Sugar, spice and all things nice

Quick Brown Fox is a coffee and cinnamon liqueur.

“Why cinnamon?” It’s a question that arises every now and then -and it’s a very good one.

After all, you don’t drink coffee with cinnamon (unless you’re in Mexico, drinking Cafe de oya) but the rationale is sound, as is the flavour. In brief, it’s to do with bridging, viscosity and flavour.

Why Cinnamon?

The definition of a liqueur is that it’s an alcoholic drink “with sugar and a flavour”. Where a spirit like a whisky or rum has no added sugar, all liqueurs have sugar added and the alcohol is simply a base for a flavour e.g. coffee.

Sugar is used to subdue the harsh flavour of alcohol. Alcohol is a complex base on which other flavours can sit.

It does this by creating a bridge on the palate between the harshness of the alcohol and whatever flavour is added. If you have coffee and alcohol without sugar you’ll get some very intense and undesirable flavours coming through.

vanilla pods

The amount of sugar one should use depends on the other ingredients that flavour the liqueur. I.e. in fruit liqueurs longer chain sugars like fructose don’t bridge but the simple sugars do. It’s all about balance.

In coffee, there is some inherent sweetness depending on the bean and roast (less sweetness if it is roasted darker) but most coffees don’t have enough sweetness to lessen the amount of sugar needed bridge

Many coffee liqueurs use vanilla to help with this, in addition to sugar. But I found that vanilla shrouds the subtle flavours in the coffee. Cinnamon however, did not.

Cinnamon worked to bridge the alcohol without masking the coffee. The result was a very long aftertaste on the palate, which has become a desirable attribute of Quick Brown Fox.

Accidentally Vegan.

Using the right bridge meant I could use less sugar. But using less sugar means it is less viscous. Viscosity is an important attribute of a liqueur and whilst sugar is the main contributor to this, many liqueurs also use a small amount of Glycerol.

Glycerol is as horrible as it sounds. It comes from animal fat (but can be produced synthetically from oil or vegetables) and whilst I did a test with it many years ago and it certainly was thicker, I felt that I didn’t want to actively consume it and so, neither would you.

What I used instead was Indian Organic Cinnamon – one with a 3% oil content. Most of the cinnamon available has .5-1% oil and cheap cinnamon is actually a different species: Cassia.

The higher the oil content in cinnamon the better it is as a thickener. I buy it ground, and boil it into my sugar syrup; the change in viscosity is pronounced. I only realised some time later that not using glycerol meant that QBF was vegan. By accident!


Quick Brown Fox is not as viscous as other liqueurs, but it is also not as sweet and uses nothing artificial.

This is why it uses cinnamon. Well, and the length of flavour of the palate.

2 thoughts on “Sugar, spice and all things nice

  1. Thanks for linking to my blog for Café de Olla, but you may want to make a correction. This is a hot drink, not a cold drink, in Mexico.
    You don’t need to post this comment — just wanted to let you know.


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