Words by: Simon Difford
Photography by: Dan Malpass
Banana flavoured liqueurs, which French producers call crème de banana, are based on neutral alcohol (usually sugar beet based) flavoured with a flavour extract made from both a distillation and infusion of bananas, and sweetened with sugar (typically 400 to 450g/l).
Fresh bananas are almost impossible to juice and produce a baby food-like texture when muddled, hence most cocktails using fresh bananas tend to be blended. However, the flavour bananas, unless overripe, imparts to a cocktail tends to be disappointing, so even when using fresh banana it's common to also add banana flavoured sugar syrup or banana liqueur. The easiest way to add a rich tropical banana flavour to cocktails is to use a liqueur.
Most of brands of range-liqueurs produce a banana liqueur, each fitting on a flavour scale somewhere between decadent dessert and drier, more spirituous, liqueurs. Some have a clean confected ripe banana flavour whereas others have a freshly roasted and mashed banana flavour, sometimes with gentle spice. Others producers distinguish themselves with a green banana liqueur, also green in colour, rather than the more usual canary yellow. It is also common for banana liqueurs to also be subtly flavoured with vanilla and extracts of herbs and spices.
Alternatively, you can make your own banana liqueur, using fresh bananas, sugar and rum or vodka. Different style sugars will affect your liqueur, so it's worth testing recipes with raw sugar and white sugar.
Part of Giffard’s ‘Premium’ liqueur range, this banana liqueur is made by the slow maceration of Brazilian banana puree (to optimize contact with alcohol and extract the best aromas) and banana distilate obtained through the slow distillation of bananas. Mashed bananas, dried banana, banana cake mix and faint caramel.
This banana flavoured liqueur is made with the slow maceration of ripe bananas in neutral alcohol by Giffard & Cie, a fourth generation family-owned and run liqueur producer in France’s Loire Valley. Confectioner's and mashed banana, with dried banana chips.
Jacquin claims to be America's oldest cordial producer. We love the name, but it is capped with a cheap-looking plastic screw-top. Contains colouring. Nostril-clearing alcohol punch, with faint mashed banana.
Lejay crème de banane is flavoured with extract of Ecuadorian bananas produced by a flavour house in the south of France. The extract combines both a distillate and an infusion of the Ecuadorian bananas. The liqueur is balanced with 450g of sugar per litre. Mashed overripe banana, banana flambé with rum, banoffee pie and freshly scrapped vanilla pod.
Made with dried bananas from Ecuador "which concentrate all the flavours of fully ripe bananas". Dried banana chips, overripe blackened banana and banana cake mix with faint toasted coconut and white pepper corns.
Bols Green Banana is distinctive from the company’s yellow banana liqueur not only due to its emerald green colour - Bols Green Banana is less sweet and Bols says it is formulated to mimic the flavour of unripe green banana, as opposed to ripe banana in the case of their yellow variant. Banana flavoured bubble gum nose with faint citrus aromas.
Bols Banana is based on a rum distillate rather than neutral spirit to provide extra character and is flavoured with banana extract enhanced by a touch of vanilla and a hint of almonds. Pungent, ripe bananas – confectioner’s banana essence.
A banana flavoured liqueur from the Dutch family owned firm of De Kuyper. "Extract of top-grade ripe bananas blended with neutral spirit," it explains. Subdued nose, confected banana with obvious alcohol tingle.
In the eighties, when schnapps was just beginning to emerge as a new category of liqueur, Juan Teichenné led the way, first concurring his own domestic Spanish market, then with exports to become one of the leading schnapps producers in the world with a range of 16 flavours.
Established in 1836 by Edmond Briottet and located in Dijon, France, Briottet’s Crème de Banane is made with bananas from the Costa Rica which are hand-peeled to expose their pulp. This is macerated in beet neutral alcohol to release the banana’s flavour. Mashed bananas, fried banana and banana cake mix with faint white pepper spice.
A foaming agent and an ingenious - and trademarked - plastic pump injects air into this liqueur to create a foam as it is dispensed. The pump is designed so that it works whether you hold the bottle horizontally or vertically. Aromatic banana-flavoured bubble gum.
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