The name of this liqueur, Licor 43, sounds bizarre. But Cuarenta y tres, as the Spanish call their vanilla-flavored liqueur, most likely refers to the 43 botanicals used to flavor the beverage.
It's often paired with coffee, but there are plenty more ways to combine this beautiful cocktail ingredient.
What is Licor 43?
Licor 43 is a yellow-colored liqueur from Cartagena, Spain, flavored with 43 ingredients. It has a vanilla-forward yet complex flavor profile that is sweet but also strong.
The liqueur contains 31% alcohol by volume (62 proof) and is especially popular in Europe. In Spain, it's a top seller, but it's also very famous in Germany and the Netherlands.
In Mexico, people use it primarily to make spiked coffee called Carajillo. And lately, the liqueur appears in more and more delicious cocktails recipes. That also makes it easier to get outside of Europe.
The taste of Licor 43 is sweet and aromatic with a strong vanilla aroma. It also smells slightly creamy, comparable to creme Anglaise, and carries notes of cocoa and a hint of pepper.
Overall, the flavors are well-balanced, and you can detect a variety of spices. The dominant vanilla flavor gets counteracted by cocoa, cinnamon, orange, and mint.
The aftertaste is again full of vanilla notes mixed with toffee and more cocoa.
If you're looking to substitute Licor 43, the best alternatives are Galliano and Tuaca. Galliano actually even offers two great options. One is Galliano L'Autentico and the other is Galliano's vanilla liqueur.
Tuaca, on the other hand, is an Italian vanilla liqueur produced with a base of Italian brandy. However, please note that Tuaca is notable sweeter and more vanilla-forward with less complexity in taste.
History of Licor 43
As far as the legend goes, the base recipe of Licor 43 must be very, very old. The ancient formula allegedly dates back to around 200 B.C. when it was better known as Liqvor Mirabilis - miracle liqueur.
The recipe then had been passed down from generation to generation without being made public until, in 1946, Diego Zamora brought it back to life.
Zamora bought a distillery in Cartagena along with the recipe and started producing the liqueur we now know as Licor 43. It was an instant success in Spain, and due to clever marketing, the brand and product also became quite successful outside the country.
How Licor 43 is made
Even though Zamora bought the recipe -so others must know- he managed to keep it a secret. All we know is some key components and that the total number of ingredients presumably is 43.
Vanilla is a key ingredient. The other 42 botanicals most likely include citrus fruits, other fruits, herbs, spices, and roots.
These botanicals are macerated in a combination of alcohol and water, some separately, some in groups. These different macerated spirits then get blended to achieve the unique flavor profile of Licor 43.
After marrying the different flavors, the result rests in steel tanks for 6 to 9 months. After that, the liqueur is filtered before the final bottling process.
Other types of Licor 43
Lately, the brand has released two new versions of its liqueur. The two additions to their line-up are Licor 43 Orochata and Licor 43 Baristo.
Licor 43 Orochata is produced with tiger nuts to create a drink similar to milk. Basically, the Orochata expression is a blend of a traditional Horchata recipe with Licor 43.
The resulting mix is a liqueur of 32% ABV with a silky texture and taste of milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Licor 43 Baristo is a coffee liqueur of 32% ABV flavored with Licor 43. The combination is an obvious choice as the original works excellent with coffee.
The taste is comparable to other coffee liqueurs but with a more complex flavor profile.
The best ways to drink Licor 43
You can enjoy Licor 43 in many different ways. Neat or on the rocks might be a bit too sweet for most, but classic combinations with coffee or milk let the vanilla-flavored liqueur shine.
This Mexican spiked coffee drink is made with freshly brewed Espresso and Licor 43.
You may know this drink from Cuba, where it comes with Brandy instead. However, the combination of coffee and Licor 43, though, gets you a more complex and rounded coffee.
It's a flavor bomb, carrying the aroma of vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and citrus.
Blanco 43 is sometimes also called vanilla milk, which describes the blend perfectly. This drink is actively promoted by Licor 43 for a reason.
It's super easy to make, is based on only two ingredients, and tastes amazing. It's a perfect choice if you prefer sweet and creamy drinks.
Mini Beer shot
The Mini Beer shot uses a similar approach as Blanco 43 but in shot format.
The combination of Licor 43 with a top layer of cream looks comparable to a miniature version of a beer, but tastewise it's as different as it can be.
Sweet, creamy, nuanced, and full of vanilla flavor. Not a taste description you would expect from something called Mini Beer, is it?
Some liqueurs are used seasonally and are therefore dust-collecting most times of the year. Luckily, Licor 43 isn't one of them. It works in various drinks, in summer as well as in typical winter beverages.
The complex flavors of vanilla, citrus, cocoa, and more make it a great base in two-ingredient cocktails like a Carajillo or the Blanco 43. But it also works perfectly in more advanced creations.
Licor 43 is definitely a great addition to your liquor cabinet. And if you cannot get enough, add a shot to your daily cup of coffee.