Generally, a liqueur is made with three elements: an alcoholic base, sugar, and flavoring. And compared to other types of liqueur, crème liqueurs contain a lot more sugar.
Because of this higher amount of sugar, the consistency of a Crème is thicker and more syrupy. For better reference: a normal liqueur contains about 100g of sugar per liter. Crème liqueurs have 2.5 times as much, sometimes even more.
Ultimately, this means you require less Crème liqueur than other liqueurs to achieve the same level of sweetness when preparing cocktails.
Below you can find a list of the most popular Crème liqueurs. Each with a short description and guidance on how to best use it.
The difference between Crème and Cream liqueurs
First, let's clear up one common misunderstanding: Although Crème and Cream sound similar, they refer to something completely different when talking about liqueurs.
The difference between Cream and Crème liqueurs is that a Crème does not contain cream. A Crème has more sugar than other liqueurs and owes its name to the thicker consistency, whereas cream liqueurs like Baileys do contain cream.
So, now to the best crème liqueurs for mixed drinks.
Crème de Banane
Crème de Banane is a liqueur with a rich and intense banana fragrance and flavor and is perfect for rich or tropical cocktails.
Some classic recipes relying on the banana-flavored liqueur are the Dirty Banana cocktail and the Rum Runner. The ABV typically ranges from 15% to 25%.
Crème de Cacao
Crème de Cacao is available in two expressions - dark and white. The liqueur is made from cocoa beans and often flavored with vanilla (beans) for additional flavor.
Especially the dark version is a great ingredient in cocktails because it has a more intense flavor. And you can easily make a fantastic dark Crème de Cacao at home.
The alcohol content is typically around 20% - 25%. However, there are some brands that are a bit stronger than that. Of course, when making your own Crème de Cacao, you can adjust the alcohol content to your preferences.
Crème de Cassis
Crème de Cassis is liqueur made from blackcurrant. It's dark purple in color and contains between 15% to 25% of alcohol by volume.
The quality and flavor of the liqueur heavily depends on the fruits. That's also why Crème de Cassis has various Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) like "Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne" or "Crème de Cassis de Dijon".
Crème de Cassis de Dijon, for instance, must be made from blackcurrant harvested in the commune of Dijon. It needs to contain at least 200g of fruits per liter.
At least 25% of these fruits must be of a specific blackcurrant variety called Noir de Bourgogne. Further, the Crème is very sweet, with a minimum of 400g of sugar per liter.
Crème de Cerise
This Crème liqueur is flavored with dark red and sour cherries. To balance the tartness of the fruits, Crème de Cerise contains a bit more sugar than regular Crème (around 250g/l).
The amount of alcohol is comparably low as the liqueur only clocks in at 18% ABV.
Crème de Menthe
A mint-flavored Crème liqueur that is available as colorless or deep green. Both variations clock in at around 25% ABV and are very similar in taste. In cocktails, you can use them interchangeably as long as the color isn't a concern.
The mint used to flavor Crème de Menthe mostly is Corsican mint. As the name suggests, this type of mint is native to Corsica and is known for its bright green leaves and strong mint aroma.
Crème de Noyaux
Noyaux is the French term for stones or cores. The name hints at the fact that this Crème liqueur is flavored with apricot kernels, peach kernels, or cherry pits. The result is a delicate liqueur with a subtle almond flavor.
The taste and flavoring ingredients are similar to another celebrated liqueur, Amaretto. If you want, Crème de Noyaux is the French cousin of Amaretto. Still, both liqueurs have their distinctive characteristics.
The ABV of Crème de Noyaux varies significantly, from 20% in the US to 40% in France.
Crème de Violette
Crème de Violette is a floral liqueur made from the petals of the violet plant. Macerated in Brandy, the liqueur gains a beautiful dark purple color.
When mixed in cocktails, the color can change to a subtle and light blue like in the Aviation cocktail or the Blue Moon.
As Crème de Violette was unavailable in the US for quite some time, an American Crème liqueur called Crème Yvette took its place for a while as an alternative in cocktail recipes.
Crème Yvette is similar to Crème de Violette in terms of taste and flavoring ingredients. But besides (parma) violet flowers, this Crème also incorporates flavorings like blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, honey, and orange peel.
From 1969 on, the liqueur was pretty hard to get as Charles Jacquin et Cie decided to halt production. The main problem was that although Crème Yvette was part of quite some classic cocktail recipes, it was a bit of an obscure ingredient.
As demand declined, the company decided to cease production. But thanks to the rising number of craft cocktail lovers, Rob Cooper (the Vice President of Charles Jacquin et Cie) brought Crème Yvette back to the market.
Parfait Amour is the only entry on this list that doesn't include Crème in its name. But still, the popular floral liqueur belongs to the family of Crème liqueurs.
It's a purple-colored liqueur with a strong floral taste. Depending on the producer, the composition of floral ingredients can vary, and the ABV ranges between 24% to 30%.