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Coridally yours: cordials and liqueurs grow as they capitalize on consumer taste trends.

For as long as beer, wine and spirits have been made, flavorings have been added. Ingredients were sometimes added to make a spirit more palatable. Others were added to improve one's health. Medieval alchemists spent as much time trying to create elixirs of life as they did trying to turn lead into gold. The real gold, it turns out, is in the cordials and liqueurs they developed.

Cordials and liqueurs comprise the second largest spirits category in the industry behind vodka. And that category is growing, thanks to consumer taste trends. Last year, the category was up 1.3%, according to Adams Handbook Advance 2002, to more than 17.6 million 9-liter cases. Because the category is so diverse, brand performances varied. Lots of activity and new product introductions, however, attest to the category's health.

The key to success these days is "mixability." Consumers continue to demand new flavor experiences, and cordials and liqueurs are just the ticket.

"The category has always been all about flavor and mystique," said Ed Gualtieri, executive vice president of marketing at Barton Brands, "but we see cordials growing as a flavor ingredient in Martinis, shooters and mixed drinks."

A number of factors are contributing to the trend. Younger, entry level consumers have grown up on a wide variety of flavored products, especially beverages, such as soda, flavored waters, teas and energy drinks. They're experiential and willing to experiment with flavors. At the same time, what's old is new again. Retro is chic, and classic cocktails are in.

"It's an exciting time for cordials in general because of the resurgence in classic cocktails with a twist," said Chris Gretchko, group product director at Jim Beam Brands. "People are experimenting with tastes in food and drinks, and the sections of the store where people can find new flavors is growing."

What makes the category successful, however, also makes it difficult to get your arms around it. With so many products and so much diversity, knowing what to stock and how to merchandise your selection can be difficult. A good way to find out what's hot in your area is to talk to bartenders or bar owners, or ask your distributors what they're selling to on-premise accounts.

"New drinkers and trendsetters in on-premise are driving people to off-premise," said Craig Johnson, director of marketing for Advantage Brands at Allied-Domecq.

"We're seeing people trying new drinks to have fun when the/re out, then going to the store and looking for things to mix themselves," Gretchko said. "Even places like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel are selling things like shakers."

Proprietary Brands

What makes cordials and liqueurs so difficult to categorize is that, like "Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans" in the Harry Potter stories, they come in almost every flavor imaginable. Even when one flavor dominates, there are often so many other ingredients that it's difficult to put a cordial in any specific slot.

In general, the category can be divided into proprietary brands, made from a secret formula often centuries old, and generic liqueurs. Proprietary brands include well-known names such as Grand Marnier, Drambuie, Kahlua, B&B and Cointreau. Generics include products such as amaretto, anisette, peppermint schnapps or triple sec that are made in a specific style by a number of producers.

The proprietary brands have seen mixed results, depending in large part on their flavor. Products with recognizable flavors that mix well are re growing faster than those that are an acquired taste or not as well known. Orange, for example, is a flavor that has taken off. Grand Marnier and Cointreau, both orange-based liqueurs, have had tremendous success in branded upscale cocktails like Cosmopolitan; and Margaritas. Indeed, Grand Marnier upped sales 4.5% in 2001 to 465,000 9-liter cases. Others are trying to find ways to' hitch onto the bandwagon.

"After-dinner drinks are dying off slowly," said Duncan Homer, Benedictine/B&B brand manager at Bacardi USA. "People are drinking cocktails before dinner, not after, because of DUT laws and other reasons. The consumers who have after-dinner drinks are a lot older, so brands like ours are looking for ways to appeal to younger drinkers, and mixability is a key."

Benedictine and B&B are promoting new drink recipes and mixability both at on-premise, with shakers, coasters, retro lamps and retro French B&B artwork, and off-premise, with case bin displays, case cards, recipe neckers and gift packs featuring rocks glasses or a coffee press.

B&B is getting a special push this year in African-American markets since brandy and cognac are so popular in those communities. The brand is sponsoring urban poetry slams -- "sophisticated rap" -- for affluent consumers.

Drambuie, another brand at Bacardi USA, is differentiating itself through special events targeted to younger consumers with a sense of adventure. Its fourth annual world ice golf championship took place in Uummannaq, Greenland, this spring. The brand also sponsors powerboat racing.

Irish Mist, imported by Allied-Domecq, has been reinventing itself with a new package design last year and new point-of-sale materials this year to demonstrate new uses.

Earlier this year, Southern Cormfort finished up a flurry of activity in New Orleans, where the brand was born, for both The Super Bowl and Mardi Gras. The brand has been taking its mixability story to younger consumers through sponsorship of a New Orleans band's tour, a partnership with Island Oasis and joint promotion with TGI Friday's for the "Southern Hurricane," and a cranberry juice co-pack at retail. Southern Comfort is even offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can provide a verified photo of the brand's creator, N.W. Harron. With its newly introduced package from last year and New Orleans-centric positioning accenting its heritage, Southern Comfort grew sales 1.4% in 2001 to about 1.27 million 9-liter cases. This summer, the brand is also revisiting its Southern Oasis tropical-themed promotion, featuring Southern Comfort-logoed beach umbrellas, blenders and beach towels, as well as case cards, posters, streamers and palm tree pole units.

Cordial Lines

Because consumers are interested in a variety of flavors, producers of cordial lines are finding new opportunities to take advantage of the trend. The DeKuyper line of cordials remained the category's largest brand, with overall sales of more than 2.56 million cases. Its Pucker segment of sweet and sour flavors continues to set trends, both on- and off-premise, with its Sour Apple Pucker "Appletini" now considered one of the hottest cocktails. Indeed, the brand recently released its newest flavor,

DeKuyper Tropical Pineapple. The brand uses a rotating label on its products with different drink recipes to give consumers ideas on how to use the products. A website launched in the spring has more of the same, along with news and trends. New case cards this year feature vivid 3-D graphics to catch the consumer's eye.

Hiram Walker has repositioned its Sour Balls line, giving it a more upscale look for use in cocktails such as flavored Martinis. Earlier this spring the brand kicked off sampling efforts, on-pack consumer offers and new p-o-s to support the line. A new website, launched in February, also shows consumers how to make many of the latest cocktails.

The line has been promoting a CD-ROM featuring 200 Martini recipes assembled with the help of the staff of Windows On The World. Sales of the CD benefit the Windows of Hope Foundation, which helps victims of the World Trade Center disaster.

The Mr. Boston line, produced by Barton Brands, has been successful leveraging its own Mr. Boston bar guide. "We wrote the book on cocktails," Gualtieri said. The brand gives consumers an opportunity to purchase the book at a discount off-premise.

Other lines, such as Bols, Jacquin and Arrow also are capitalizing on flavored cocktails.


Baileys Original Irish Cream is still the king of creams, with the lion' share of the sgment. Indeed, Baileys is one of the top-selling cordials in the U.S.: last year, sales broke through the 1 million case mark, representing a 6% increase over the previous year. The brand has pursued an extended use strategy for several years, promoting cocktails made with Baileys throughout the year. And Baileys has not been standing still this year. The brand has been running an extensive television campaign on select cable networks that is helping raise awareness.

While Baileys most often gets the call in on-premise accounts, however, others do quite well at retail. Number-two Carolans has a heavy emphasis on sampling to show consumers it tastes as good as any cream liqueur on the market. The brand estimates it sponsored more than 1,000 sampling events last year alone, including venues like the "Pepsi 400" at Daytona. Since brand sales have been less seasonal than Baileys, Carolans will be putting greater emphasis on the holidays this year.

O'Mara's Irish Cream also has been successful with sampling, often using special non-alcoholic candies where beverage alcohol sampling is not legal to give the brand greater exposure. Because O'Mara's is wine-based, it has been able to secure distribution in non-traditional outlets such as grocery stores, c-stores and club stores.

Other Irish creams such as Emmett's, St. Brendan's and more, offer consumers value.

The Irish aren't the only ones with a lock on cream liqueurs, however. Heather Cream is a Scotch-based cream liqueur imported by Barton Brands. Tequila Rose is a tequila-based, strawberry-flavored cordial. There is even a rum-based cream, Cruzan Rum Cream, from the Virgin Islands. And introduced earlier this year from Brown-Forman is Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the marula tree in Africa. The brand claims it is the second best-selling cream liqueur in the world, even before its U.S. introduction.

The newest entry into this segment is Paul Masson Cream Liqueur, from the Canandaigua Wine Co., in two flavors: Chocolate Hazelnut and Mocha Caramel. The new cream uses Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy as its base spirit, and is available in 750 mls for $12.99 to $13.99 per bottle. The 34 proof spirit is also available in 375 ml bottles and 50 mls, which are being promoted at 99 cents to spur consumer trial. With the tremendous success of Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy over the past half dozen years, tapping into the growing cream liqueur market with a brand extension appears to be a sensible next step. Still, the company conducted intensive and expensive research to come up with these products and the packaging that helps sell them, according to Peggy Fox, Canadaigua Wine brand director, responsible for the company's brandies, fortified products, traditional desserts and cream liqueurs.

"Paul Masson Cream Liqueurs are launching nationally in July," Fox said, "and so far there is lots of excitement across the country among the trade who have tried the products." She noted that the company is supporting the launch with a broad advertising campaign to both the trade and consumers, "in magazine such as Martha Stewart Living, People, Gourmet," and lots of others. The ad campaign uses the tag line, "Delicious, Different, Divine," to describe the new products, with the objective to build awareness and consumer trial. Fox added that in early trials, "the choice of flavors is especially important to consumers," and will function as a point of distinction for the product.

Seeds, Nuts and Beans

Of all the liqueurs made from seeds, nuts and beans, Allied Domecq's Kahlua is probably the largest. This coffee liqueur has been promoting its mixability for years, helping make it one of the biggest brands in the world. Sales were off slightly last year but Kahlua is still the second-best-selling cordial in the U.S. with sales of 1.38 million 9-liter cases. Earlier this spring, the brand ran a "Half Pipe Jam" promotion that offered consumers a chance to win a trip to the 2003 Free Skiing Open competition. Now, stepping up its brand presence in stores nationally, Kahlua is debuting this month Kahlua Especial, a 70 proof (slightly higher proof than the regular Kahlua), superpremium line extension, available in 750 ml and 1 liter bottles. Made from high-grade 100% Arabica coffee beans that are roasted in small batches, the liqueur is said to have a light, creamy taste blending cafe mocha and dark chocolate.

Kahlua is supporting the Especial launch with a variety of p-o-s materials, including a bottle necker with drink recipes, a case stacker and a shelf talker.

Other well-known coffee liqueurs include Kamora, from Jim Beam Brands, and Tia Maria, a lighter, Jamaican liqueur imported by Allied-Domecq.

Chocolate is another favorite cordial flavor made from the bean of the cacao tree. Besides creme de cocoa, which is used in a wide variety of cocktails, popular chocolate liqueurs include Godiva and Vandermint.

Nuts and seeds are the base of a number of liqueurs from Italy. Perhaps the most famous, often called the liqueur of love, is amaretto. Made with almonds and apricots, this popular liqueur now is made by dozens of producers. One of the best known brands, DiSaronno, is investing in programs to make its name synonymous with amaretto.

The brand has made gradual changes to the label on its trademark rectangular bottle, downplaying the word "amaretto" on the front and making the brand name more prominent. A few months ago, "amaretto" disappeared from the front label entirely.

To encourage consumers to ask for the brand by name, the brand is using voice-chip technology in its point-of-sale materials. Tabletents, keychains and waitstaff buttons talk to consumers on-premise, saying "DiSaronno, try it on the rocks to light a fire." Off-premise shelf talkers and case cards reinforce the message. This summer, the brand is promoting a 750 ml gift pack that includes a glass cocktail shaker and recipe booklet.

Yet another pervasive flavor among cordials is licorice. Italy's sambuca is produced with fruit from white-flowered elderberry bushes. It typically turns milky when diluted with water. Opal Nera is a black sambuca that retains its color even when mixed.

Cordials made with anise seed also have a licorice flavor. Anisette and pastis from France, and ouzo from Greece are all versions of this type of liqueur.


Schnapps, flavored neutral grain spirits that originated in Germany and Scandinavian countries, has become a favorite for mini-cocktails called shooters. Since schnapps can come in so many flavors, it's ideal for mixing and creating new flavor combinations.

Many brands of schnapps stand on their own, too. Peppermint and cinnamon flavored brands like Rumpleminze, Goldschlager, Dr. McGillicuddy's and Aftershock are intended to be consumed in shots. Fruit-flavored cordials, like Barton's 99 Bananas, 99 Blackberries and 99 Apples also are downed as shots, alone or mixed.

Some liqueurs are so distinctive they, too, are consumed as shots rather than mixed. Jagermeister, made with 56 fruits, spices and herbs, has acquired almost a cult following among young consumers. The brand capitalizes on its reputation by sponsoring more than 100 hot alternative rock bands in local markets across the country. Imported from Germany by Sidney Frank Importing, the brand's growth has been impressive, especially last year when sales shot up about 32% to 700,000 9-liter cases. [A lesser-known Sidney Frank import from Germany is Barenjager Honey Liqueur, which positions itself not only as a sweet spirit but also as an ingredient used in cooking and baking.]

Tuaca is another liqueur primarily consumed in shots and mixed drinks. The brand is leveraging its popularity among young drinkers with spot radio ads in select markets, as well as by sponsoring radio stations' event calendars. Sampling teams also are helping spread the word.

Tutti-Fruity and Bitter Medicine

As mentioned, fruit flavors are exploding, from sour watermelon in a "Sexytini" to blackberry liqueur in a "Jelly Bean." Some of the oldest proprietary brands, such as Grand Marnier, Mandarin Napoleon and Cointreau, are fruit-based. Other premium brands include Chambord (black raspberries), Framboise (raspberries), Sabra (Jaffa oranges and chocolate), Limoncello (lemons) and Cherry Heering (cherry brandy).

Perhaps the last category of cordials is those made primarily from herbs, leaves and flowers, sometimes referred to as bitters. Often consumed as an aperitif, as opposed to a cocktail or after-dinner drink, bitters are almost always diluted or mixed. Examples include Chartreuse, first made by Carthusian monks in France with more than 130 herbs; Strega, made with some 70 herbs; Campari, an aromatic, fortified red wine; and Pernod, a brandy-based liqueur flavored with fennels seeds, star anise and herbs.

Midori, a melon-flavored liqueur imported from Japan, is capitalizing on the cocktail craze, outpacing category growth. The brand has concentrated on grassroots efforts at spring-break destinations and other events where there are sampling opportunities. At off-premise, neck hangers and co-promotions with brands like Sauza tequila and Stolichnaya vodka have shown consumers ways to use the product.
Leading Brands of Cordials & Liqueurs

(Thousands of 9-Liter Cases)

Brand Supplier 2000 2001 (p)

DeKuyper Jim Beam Brands 2,563 2,565
Kahlua Allied Domecq Spirits USA 1,450 1,380
Southern Comfort Brown-Forman Beverages 1,252 1,269
Hiram Walker Cordials Allied Domecq Spirits USA 1,060 1,035
Baileys Diageo 974 1,032
Jagermeister Sidney Frank Importing 530 700
Alize Kobrand 600 600
E & J Cask & Cream E & J Gallo Winery 520 530
Jacquin Cordials Charles Jacquin et Cie 485 490
Grand Marnier Schieffelin & Somerset 445 465
Total Leading Brands 9,879 10,066
Others 7,555 7,600
Total Cordials & Liqueurs 17,434 17,666

Brand % Chg

DeKuyper 0.1%
Kahlua -4.8%
Southern Comfort 1.4%
Hiram Walker Cordials -2.4%
Baileys 6.0%
Jagermeister 32.1%
Alize 0.0%
E & J Cask & Cream 1.9%
Jacquin Cordials 1.0%
Grand Marnier 4.5%
Total Leading Brands 1.9%
Others 0.6%
Total Cordials & Liqueurs 1.3%

(p)2001 Preliminary.

Source: Adams Handbook Advance 2002

With flavor all the rage today, cordials and liqueurs can be the elixir of life your business needs.

RELATED ARTICLE: Making a Cordial

Cordials and liqueurs can be made from practically anything. The flavoring in a cordial can come from a variety of ingredients, usually from one of a half dozen categories; including fruits, herbs and leaves, flowers, nuts, seeds and beans, roots and barks. By definition, they must contain at least 2.5% sugar, but most contain far more, which can come from honey, sugar, maple, corn syrup and other sweeteners.

The base alcohol for cordials also varies. Most are made with neutral grain spirits. Many are made with a specific spirit, such as Scotch in Drambuie, cognac in Grand Marnier or Irish whiskey in Baileys. Others are distilled from their primary ingredient. With so many variants, it's no wonder there are so many types of cordials.

The names "cordial" and "liqueur are interchangeable for the incredible variety of products to which they refer. Cordial comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart. Most cordials were originally made by alchemists or monks as a health remedy or elixir to soothe weary travelers. Liqueur comes from the Latin liquefacere, meaning to melt or dissolve, which is how most cordials and liqueurs are made.

Two primary methods are used to produce cordials, cold and hot. Cold methods include infusion, maceration and percolation. Infusion and maceration are often used for fruits that might be damaged by heat. During infusion, crushed fruits are soaked in water for as long as a year. The liquid is strained, sweetened and added to alcohol. In maceration, the crushed fruit is soaked directly in alcohol. After the liquid is strained off, the remaining fruit is distilled, and the distillate is recombined with the infused liquid. Liqueurs commonly made this way include triple sec, cassis, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and so forth.

Percolation is often used for flavorings such as herbs and leaves. The flavor ingredient is placed in a basket or strainer, and the alcohol is pumped up over the ingredient. The process, similar to brewing coffee without heat, may go on for months until all the flavor is extracted from the ingredients, and the ingredients may be distilled afterwards to squeeze out any remaining flavor. Liqueurs using this method include Drambuie, Irish Mist and Chartreuse.

A Flavor For Every Taste

Hot methods include distillation in water and distillation in alcohol. In the latter process, ingredients such as seeds, nuts, bark or orange peel are soaked in alcohol for several hours, then distilled with additional spirits. Distillation with water is used for delicate herbs and flowers. Once distilled, the flavored water is added to an alcohol base.

Following is a brief description of some common and proprietary liqueurs, along with country of origin. (Capitalized names refer to brand names; lower case names refer to generic cordials.)

absinthe. Precursor to Pernod, this green licorice-tasting liqueur is banned in many countries because one of its ingredients, wormwood, is a neurotoxin. France.

Alize. Passion fruit and cognac. France.

amaretto. Almond and apricot. Italy.

Amarula. Cream-based liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree. Africa.

anisette. Anise seed (licorice flavor). France.

Baileys. Cream liqueur made with Irish whiskey, flavored with chocolate and vanilla. Ireland.

Benedictine/B&B. Cognac-based liqueur made with more than 70 ingredients, including herbs, citrus peel and honey. First made in 1510. France.

Campari. More accurately, a bitter, fortified red wine. France.

Chambord. Black raspberry. France.

Chartreuse. Brandy-based herb liqueur containing more than 130 ingredients. The recipe dates from 1605. France.

Cointreau. Brandy-based orange liqueur. France.

creme de cassis. Black currants. France.

curacao. Bitter curacao oranges, spices. Dutch West Indies.

Drambuie. Scotch-based liqueur made with honey, heather, clover, herbs and spices. Scotland.

Framboise. Raspberries. France.

Frangelico. Hazelnuts, vanilla and cocoa. Italy.

Galliano. Brandy-based anise-flavored liqueur. Italy

Grand Marnier. Cognac and curacao oranges. France.

Irish Mist Irish whiskey, heather honey, herbs and spice. Ireland.

Jagermeister. 56 fruits, herbs and spices. Germany.

Kahlua. Coffee-flavored liqueur with hints of chocolate and vanilla. Mexico.

limoncello. Lemons. Italy

Midori. Melon-flavored. Japan.

ouzo. Licorice flavor. Greece.

pastis. Very similar to ouzo. France.

Pernod. Brandy-based, flavored with anise seed and fennel. France.

Pimm's Cup. Fruit-flavored bitters with different spirit bases (N. 1, gin; No. 2, whiskey; No. 3, rum; No. 4, brandy; etc.). England.

Sabra. Jaffa oranges and a hint of chocolate. Israel.

sambuca. Made with the fruit of white-flowered elderberry bushes. Licorice flavor. Italy.

schnapps. Neutral grain- or potato-based spirit, flavored with anything from peppermint to root beer. Originated in Scandinavia and Germany.

Southern Comfort.

Peaches, oranges and herbs in a bourbon base. United States.

Tia Maria. Rum-based coffee liqueur with spices. Jamaica.

triple sec. White liqueur distilled from curacao orange peel, France.
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Comment:Coridally yours: cordials and liqueurs grow as they capitalize on consumer taste trends.
Author:Sherer, Michael
Publication:Beverage Dynamics
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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