This icon of the early aughts hip-hop scene is a blend of French vodka, cognac, and tropical-fruit juices that tastes less cloying than its frosty blue hue might have you believe. It’s a light-bodied and refreshing sipper over ice, but it’s still a liqueur that found most of its success in dimly lit clubs—expect a relatively sweet beverage that’s not intended for most cocktails.
Company Heaven Hill Brands
Distillery Distillerie Merlet et Fils (Cherac, France)
Proof 34 (17% ABV)
Awards Gold, 2020 SIP Awards
Light-bodied and less sweet than most liqueurs, it works well as an aperitif over ice.
Nicely balanced flavors like lime and grapefruit never veer into the cloying category, as can often happen with liqueurs (especially candy-hued ones).
Versatility in cocktails is limited.
Though not cloying, it will still be too sweet for many.
Color: Caribbean-vacation blue
Nose: Loads of citrus fruit on the nose, although lime and grapefruit dominate. There’s also an intriguing note of rosemary, along with peach and citrus pith and zest.
Palate: Juicy, fruit-forward, and sweet
Finish: The pith tames the sweetness a bit on the finish, but the latter’s influence wins out by a nose in the end.
It’s hard not to compare Hpnotiq (pronounced “hypnotic”) to blue curaçao, but the similarities end at their technicolor hues. For one, the latter is made from the peel of the bitter Laraha orange or a chemical facsimile of it, while the former includes a proprietary blend of fruit juices. For another, blue curaçao can trace its origins to a Caribbean island, while Hpnotiq was born in a 25-year-old’s childhood home on Long Island.
In 2001, college dropout Raphael Yakoby was inspired by a blue perfume bottle at Bloomingdale’s to create a blue liqueur. He moved back in with his parents and tinkered with different spirits and fruit juices until he came up with an ocean-blue blend of French vodka, cognac, and “exotic fruit juices.” With the help of a former Sony employee, Nick Storm, and his connections to the hip-hop community, Yakoby landed his liqueur a spot in music videos for songs like Fabolous’ “This Is My Party” and Ciara’s “One Two Step,” cementing its status as a go-to club drink in the early aughts. In 2003, Heaven Hill Brands, the makers of Evan Williams bourbon, acquired the drink, which had become one of the fastest-selling liqueurs in history.
Hpnotiq may have faded from the pop-culture consciousness, but it still has plenty to offer in the glass. Compared to blue curaçao, which is made with the peels of bitter Laraha oranges, it has a lime-pomelo flavor profile (the producer will not directly name the fruit influences or flavorings used). It is indeed sweet, but the finish brings in a welcoming pithy bitter note that keeps it from heading into cloying territory.
While many will mix Hpnotiq with its base spirit, cognac (a drink called the Incredible Hulk calls for equal parts Hpnotiq and Hennessy, producing a bright-green concoction), or tropical liquors like coconut rum that play off its fruit-juice notes, we find its versatility in cocktails to be limited. It’s a workable mixer for drinks that call for added sugar, but it’s best sipped over ice to highlight its refreshing and light-bodied qualities.
In August 2021, the producer launched a boozy (6% ABV) adult ice pop, the Hpnotiq Freeze Pop, for poolside slurping or club-kid shenanigans.