Duty Free Liquor

The Tax Free Travel Guide to Liqueurs

Duty Free LiqueursThe drinks menu of a cocktail bar would be a pretty boring thing were it not for liqueurs. What would a Sidecar or a Margarita be without a good slug of triple sec, for instance? By the same token, a Rusty Nail would have no point without Drambuie; a B52 wouldn’t fly with Baileys, and who would want to attend an English summer party if refreshing glasses of Pimm’s and Lemonade weren’t on offer?Yes, folks, liqueurs do matter in the drinks world. They add colour, variety and above all sweetness, to a huge range of tall drinks and cocktails. Many have hundreds of years of heritage behind them and are made according to secret recipes such as Spain’s Licor 43 and Portugal’s Licor Beirao, which add to their allure. And let’s not forget those high-strength “stickies” like Benedictine and Disaronno, which make for great after-dinner digestives. They just beg to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks in a big balloon glass in front of a roaring log fire.Now it has to be said that the range of liqueurs available in many airport duty-free shops tends to be pretty limited. There’s a good reason for that. Liqueurs, especially all those exotic fruit flavoured varieties produced by brands such as Bols and de Kuyper, are more at home in the hands of bartenders than the typical drinker at home. The average traveller’s cocktail-making prowess probably begins and ends with a G&T so duty-free retailers prefer to concentrate on other more popular spirits.

Having said that, regional European airports do get behind those local tipples, which are synonymous with a particularly country or region as they make great gift purchases. Thus, Greek airports are the place to find an excellent range of local aniseed-flavoured ouzos, while central and Eastern airports major on herbal bitters such as Hungary’s Zwack Unicum, Germany’s Underberg and Italy’s Fernet Branca. And after a nearly century-long ban absinthe, that infamously potent French spirit so beloved by the artists such as Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec, is back on the shelf at many European airports.Further North in Scandinavia the liqueurs scene gets distinctly fruity. Denmark’s cherry-flavoured Heering liqueur, for instance, is an indispensable ingredient in the classic Singapore Sling cocktail. Sweden has its delicious Xanté pear-infused cognac. And let’s not forget the popular Finnish liqueur Lakkalikööri, which is made from Nordic cloudberries, renowned for their strong, sweet flavour.Some of the bigger better-known international liqueur brands have been taking more notice of travel retail in recent years. Indeed, Cointreau has released a number of exclusive bottles in recent years, which have been created by fashion designers and artists. Meanwhile Scotch whisky liqueur Drambuie has even released a couple of exclusive expressions for duty-free, including the £125 Royal Legacy of 1745, which is made with fine cask-infused malt whisky and presented in a handsome embossed decanter. It is a lot less sweet than standard Drambuie and far more complex in terms of its taste profile.

If you fancy something a bit lighter and more suited to summery days, why not grab a bottle of Aperol? This increasingly popular Italian aperitif comes in a great retro-style bottle and is bright orange in colour, being made with an infusion of orange essence, rhubarb, chincona (the tree from which quinine comes) and several other herbs and flavourings. Aperol’s just 11% abv in strength and is very refreshing mixed with sparkling wine, a splash of soda water and a slice of orange as a garnish.And if we are opening the sparkling wine, we have to mention Chambord, a great-looking, deep purple-coloured French liqueur. It is made from raspberries and blackberries in the Loire Valley, and something very like it was once served up to French royalty, hence the cute gold orb-shaped bottle. Add a dash to a glass of sparkling wine or Champagne to make a Kir Royale, especially recommended when the wine you are drinking needs a dose of sweetness to make it palatable. Chambord also makes a welcome addition to a vodka martini.We could go on and on recommending liqueurs, but part of the fun of them is to find your own favourite. Start tasting, mixing and experimenting, not just with cocktails but also in the kitchen. Tia Maria is a great addition to a coffee cake, for instance, while Italian limoncello from the freezer is superb poured over ice cream.

So next time you are tempted to walk by the duty-free liqueurs aisle, think again!