You may not believe it, but it's true! The real reason how liqueurs came into being is man's attempt to extract healing substances from herbs and their mixtures with the help of alcohol. Accordingly, the motivation was not sweet intoxication, but rather health.
So let's travel back in time to Italy in the early 13th century, when a certain Arnoldus Villanovanus, the pope's personal physician, prepared various sweetened medicines based on brandy. The name of these novel drinks was also quickly found. The Latin word "liquor" was the inspiration.
You must know that in those times, the consumption of sugar was reserved only for privileged circles, because it was a rare and therefore expensive raw material. Only royalty and other nobles, Vatican and well-heeled merchants could enjoy the liqueur.
It found its way to France when the Florentine noblewoman Catherine de Medici married the French King Henry II in the 16th century. In her entourage were also people who brought the knowledge of the art of liqueur making to France and passed it on. The French then developed ever newer and more sophisticated methods of liqueur making over the following centuries.
When sugar became cheaper, first as a result of colonialism, and later with the discovery of beet sugar in the mid-18th century, liqueurs found their way to broader populations. Since then, there are liqueurs prepared from almost all known fruits and herbs.
But when it comes to the origin of the liqueur, the French have a completely different story. The famous writer Alexandre Dumas claims that liqueur was invented only when Louis XIV's empire was crumbling and the revolution was at the gates of Paris and Versailles. The Sun King drowned his sorrows from time to time in one of the many sweet alcohols.
The king's alchemist and personal physician, Monsieur Fagon, is mentioned in this context as the inventor of the liqueur. It was he who mixed various drinks to comfort and rejuvenate the Sun King. That the "worry breakers" gave Louis and his court a certain comfort can hardly be denied, but disciples they did not become, as we know from history.