tipple. The stark black label and intense flavor have given rise to the nickname "Black Death," but the traditional Icelandic "schnapps" is all about celebrating life! Distilled from grain and flavored with caraway, it does not have any sugar added after distillation and therefore is not classified as schnapps in the U.S. This magnificent and enchanting drink is usually used as a shooter, but it's now gaining traction as a solid base for cocktails. It's definitely a bucket list type of drink. You must try it once and l... Read More »
The magnificent Giffard Triple Sec is the gold standard for orange liqueur. A fabulous addition to almost any cocktail. From the distillery: "Fresh and candied orange notes. Delicately sweet, enhanced by a note of bitterness that is typical of orange and grapefuit peels. Slight touch of cinnamon at the end."
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Grand Marnier—or “GrandMa,” as some cocktail geeks gleefully shorthand it—remains one of the classics. Although it’s Cognac-based, it’s a versatile match for other spirits, too. The liqueur is extremely aromatic, with lots of sweet and bitter orange notes exploding out of the glass. Look for a warm, honeyed flavor and a nice burst of orange peel and spicy cinnamon and ginger on the long finish." (2/2012) K&L Notes: The original. Grand Marnier was created in 1880 by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle (and the Lapostolle family still owns the company) as a blend of cog... Read More »
Suze Gentiane Liqueur is a bitter aperitif that has been produced in France since 1889, but we're just getting it at K&L now! Lightly sweet with plenty of gentian bitterness, this is the perfect ingredient for a white negroni, or just plain soda water.
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Top 50 Spirits of 2011* Complex and appealingly herbal, this spirit is marked by its coffee-brown color and a scent like spearmint-spiked espresso. The flavor is sweet, faintly coffee-like, with warm Dutch licorice, anise and sarsaparilla notes. The brisk finish is minty then bitter. Heavy, syrupy feel." (2/2011) K&L Notes: An hour or so has passed since your last spoon full of smashed yams, your concluding hunk of brioche stuffing, your final, fateful bite of tryptophan-laden turkey, and yet you cannot pull yourself from the table. You are full, beyond full. Never ... Read More »
One of the most delicious and versatile new releases from our neighbors in the Bay Area! The St. George spiced pear uses pear brandy and a spiced pear juice to create a liqueur that mixes beautifully into a number of cocktails, or pairs wonderfully with desserts. Be careful. It goes down far too easily.
Ravello and the surrounding villages known collectively as the Amalfi Coast have been famous for their natural and human-built beauty since the time of the ancient Romans. It is so incredibly gorgeous there, that it almost seems unfair that Ravello is also home to the producer of this lovely dessert tipple based on the local lemons. Amalfi Coast Limoncello is an origin-protected IGP product (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) like Balsamico di Modena. Yes, this stuff is sweet, but also acidic. It's a lemonade stand for grown-ups, and there is nothing bette... Read More »
Just in time for the holiday season, legendary Oregon fruit distiller Steve McCarthy brings you his best liqueur yet: Clear Creek Cranberry. I have been anxiously and impatiently awaiting this elixir since I got the chance to sample it at the distillery four months ago. This is not the sugary-sweet, syrupy substance you probably are expecting. This cranberry liqueur captures the pure tart and tangy essence of the berry itself, with just enough sweetness to balance it out. It's juicy, supple, and incredibly addicting. It's going to blow you away and it's ... Read More »
A softer sweeter version of the green. Always a pleasure mixed up or even on the rocks. 91 points Wine Enthusiast: "Yellow, faintly tinged with green. The aroma is bright, mild and lime-lollipop sweet, although the flavor is more herbal, with hints of mint and anise, and a prounounced licorice finish and alcohol sting. Thick, syrupy and tongue-coating." (02/11)
From its origins in the tropical hills and valleys of Jamaica, the allspice berry has for generations been prized for its exceptional tastes of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg and a pepper note that dazzles the palate. The allspice liqueur, known in classic cocktails as "Pimento Dram," brings together the fine pot-still rum and classic allspice berries of Jamaica. Enjoy St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram in classic cocktails, Wassail and other punches, mulled wine, continental and island cuisine. 22.5% Alc./Vol.
The Danish classic is making a come back with the craft cocktail people. It's fresh tart cherry character is the perfect balance add both sweetness and acidity to your cocktail. If you love cherries this is the adulterant for you. You can also sip it chilled or throw it in a spritz without much issue.
90-95 points Wine Enthusiast: "The vibrant, bittersweet bouquet is citrusy, herbal, floral and earthy. The palate entry is bittersweet, intensely herbal and earthy but refreshingly orange citrusy; the tasty midpalate is marked by heightened sweetness and a more mineral-like core flavor. Finish is savory and bittersweet. Best Buy." (12/2006) K&L Notes: According to a highly trusted source, this is the closest available substitute for the old incarnation of Amer Picon. (Amer Picon is a highly sought-after cocktail ingredient, which is not distributed in the United States.) What few people know is ... Read More »
This magnificent Ancho Chili liqueur has been produced in Mexico since 1927. From the city of Puebla, the Reyes family became famous in the region for making the finest liqueur using the traditional chili of the area. It all begins with the cultivation of the local poblano peppers, which are dried in the hot sun. When the process is done, the smoky and spicy Ancho Chili is born. This legendary chili is hand split and cleaned before being soaked in neutral cane spirit for more than six months. The final stages are the blending of the final ingredients to ... Read More »
There's a pretty incredible history behind Zwack. Born in 1790, the Zwack family eventually founded their recipe into an official business in 1840 and became Hungary's official beverage of choice.The business thrived into the early 20th century until the Red Army began marching westward. When the communists came to Hungary, the Zwacks fled to the United States, taking their recipe with them and leaving a fake one behind for the new regime that wanted to nationalize the company. It's been said that the recipe itself is what got János and Péter Zwack off o... Read More »
As the amaro renaissance continues to heat up, we're now seeing some local California players enter the market with fantastic results. Amaro Bilaro is made in Sebastopol from a locally-distilled grape base and thirteen different herbs and botanicals by a husband and wife team based in Sonoma. Some of those herbs are grown right in their own backyard, while others like gentian are sourced. The result is a strikingly savory amaro that definitely brings more of the bitter than the sweet side of the spirit. Myrrh, bitter orange, cinnamon, and as well as mint... Read More »
Originally created in 1823 by James Pimm of Kent to be served as a digestif, Pimm's Original Gin Sling was the first "House Cup" at London's popular Oyster Bar, thus the spirit's name: Pimm's No. 1 Cup. A special blend of herbs, liqueurs and quinine were steeped in gin and paired with oysters on the half shell. As the brand's reputation grew, other Pimm's Cups were developed, each based on different spirits, including vodka and brandy, but only the gin-based cup is available in the US today. The iconic cocktail, appropriately named Pimm's Cup, has been a... Read More »
*Five Stars/Highest Recommendation - The Spirit Journal* Known for their Absinthe, Tempus Fugit has made waves over last year releasing the exceptional (albeit controversial) Gran Classico and the lovely Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette. Their new Creme de Cacao is out of this world. Few things have bothered me more than the subpar Creme de Cacaos I've tasted in the past, but this stuff is awesome. Based on a 19th century recipe, the Tempus Fugit folks have gone so far as to replicate the original cacao and vanilla sources from Venezuela and Mexico resp... Read More »
Well, I've only been waiting my entire life for this product to arrive. This is truly the quintessential bitter French liqueur. They start with high quality neutral spirit. Both bitter and sweet orange peels are macerated in the base spirit before being distilled. Then they do it again. Wait, then they do it one more time. Then they add more peels, spices, botanicals, etc. A small amount of sugar is used to balance the bitter and stabilize the color. This is the Franco-phonic answer to Amaro and it is so so good. Truly a special treat for anyone smart en... Read More »
This is the fabulous Kina l'Avion d'Or. Watch out Lillet and Cocchi Americano, this is a traditional Kina Aperitif recipe coming from a hundred year old recipe from a distillery in Switzerland. Richer than expected, it doesn't have the light heartedness of the Americano, but it certainly makes up for it in term of depth. The nose is deeply perfumed and wild! The palate has the perfect interplay between bitter and sweet. This is sure to be a classic.
This true CLASSIC is a must have for any mixologist or amateur cocktail lover. This special french liquor was released in the 19th century by french industrialist vAlexandre Le Grand and it's actual connection to the Benedictine order is dubious at best, but the recipe is claimed to have been invented in 1510 by french monk Don Bernardo Vincelli. The main flavor components include Hyssop, Angelica, and Lemon Balm, but the other 24+ ingredients and the composition are a closely guarded trade secret. Similar to Chartreuse, the conncotion is aged for sever... Read More »
From importer Haus Alpenz: "The Apertivo Cappelletti, endearingly known to locals as just 'Specialino,' may be the oldest house of the classic red bitter still in production. Unlike its larger commercial rivals, Cappelletti is less sweet and has a wonderful drying finish. Additionally, it still uses natural carmine color for a crimson red and retains a vinous texture from its wine base. It offers a vibrant and flavorful profile, complemented by bitter undertones on a traditional wine base. This yields a negroni or spritz that is dry and refreshing on the... Read More »
Bam! Campari has just released the new Cynar 70: the same great artichoke amaro you've come to love, but with double the intensity and double the proof of the original. The result is like a mixologists dream come true: bolder flavor, bolder spice, and bolder bitterness. Grab it while it's hot!
90 points Wine Enthusiast: "Look for a deep poppy-red hue and grapefruit aroma in this liqueur. It's hard not to compare the lightly bitter flavor profile to the popular Campari, though this easy drinker is a little softer, lighter and sweeter, and has a light floral fade. The label is particularly fun, featuring a handsome Italian waiter offering an aperitivo on a tray. (KN)" (4/2016) K&L Notes: From Caffo distillery in Calabria, on the toe of Italy just south of Naples, comes this delicious, inexpensive, Campari-like substitute, brimming with juicy Italian citrus and a nice level of bitternes... Read More »
Roasted Yirgacheffe coffee beans, French chicory root, Madagascar vanilla beans, and organic cane sugar combine to create a coffee liqueur with dimension and depth through the added step of gentle, cold maceration. The NOLA Coffee Liqueur intrigues, engages the senses, and invites you to let go of expectations and give yourself over to a wholly delicious experience.
From the exceptional team at Tempus Fugit Spirits, this authenticate Violette recipe stands out from the crowd of other violet liqueurs. Officially distinct from what's available, the Tempus Fugit Violettes is classified as a liqueur rather than a creme. This means less sugar. Light and ethereal, it does not come off as soapy or overly aromatic. In addition, the use of cochineal for coloring means that no artiifical dye is needed, but of course your aviations won't be that brilliant sky blue either. Clearly one of the best violette on the markets despite... Read More »
Only the second domestically produced Fernet available, SF's local Fernet producer has knocked it out of the park. It's got everything you love about the Branca and nothing you don't! Gone is the hard edged menthol flavors, replaced by cinnamon and subtle bitter roots ALL sourced locally. The ingredients list is made of almost exclusively native plants with the exception of a couple of classics which are nonetheless grown in CA. Medium bodied with a good deep spicy nose. The palate is forgives, but does not forget! Lots of complex and familiar aromas of ... Read More »
This bitter liqueur from Calabrian herbs is one of the most popular amari in all of Italy, and now it's finally available again at K&L. 29 different herbs are infused into the spirit including orange peel, licorice, camomile, tangerine peel, and juniper to create a bitter, citric, and spicy elixir with supreme versatility.
Rothman & Winter's Crème De Violette Liqueur is one of the great mixing agents now available. All you need is a little gin and a lemon, and you've got a delicious and sophisticated cocktail. Elegant in its simplicity, this authentic alpine liqueur captures the fragrance, vibrant colors, and taste of the native wildflowers found in the Alps - the Queen Charlotte and March violets. Use it in classic cocktails such as the Blue Moon or Aviation, or enjoy as an ingredient in continental cuisine.
Fernet del Frate Angelico is truly a step back in time and a major step up in quality from anything available on the modern market. It is made in micro-batches by hand at the Matter Distillery in Switzerland following an original, hand-written recipe, purchased by the distillery's original owner in 1930 from a long-closed Italian distillery. This amazing liqueur can be sipped on its own, but shines in skilfully-made cocktails, especially the Employees Only 'Fernando' and the Toronto. It is a fantastic, multifaceted substitute for cocktail bitters. Tempti... Read More »
A blend of the white and aged Agricole Rhums, infused with macerated Créole spices and sun-bleached bitter orange peels. Créole Shrubb bursts with aromas and flavors reminiscent of Martinique. A staple of Caribbean culture, Créole Shrubb is the “secret ingredient” frequently used by celebrity chefs and creative mixologists around the world.
Sfumato Rabarbaro translates to "smoky rhubarb," which tells you all you need to know about this unique amaro. Instead of using a neutral base, the Cappelletti family of Trentino-Alto uses a special variety of rhubarb root that's combined with alpine herbs and berries.
This magnificent banana liqueur makes me rethink all my preconceptions about, well, banana liqueur. It's fabulously aromatic, the perfect ripe banana, peel and pulp. On the palate, it's restrained in its sweetness and has the subtle hint of tart potassium. A lovely effort using bananas of the highest quality sourced from Brazil.