What Is Tuaca Liqueur?

Production, Taste, and Recipes

Tuaca Vanilla-Citrus Liqueur

Tuaca Liqueur

Tuaca Liqueur is a popular vanilla-dominant liqueur that originated in Italy centuries ago. It offers a brilliant citrus, spice flavor against a brandy background, creating a very versatile mixer. The premium liqueur can be found in bars and liquor stores worldwide, and you'll want to pick up a bottle to discover it for yourself. It's delicious when you drink it straight or on the rocks and is a great vanilla liqueur option for mixed drink recipes.

Tuaca vs. Galliano

Alongside Tuaca, Galliano L'Autentico is another famous Italian-born liqueur dominated by the flavor of vanilla. Both recipes are proprietary and include several spices that accent the primary vanilla taste. However, Galliano is more complex, and its secondary flavor is anise, which is an entirely different flavor profile than Tuaca's citrus-kissed taste.

Substitutions

Since Tuaca has such a unique taste, it is difficult to find a perfect substitute for this liqueur. In some drink recipes, options like Licor 43 and Galliano may work because they're also vanilla-forward and have a similar sweetness. However, the underlying spices will slightly alter a drink's taste. For a non-spiced option, look for straight vanilla liqueurs, which are available from several brands, including Bols and DeKuyper. You can even use vanilla vodka or rum instead of Tuaca; look for the sweetened options that are bottled at 35 percent ABV (70 proof) to get the best match.

Fast Facts

  • Ingredients: brandy, vanilla, citrus, spices
  • Proof: 70
  • ABV: 35%
  • Calories in a 1 1/2-ounce shot: 154
  • Origin: Italy
  • Taste: Sweet, vanilla
  • Serve: shots, straight-up, on the rocks, cocktails

What Is Tuaca Liqueur Made From?

The Italian liqueur's roots date back 500 years to the time of Lorenzo (The Magnificent) de' Medici (1449–1492). The legend is that the liqueur was created in his honor and that the patron of Italian Renaissance arts very much enjoyed drinking it. The liqueur was lost for many years, though it's unclear exactly how long. In 1938, brothers-in-law Gaetano Tuoni and Giorgio Canepa revived the recipe and began producing it in Livorno, Italy. The duo named the liqueur using a combination of their surnames.

Officially called Tuaca Originale Italiano, the liqueur saw a rise in popularity during World War II. Soldiers found the liqueur to be one of their favorites while in Italy, but the first bottles of Tuaca weren't imported into the United States until 1950. It's now produced in Louisville, Kentucky, and part of the Sazerac Company's family of distilled spirits.

Like many liqueurs (especially really old ones), the recipe for Tuaca is a guarded secret. It is known that the liqueur begins with a blend of Italian brandies aged between three and 10 years. The brandy is then flavored with vanilla, the essence of Mediterranean citrus, a blend of spices, and, presumably, some sort of sweetener. The result is an amber-colored liqueur that is lightly sweetened, delightfully complex, and exceptionally smooth. Tuaca is bottled at 35 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 70 proof). It's moderately priced, and in line with similar premium liqueurs.

While Tuaca produces only one flavor of liqueur today, the company has experimented with other options in the past. In 2012, the company released Tuaca Cinnaster (35 percent ABV, 70 proof). It took the original liqueur's vanilla-citrus brandy base and added sweet cinnamon, which became the dominant flavor. While you might still be able to find a random bottle, it seems that Cinnaster has since been discontinued.

What Does Tuaca Liqueur Taste Like?

Tuaca has a rich brandy base accented with sweet vanilla and subtle notes of citrus. An intoxicating array of warm spices and hints of sweet butterscotch fill the palate, leading to a satisfying, long, and smooth finish.

How to Drink Tuaca Liqueur

Tuaca is often served chilled and straight, either as a sipper or a shot. You can also pour it over ice, and it makes an excellent flavor additive in coffee and hot apple cider. It pairs well with citrus fruit and works with various distilled spirits, primarily brandy, rum, and vodka.

Consider Tuaca's incomparable taste when using it in cocktails that call for a vanilla liqueur. Though the citrus aspect is soft, you may want to cut some of the citrus ingredient when a drink calls for both elements. For instance, you can likely skip the lime entirely when pouring Tuaca in a vanilla martini and reduce the Grand Marnier pour slightly in a mile high Manhattan.

Cocktail Recipes

Tuaca is featured in a handful of cocktail recipes, though you can use it as a substitute for other vanilla liqueurs in some drinks.