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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 De-Schnaps.ogg [ʃnɑps] ; the English form is more usually pronounced as /ʃnæps/.

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


Schnaps in German-speaking regions

German Schnaps is clear, colorless, and has a light fruit flavor. It is distilled from fermented fruit, 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 seldom used in German-speaking countries. In Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany, these beverages are commonly called Obstler (from the German Obst, fruit).[3] Obstler are associated with the southern part of the German language area; equivalent beverages exist all over central and southeastern Europe. In northern Germany, almost all traditional distilled beverages are grain-based.

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 fruit brandy (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, which produce a low yield of alcohol due to their low sugar content. Instead, alcohol is infused with fresh raspberries, and this mixture is then distilled.

American schnapps

The label on a bottle of American schnapps, peach-flavored and bottled at 15% ABV.

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. [4]

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. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Obstler at p. 1087.
  4. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 306–307.

Simple English

Schnapps is a type of distilled alcoholic drink. The word schnapps comes from the German word schnaps.

German schnapps

Traditional German schnapps are usually clear alcoholic drinks which are distilled from fermented cereals, roots, and fruits. Traditional German schnapps has no sugar or other flavoring added. It is similar in look and flavor to vodka with light fruit flavors. The alcohol content is usually around 40%.

American schnapps

The other type of schnapps is American. This type of schnapps is a liqueur that has sugar and flavorings such as peach, mint, or butterscotch. The alcohol content of American schnapps is usually only about 20%, which is lower than German-style schnapps.


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