What is Galliano Liqueur?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 18, 2023

Here's our guide to drinking, buying, and substituting Galliano L'Autentico.
Galliano L'Autentico liqueur explained

Galliano L'Autentico, better known as Galliano liqueur, is an Italian liqueur of yellow-golden color and a dominant taste of vanilla. This dominant note is complemented by anise and a mixture of herbs, making the final product quite complex in flavor.

The recipe is from the late 1800s and includes 30 different ingredients. The result is a strong alcoholic liqueur with an alcohol content of 42.3% (84.6 proof).

It's best known for its use in cocktails from the 60s and 70s, like the Harvey Wallbanger, Cadillac cocktail, and Yellow Bird. But in Italy, it's also served as a digestif after a scrumptious meal.

Ingredients in Galliano

The liqueur's recipe consists of 30 different ingredients, according to the original recipe from 1896 invented by Arturo Vaccari. In 1989 the recipe temporarily changed to a new one after the brand was acquired by Remy Cointreau. In 2006, they changed it back to the original recipe and added the addendum L'Autentico

Ingredients Galliano liqueur is made from

The exact recipe is a secret, and as such, not all of its presumed 30 ingredients are known. However, some of them are, so here's a brief list of ingredients that you'll find in Galliano L'Autentico liqueur:

  • Bulgarian Coriander
  • Clove
  • Yarrow
  • Cardamom seeds
  • White Deadnettle
  • Ginger
  • Sandalwood
  • Cinnamon
  • Mugwort
  • Peppermint
  • Italian Lavender
  • Sage
  • Italian Orris 
  • Balsamite Odorosa
  • Garden Balsam

What does Galliano liqueur taste like?

The taste of Galliano is sweet with intense vanilla flavors and bold herbal complexity. Besides vanilla, you can taste anise, peppermint, herbs, citrus, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. The characteristic vanilla note is especially prominent in the aftertaste.

Substitutions

There are multiple alternatives you can employ to substitute Galliano liqueur, but they will all be quite different in taste. The most common substitutes for Galliano are:

  • Licor 43: This one has an even more pronounced vanilla note and hints of anise. The herbal flavors are less present than in Galliano.
  • Strega: As shown above, Strega also has herbal flavors and an anise note. However, the key flavors are mint and juniper.
  • Yellow Chartreuse: Yellow Chartreuse offers herbal complexity, including a distinct anise note. However, it lacks vanilla to replace Galliano completely.

Galliano vs. Strega

Both are popular Italian herbal liqueurs of yellow-golden color. Galliano L'Autentico is sweeter than Strega and higher in alcohol (42.3% to 40% ABV). They also vary in taste. Galliano has more pronounced vanilla and anise flavors, whereas Strega is more mint and juniper-forward. 

Galliano L'Autentico Strega
Type Herbal liqueur Herbal liqueur
Origin Livorno, Italy Benevento, Italy
ABV 42.3% 40%
Proof 84.6 80
Taste Vanilla, anise, herbs Mint, juniper, anise
Price per 750ml bottle $30 $30
Best served Cocktails Digestif

How to drink Galliano

Galliano liqueur is traditionally drunk as a digestif, but it shines when you use it in cocktails. Alternatively, you can drink it on the rocks or pair it with a mixer.

  • Digestif: Serve it chilled or straight after dinner. If you want to mute the intense flavors, serve it over ice.
  • Mixer: Pair it with chilled soda or Seltzer to create a sweet and refreshing drink. Alternative mixers for Galliano include root beer, ginger beer, cream soda, and ginger ale.
  • Cocktails: Galliano works well in a large number of cocktails as it blends well with different base spirits, such as tequila, vodka, rum, and whiskey.

Galliano liqueur cocktails

Galliano is a fantastic addition to cocktails and appears in an impressive number of classic cocktails recipes. And two of them even are listed by the International Bartenders Association IBA. It's often used due to its iconic golden color but also because of its intriguing flavor profile. It works great in fruity tiki cocktails and creamy cocktails.

History of Galliano liqueur

Arturo Vaccari, a distiller from Livorno in Tuscany, was the mastermind behind the sweet herbal liqueur. The first time he produced Galliano was in 1896. Due to Vaccari, Galliano is part of the great classic liqueurs from Italy in line with CampariCynarAperolAmarettoMaraschino, and others. 

Named after an Italian legend of this time, Maggiore Galliano, Vaccari's liqueur is most known for its distinct taste and bottle shape. The tall and fluted bottle is reminiscent of the iconic ancient Roman columns, and the taste comes from 30 different ingredients. 

Well, there are discussions about the exact number of ingredients. Some say there are only 25. However, the recipe is unknown and strictly guarded, so it's almost to tell who is right. 

I decided to follow the general opinion that Vaccari used 30 different herbal ingredients in his masterpiece.

In the 1970s, Galliano was a tremendous hit. Therefore, it is no surprise that most classic cocktail recipes asking for Galliano got created in the 70s. 

During that time, Galliano just did an excellent job in marketing. Cocktails like the Yellow Bird or Barracuda would never have received that much recognition if for Galliano.

Nowadays, its popularity faded. It became more difficult to find in stores, and it's rarely part of new cocktail creations.

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