Licor 43 The Most Versatile Liqueur

Having written an interesting guide to liqueurs earlier this month (Liqueur 101) it seemed like a good idea to explore Licor 43, one of the most highly awarded and versatile liqueurs ever made. My main motivation for this, as we are rapidly approaching Christmas, is some of the fabulous drinks you can make with Licor 43 that really capture the taste of a classic British Christmas. More on this in a bit.

Licor 43 is the number one premium Spanish liqueur and is only made in Cartagena, Spain. It takes its name from the 43 secret ingredients of selected herbs, citrus and other fruits from the Mediterranean basin. The recipe is a closely guarded family secret and its origins stretch back many years and were inspired by a Roman elixir called 'Liquor Mirabilis' (Marvellous Liquor) that apparently dates back to 209 B.C. No matter what's in it, I can attest to the fact that it's of exceptional quality and can be drunk neat, with a mixer or in a cocktail with equal aplomb on the taste buds.

So what exactly was this Liquor Mirabilis and how did it become Licor 43? There are two stories that are told regarding this, I'll leave it up to you to decide which one you want to believe!

The (Tall) Tale

As the Romans expanded their ever growing empire, they attacked the city of Quart Hadas, known in the modern world as Cartagena, Spain. The reasons were unclear, but acquiring an outpost in the Med is the most sensible reason militarily speaking. They conquered the city and, once they had had a chance to explore their new home, discovered a local liqueur that was exotic and made from local herbs and cirrus fruits. Being all authoritarian and self important, the Romans decided to ban its production.

The locals were none to happy about this and, like most attempts throughout history to ban booze, the restrictions were ignored and the people continued production in secret. Trying to deprive the populace actually increased demand and it eventually infiltrated the highest ranks of Roman society who absolutely loved the stuff, spreading the potion to the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire.

Today that potion is known as Licor 43, or Cuaranta Y Tres. The recipe is a secret, but we can gather that it’s still made with a variety of citrus fruits (highly prized in the Roman era, but more commonplace today) flavoured with vanilla and various spices.

The (Most Likely) True Story

Whilst the Roman connection certainly makes for a more interesting story, the truth is a little more mundane; the recipe is likely more typical of the liqueurs being made in Cartagena during the 1700's/1800's as opposed to 209 B.C.

The ancient heritage is more than a little unlikely as, according to all reliable historical sources, the process of distillation was not discovered until the 10th century. Without distillation there is no way that they could have achieved the ABV in the mid to high teens needed to create a liqueur. It is far more likely that what was being produced and exported were strong, sweet wines which were very typical of all wines of the era.

What is being sold as ""Cuarenta y Tres"" has been made since about 1895 in a small distillery in Cartagena, Spain. The distillery was bought by Diego Zamora Conesa in 1924. In 1979, the company was named ""Diego Zamora S.A"", and it was decided to branch off into activities other than just making the Licor 43, such as wines and other fruit flavoured liqueurs.


  • Spirits International Prestige Awards: Platinum
  • San Francisco World Spirits Competition: Gold
  • Drinks International Cocktail Challenge: Gold, Supreme Champion, Trophy
  • International Wine & Spirits Competition: Silver
  • International Spirits Challenge: Bronze
  • Spirits Business Travel Retail Masters: Master
  • Spirits Business Liqueur Masters: Gold, Silver

Licor 43 Cuarenta y Tres

Color: Beautiful gold.

Aroma: Light citrus, vanilla, extremely light touch of warm spice, but not spicy. Almost thought there might be possible hints of saffron, but if there is any saffron it is very faint.

Tasted Neat: Butterscotch, rich buttery toffee, lush, decadent, sweetened like honey without the sharp sugary edge. Lingering sweetness of juicy light flavoured citrus. Faintest hint of floral.

Mouth Feel: Medium without venturing to the thick syrupy side.

Christmas Inspired Drinks

Because it's a liqueur, and an extremely versatile one at that,  Licor 43 can be used in a huge variety of cocktail recipes; the blend of citrus and vanilla gives it a sweet-sour note that presents some interesting possibilities. Here is my top 3 recipes for Licor 43 that capture the essence of the British festive season. If you are keen to try some different combinations, you can find them by clicking viewing the Licor 43 Cocktail Recipe Booklet.



  • 25ml Licor 43
  • Whipped Cream


Ice cold Licor 43 topped with heavily whipped cream

Tastes Like

Delicious Christmas Fruit Cake With Cream

Licor 43 Apple Pie


  • 25ml Licor 43
  • 100ml Cloudy Apple Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Whipped Cream
  • Cinnamon


Pour Licor 43 into a tall glass then top with apple juice and bitters. For a real treat top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Tastes Like

Home cooked apple pie and Christmas biscuits.

Mulled 43


  • 50ml Licor 43
  • 25ml Lemon Juice
  • 75ml Shiraz
  • 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters


Combine all the ingredients into a pan and warm through. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tastes Like

Mulled wine with a really fruity twist.