Licor 43, or Cuarenta y Tres ("43" in Spanish), is a sweet, vanilla-flavored liqueur. It is produced in Spain by the Diego Zamora company, using a total of 43 flavoring ingredients, including citrus and other fruits, herbs, and spices. Most of its popularity lies in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, and the U.S., though drinkers worldwide appreciate its sweet, complex flavor. It can be enjoyed on its own, as a popular companion for coffee, and makes a nice cocktail ingredient.
Licor 43 vs. Tuaca
Licor 43 and Tuaca are very similar and are among the top vanilla liqueurs on the market. The two use vanilla as the dominant flavor and back it up with hints of citrus. Tuaca pretty much ends there—though it has an Italian brandy base—while Licor 43 has more herbal-spice complexity because of the additional flavoring ingredients. Additionally, Licor 43 is less sweet and Tuaca has more vanilla. The liqueurs can definitely be a substitute for one another in most cocktails.
Its proprietary recipe means that you won't find an exact match for Licor 43. Tuaca is the closest substitute. Galliano—particularly the vanilla liqueur rather than L'Autentico—would be the next best choice. There are other vanilla liqueurs on the market that will work in some cocktails, though most of those are strictly vanilla so you'll miss that citrus, herbal, spiced background that comes with Licor 43.
- Ingredients: 43 herbs, fruits, and spices, including vanilla and citrus
- Proof: 62
- ABV: 31%
- Calories in a shot: 103
- Origin: Spain
- Taste: Vanilla, citrus, herbal, semi-sweet
- Aged: 6–9 months in tanks
- Serve: Straight, chilled, on the rocks, cocktails
How Is Licor 43 Made?
According to its producers, Licor 43 is derived from an ancient recipe. It dates back to around 209 B.C. when it was known as "Liqvor Mirabilis" (miracle liquor), a favorite drink of the Carthaginians that was produced in secret when the Romans banned it. Since alcohol wasn't distilled until the 13th century or so, it's more likely that this was a fermented beverage similar to mead or wine that was infused with the herbs and spices. The recipe was apparently passed down through generations. In 1946, Diego Zamora and his family purchased a distillery in Cartagena, Spain along with the recipe that they would market as Licor 43. It quickly became a popular drink in Spain where it's known as Cuarenta y Tres. Within a few decades, thanks to some brilliant marketing for such a small company, it was a worldwide success.
Licor 43 is made from 43 different flavoring ingredients, though the full ingredient list is a secret. Vanilla is a known ingredient. The other 42 ingredients include citrus, other fruits, aromatic herbs, and spices. Either individually or in groups, the flavoring ingredients are macerated in a blend of alcohol and water. These flavored spirits are then married to create the unique taste of Licor 43. The liqueur is rested for six to nine months in stainless steel tanks then exposed to subzero temperatures and micro-filtered before bottling. Licor 43 is bottled at 31 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 62 proof).
What Does Licor 43 Taste Like?
This is a light-bodied, sweet liqueur with a yellow-gold color and noticeable aroma. Vanilla is Licor 43's dominant flavor and it is backed up by hints of citrus and spice. It's warm and complex, with a pleasant aged rum feel.
The original Licor 43 liqueur has been incorporated into two additional liqueurs produced by the brand.
Licor 43 Orchata: Spanish horchata de chufa is made from tiger nuts to create milk-like drink flavored with cinnamon and lemon. In this liqueur, an authentic horchata recipe from Valencia is blended with Licor 43. The result is a silky 32-proof liqueur with a truly unique flavor.
Licor 43 Baristo: Playing off the fact that Licor 43 is an excellent pairing for coffee, this 62-proof liqueur combines the two flavors in one bottle. It uses an Arabica coffee from the Canary Islands and can be a substitute for other coffee liqueurs.
How to Drink Licor 43
Licor 43 is often served with or without ice as an after-dinner drink. It can be mixed with coffee, colas, and other carbonated beverages, such as ginger ale. It's also one of the preferred vanilla liqueurs for impressive cocktails.
In Mexico, carajillo is a drink that mixes espresso with Licor 43 and ice. In the Canary Islands, Licor 43 is an essential ingredient for a baraquito. It is an alcoholic variant of the highly popular cortado condensada, which is a shot of coffee with condensed milk, hot milk, Licor 43, and a dash of cinnamon.
One of its more popular bar drinks is a shot called "mini beer." Served in a small beer mug, it's simply a shot of Licor 43 with a heavy cream float. When executed properly, it actually looks like a small beer with a foamy head.
There are a number of cocktail recipes that specifically call for Licor 43. It can also be used in many recipes that simply list "vanilla liqueur" as an ingredient.
Cooking With Licor 43
The vanilla flavor and sweetness make Licor 43 a nice addition to food recipes. Sweet dishes are a natural fit, so you will find it in recipes for cakes, custards, and other desserts, as well as jams. It can also be drizzled on top of ice cream or flan. On the savory side, the liqueur makes an interesting glaze or marinade for meats, especially alongside apples to flavor pork.