Schnapps is an alcoholic beverage that just about everyone loves. But, what few know is its origin, the history behind its name, and that there are actually two very distinct versions for people to enjoy.

The beverage’s name comes from the similarly spelled German word Schnaps, which is used to refer to a strong alcoholic beverage, especially those that are a minimum of 64 proof. In addition, Schnaps is known to be a Low German word that translates to mean sallow. The High German meaning of the word is known to have been documented prior to the 18th century.

The German word has been carried over to English. But, when referred to in the United States, Schnapps is actually a liqueur. While both English and German speakers pronounce Schnapps in the same manner, when written in German, the word must be capitalized.

German Schnapps

The version of Schnapps found in German-speaking regions is not like you might be used to in the United States. It is colorless, clear, and offers a light, fruity flavor.

This version is created by using fermented fruit in the distillation process. And, when it is bottled, no sugar is added. The end result is usually 80 proof, and its taste and appearance greatly resembles the French eau-de-vie and the Obstler found in German-speaking countries.

To further define the beverage, its name can also mean a number of other German-made, distilled spirits, including Jagermeister, Steinhager, Kummel, and Korn.

When creating German Schnapps, fruits such as cherries, plums, pears, and apples are most often. Cherries are the most expensive fruit to use, while apples are the least expensive.

Obstwasser is created by combining pears and apples, Williamsbirne is the product of only pears, Zwetchgenwasser is made with plums, and Kirschwasser is made with cherries.

Austrian Schnapps is often created using Apricot, but you’d be hard pressed to find a fruit other than these five used to create German Schnapps.

Himbeergeist, a spirit flavored with raspberry, is also considered to be a Schnapps. However, when it is created, the raspberries are not fermented.

American Schnapps

As it has been previously mentioned, American Schnapps are much different than their German counterparts.

When American Schnapps are produced, a neutral grain spirit is often mixed with fruit flavors or other types of flavoring agents. When the mixture is bottled, sugar, and often glycerine, are added in order to produce a smooth drink with a syrup-like consistency.

The alcohol content of this type of Schnapps varies, and can fall anywhere between 30 and 100 proof.

The flavors of American Schnapps are vast, and include apricot, black currant, banana, aniseed, blackberry, cherry, peach, peppermint, butterscotch, coffee, sour apple, coffee, menthol mint, and root beer.

It is because of American Schnapps’ added sugar content that the drink is often labeled as a liqueur.

Browse all 8 Schnapps Drink Recipes