SaloonBox Behind The Scenes: Licor 43
Our November cocktail kit features Licor 43. Licor 43 is a delicious spirit with a rich history. We spoke with Brand Ambassador Justin Cardwell to get learn about his history with the spirit and get his take on the brand.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to be an ambassador for Licor 43?
I’ve spent most of my life in restaurants or bars in some capacity. Up until I joined Licor 43 I was managing a bar program in St. Louis Missouri as well as running a side consulting business for brands and cocktail development. I reached a point where I was ready to make a change not only in careers but in scenery as well. I had dabbled in brand consulting in the past and knew that possibly a Brand Ambassador position was something I would have interest in but it would have to be with a special brand and one that really wanted to focus not only on growth of their brand but also growth of their education as well. I sat down with a few brands over a number of months and really never found a fit, until Licor 43 came along. I had a short history with the brand when I first started bartending but really hadn’t seen much of it over the next decade. After my initial meeting with Licor 43 I knew that it was the right fit and that it was a chance to work on a brand that had something special about it; 6 weeks later I moved across country and started on this journey with Licor 43 and Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.
We’re excited to be including Licor 43 in our kits this month, featured in the recipe, Quince 43. Can you tell our subscribers a little about what they’ll be tasting when they try Licor 43? What sets it apart from any other liqueur on the market?
Licor 43 is really unlike anything else on the market and that is what makes it so much fun, yet such a challenge. If you are to taste 43 on its own, you’ll find that there’s a honey sweetness with notes of vanilla, dried orange peel and light candied baking spices. What makes Licor 43 so interesting is what happens when you mix it with other ingredients, in this case quince shrub. The shrub will open up the 43 to more of its citrus characteristics, numbing the sweetness and letting the vibrant fruit forward botanicals play within the cocktail.
What effect would you say Licor 43 plays in transforming a classic cocktail? Is there a base spirit it pair with best?
I like to use the metaphor of a cocktail being like music. Your base spirit should always play that first note, the guitar solo if you will. Your other ingredients is what makes it harmonic and with Licor 43 it has such versatility that the harmony it plays can be bright light a horn section, deep like a base or soft like back up vocals. The base spirit you choose will define what parts of those 43 botanicals in Licor 43 decide to come out play.
What food does Licor 43 pair with best?
I know everyone wants me to say Spanish cuisine but I really like to find new ways to approach it from a culinary aspect. I’ve fallen in love with it in desserts and as a finish of sweetness on any flambee. I pair it with bourbon and BBQ, Gin and Shellfish, Rum and Spicy foods. It plays perfectly with any salty and sweet pairing such as popcorn, nuts or fresh pretzel with sweetened mustards. Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur with a long history dating back even to ancient Rome.
How is the current recipe similar to its historical roots and how has it evolved to its present recipe?
Like most history involving alcohol it can be a bit cloudy, usually because the person writing the history had been drinking, but in the case of Licor 43 the history is what really makes it special. I do want to clarify as it is a common misconception, that we do not have a history in ancient Rome, we are 100% Spanish; Spain was at that point a part of the greater Roman Empire and therefore a part of greater Roman culture.
Licor 43 was created in Cartagena Spain, which until the 1400’s was the capital of Spain and without going into a lengthy history discussion we will just say that it does not have the same romance to the city that it once had. The one thing Cartagena does have going for it is that it is located on the coast and by being a coastal city that means lots of available produce and spices to work with.
The flavors that inspired Licor 43 are part classic Spanish but also partly global all because Cartagena was such a unique city in this part of the world. Saffron, Valencia citrus, bay laurel, oregano, these all speak to the history of Spain; cinnamon, allspice, vanilla bean, cloves, these all were only available because of Cartagena’s uniqueness. As the Licor 43 recipe has evolved it always looks back to the home from once it came and that uniqueness of Cartagena is expressed in the uniqueness that is Licor 43.
What are some of the favorite ways to drink it in Spain? And are there any new recipes you’ve seen it used in lately that surprised you?
Some of the favorites in Spain that I have heard is enjoying it with citrus juices or milk, though I can’t speak to these as I’ve yet to see them in person. I will say that some of my favorite ways I’ve seen it used throughout my travels in the US has been as a low alcohol complimentary spirit with things like vermouths, sherry and amaros.
The one that surprised me the most is having someone serve it to me as the sweetener in a classic Daiquiri. The surprise came not from a jarring application of the spirit but because that was the first way I had thought to use it when I began bartending, the surprise came from the happy simplicity.
What's your favorite Licor 43 Cocktail or favorite way to drink it?
Right now as it’s getting colder out I like it with spirits like Bourbon and Rye in an old fashioned replacing the sugar or in a Hot Toddy with hot fresh apple cider and Scotch.
Can you tell us what has been one of your proudest moments at Licor 43?
I always believe one of the proudest moments happens any time I am able to walk into a bar, meet a bartender that professes to dislike Licor 43 for any reason and leave with them a new convert to the spirit because of its sensational versatility behind the bar. When that happens I know that they are going to make the next guest who sits with them a convert too, the excitement is infectious in the most wonderful of ways.
Anything new for the brand in the coming year? Any big recent projects?
Yes, there are new plans, but no we are not ready to reveal them just yet meaning you’ll have to keep an eye out with Licor 43 to see what’s in store next. I will say that we are all greatly excited about the where this past year has taken us as we see bartenders both professional and at home, grabbing Licor 43 from their back bar to make their next cocktail with.