Schnapps is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage. The English word schnapps is derived from the German Schnaps (plural, Schnäpse), which can refer to any strong alcoholic drink but particularly those containing at least 32% ABV (64 proof).[1] American schnapps, however, are liqueurs.

The German word is pronounced [ʃnaps] ( listen); in English it is /ˈʃnɑːps/ or /ˈʃnæps/.

Schnaps is a Low German noun that means swallow; it has been documented in its High German meaning since before the 18th century.[2]


German Schnaps

German Schnaps is clear, colorless, and has a light fruit flavor.[3] It is distilled from fermented fruit must, is bottled with no added sugar, and normally contains about 40% ABV (80 proof). Its appearance and taste are the same as that of eau de vie, but this French term is not used in German-speaking countries.

In Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany, these beverages are commonly called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit).[4] Obstler are associated with the southern part of the German language area. In northern Germany, almost all traditional distilled beverages are grain-based.

Equivalent beverages exist all over central and southeastern Europe, where they are generically called rakia (e.g., slivovitz and palinka).

A broader definition of Schnaps includes other German-made spirits such as Kräuterlikör (e.g., Jägermeister), Korn, Kümmel, German gin (e.g., Steinhäger), and generally any distilled beverage.

The main kinds of fruit used for German Schnaps are apples, pears, plums, and cherries — listed here in order from the least expensive to the most. Apricot is another popular fruit that is often used in Austrian Schnaps (Marillenschnaps). Fruits other than these five kinds are rarely used for German Schnaps. Apples are usually used together with pears to make a fruit brandy called Obstwasser. Pears alone are used to produce Poire Williams (Williamsbirne). Plums make Zwetschgenwasser, and cherries make Kirschwasser.

A raspberry-flavored spirit called Himbeergeist is also a Schnaps, although it is not produced by means of fermenting raspberries (Himbeeren), which produce a low yield of alcohol due to their low sugar content. Instead, rectified spirit is infused with fresh raspberries, and this mixture is then distilled.

American schnapps

American schnapps are alcoholic beverages that are produced by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit flavors or with other flavors. This mixture is then bottled with added sugar and (usually) glycerine, producing a smooth, syrup-like drink. Their alcohol content can be anywhere between 15% and 50% ABV (30–100 proof).

American schnapps can be bought in a very wide variety of flavors, including aniseed, apricot, banana, blackberry, black currant (aka crème de cassis), butterscotch, cherry, cinnamon, coffee, lemon, mandarin orange, menthol mint, peach, peppermint, root beer, and sour apple.

These drinks technically fall into the category of liqueurs because of their added sugar content.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Branntwein at p. 298 and Schnaps at p. 1305.
  2. ^ Kluge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 23., erweiterte Auflage (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 734.
  3. ^ "Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89". Official Journal on EUR-Lex. EU Publications Office. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  4. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Obstler at p. 1087, "aus einer Obstsorte hergestellter Branntwein."
  5. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 306–307.

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