As a highly differentiated category, cordials & liqueurs tend to fly under the radar in comparison to some of the more rigidly defined categories like bourbon or Tequila, but the category accounted for 27.8 million 9-liter cases sold in the U.S. in 2022. It was in the top five of all spirits categories last year based on volume, ranking higher than rum, brandy & cognac, and gin.
The category is expected to continue growing, potentially reaching more than 28 million cases sold by 2025, according to Beverage Information Group. As this bartender-favorite category continues to expand, we have compiled a comprehensive overview of cordials & liqueurs.
How Big is the Cordials & Liqueurs Market?
Cordials & liqueurs in the U.S. is currently led by mainstay brands such as Fireball, DeKuyper, Baileys, Jagermeister, and Southern Comfort. Fireball managed to lead all cordials & liqueurs brands in growth terms, adding over 400,000 cases in 2022, but the segment is being pushed forward even further by brands like Cointreau, Aperol, and Campari. The states responsible for the highest sales of 9L cases of cordials & liqueurs are:
- California – 2.2 million cases
- Michigan – 1.8 million cases
- Pennsylvania – 1.6 million cases
- Florida – 1.6 million cases
- New York – 1.4 million cases
The states and territories responsible for selling the most cordials & liqueurs cases per capita included:
- New Hampshire – 465k cases (427 per 1,000 adults)
- Maine – 392k (361 per 1,000 adults)
- Wyoming – 140k cases (326 per 1,000 adults)
- Iowa – 652k cases (280 per 1,000 adults)
- Montana – 210k cases (248 per 1,000 adults)
Trends Behind the Popularity of Cordials & Liqueurs
During the pandemic, when bars and restaurants were mostly shut down, consumers turned to home bartending as a creative and attainable way to pass the time. This period allowed consumers to experiment with different categories they wouldn’t usually purchase, but allowed them to try to recreate their favorite cocktails at home while enjoying a night in.
This trend directly led to a surge in the consumption of cordials and liqueurs, with sales of these products rising by 3.1% in 2020. Even as on-premise establishments reopened, the category continued to flourish, growing by 6.2% in 2021, indicating that the trend of at-home mixology is here to stay.
The Rise of the Spritz
Another trend that has provided a boost to cordials & liqueurs is the rising popularity of spritzes, particularly the Aperol Spritz. The spritz has benefited from several cultural factors including occasion-based drinking and the desire for lower-alcohol content cocktails. The elegant appearance of a spritz also makes it a very social media-friendly choice.
Aperol has even surpassed Bailey’s to become the highest-selling liqueur on Drizly in 2023, with a year-over-year category share growth of 25%, according to BevAlc Insights. Campari, which is also frequently used in spritz cocktails, has experienced a 4% year-over-year increase in its share. Even prosecco, another common ingredient in spritzes, now accounts for 25% of share within sparkling wine.
“Retailers should start to understand what customers are coming in for, and group traditional spritz products together so people can easily buy them,” suggested Ben Soffer, the Founder of Spritz Society.
In much the same way consumers began to appreciate the utility of cordials & liqueurs at home, mixologists in bars across the U.S. have also embraced the diversity of the category. This recognition has led to increased experimentation with flavors, allowing bartenders to push the boundaries of traditional cocktail recipes.
As consumers continue to demand new and unique flavors in their cocktails, bartenders have used the diverse range of cordials & liqueurs as a playground for creativity. Offerings within the segment can be used to create colorful and delicious cocktails, while easily blended with gins, whiskeys and rums.
Meanwhile, innovation is continuing within the category itself, potentially offering even more options for experimentation. Katie Clark, Director of R&D at beverage development company Flavorman, feels that the category is one of the most exciting for creating diverse options that meet consumer needs.
“In general, consumers demand more complex and layered flavors in both lower-proof, less-sweet cordials, as well as the higher-proof, very-sweet liqueurs,” explained Clark. “This combination to be flavor forward and multidimensional generates a fun and challenging opportunity in the beverage lab.”