A cordial is an alcoholic beverage that has a large amount of sugar and occasionally some flavoring. The alcohol content of cordials is lower than other liquors. Typically, cordials are used to enhance mixed drinks, such as a White Russian which uses Kahlua, a Grasshopper which uses Bailey's Irish Cream and a Long Island Iced Tea which uses Triple Sec. Cordials can also be drunk by themselves without the burning sensation whiskeys give you.
Fruit cordials can be made by setting fruit in a liquor, such as vodka, for about one month. Sugar is also added to the mixture. One common fruit cordial is Cointreau. This liqueur is used in a number of cocktails, such as cosmopolitans, margaritas and daiquiris. Fruit cordials can also be made with fruit juice. If a fruit cordial is made with fruit juice, it is known as a ratafia.
Herbal cordials are liqueurs made by distilling herbs and spices. The typical herbal cordial is made of a variety of herbs or spices. One common liqueur is Chartreuse, which is made of 130 spices and herbs. Chartreuse is used to make a green tea mixed drink. Another herbal cordial is illegal in many countries, including the United States unless it is diluted -- absinthe, which is made from herbs such as anise and fennel.
Nut cordials are typically made from almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Hazelnut cordials are used in many chocolate flavored mixed drinks and the White Flag mixed drink. A walnut cordial can be used to make the Nutty Italian mixed drink. Ratafias are not only limited to fruit cordials, but can also be nut cordials. Amaretto is one type of ratafia made from almonds and is used in cocktails such as the Amaretto Sour and the Red Rattlesnake.
Cream cordials are made by homogenizing cream and alcohol together with a dominant flavor added to the mix. These cordials typically have a very strong sweet taste. A chocolate cream cordial can make it seem you are drinking a piece of chocolate, rather than eating it. A common cream cordial is Irish Cream. This is used to make Mudslides, Neopolitans, Chunky Monkeys and numerous other mixed drinks.