By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy @ Foodandwine.com
Sometimes, we come across an obscure liqueur little-known outside a single village in France or Italy. But other times, we find ourselves drawn to an ingredient that already has a devoted following. Though little-known in the States, Licor 43 is the most popular liqueur in its native Spain — and also quite prominent in Mexico and other Latin American nations.
Named for the 43 ingredients that go into its production, Licor 43 (that’s cuarenta y tres, if you’re over in Spain) is made with fruits and a wide range of aromatic herbs and spices. It’s light and sweet, with vanilla far and away the strongest flavor, backed up by bright citrus and warm cinnamon. It’s easygoing and quite likable, making it a cinch to deploy in cocktails. Here are three of our favorites.
Easy: 43 Screwdriver
Licor 43’s citrus aspect is so prominent, we thought: This would be great in a Screwdriver. And orange and vanilla are an obvious pairing. This simple drink ends up tasting like a Creamsicle, except a good deal more sophisticated. It’s great for brunch.
Instructions: In a tall glass, combine an ounce of vodka, an ounce of Licor 43, and three ounces of orange juice. Give a quick stir, then add ice. Garnish with three orange half-moons and a cinnamon stick.
Intermediate: 43 & Coffee
In Mexico, a drink called a carajillo is made by spiking espresso with booze — and Licor 43 is a popular choice. We’re taking that combination two steps further by adding tequila and spice. The liqueur’s sweet vanilla aspect balances out spicy jalapeño, while the tequila stiffens it up and the coffee adds a rich bitterness. If your energy’s ever flagging at a cocktail party, this thing will wake you up, no question.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle (that is: smash up) two thin slices of jalapeño pepper, seeds included (a little less if you’re new to the spicy drink game). Add an ounce of Licor 43, an ounce of blanco tequila, two ounces of cold brew coffee, and half an ounce of simple syrup. Shake all that up hard with ice, and then double strain (through the cocktail’s own strainer and through a fine mesh strainer) into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a few jalapeño slices.
Advanced: 43 Flip
With its warm spice and strong vanilla flavor, Licor 43 is an obvious choice for a flip — a rich, substantial cocktail with a whole egg. Think of eggnog, but without the cream, and you’ll have an idea. A good measure of bourbon amplifies the caramel-vanilla notes, and helps make this cocktail dangerously drinkable.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine two ounces of bourbon, an ounce of Licor 43, a half-ounce of simple syrup, and one whole egg. Shake all that up without ice to aerate it — that’s called a “dry shake” — and then add ice and shake again for a “wet shake,” to chill it down. Strain into a rocks glass, without ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.