What Is the Difference Between a Cordial and a Liqueur?

By Kat Black

While some people use the term "cordial" to refer to a fruit-flavored liqueur, the words "cordial" and "liqueur" essentially mean the same thing. Both terms refer to alcoholic beverages that contain at least 2.5 percent sugar and/or dextrose by weight.

Limoncello and lemons
credit: Muenz/iStock/Getty Images
Lemon liqueur being pouted into glasses

Liqueur and Cordial Flavors

Liqueurs and cordials are not only sweet, they carry pronounced flavors. An alcohol -- such as brandy or gin -- is mixed with natural flavors, often from fruits or plants. Examples include creme de menthe, raspberry cordial and sambuca.

Serving Ideas

Liqueurs and cordials work well before a meal as aperitifs, or after a meal as digestifs. For your aperitif, choose a more subtly flavored liqueur that won't overwhelm the palate before the meal. Try mixing creme de cassis with champagne or serve a cocktail with triple sec, an orange-flavored liqueur. For your digestif, opt for a liqueur with a strong, pronounced flavor that complements your dessert. The almond flavor of amaretto liqueur pairs well with a chocolate almond torte, and the coffee flavor of Kahlua brings out the espresso flavor in a tiramisu.