What is Schnapps?

Schnapps is a spirit distilled from fruits, such as pears, apples, peaches, or cherries. Real German Schnapps has no sugar added and is not particularly sweet, though it carries some of the flavors of its source fruit. The French eau de vie is analogous to this spirit’s subtle fruit flavors. Even though true Schnapps is just distilled fruit juice with no added sugar, the word is often used to mean something else, especially in the United States.

What Is Schnapps

Like a liqueur, this kind usually has a lot of sugar and extra flavorings, making it very sweet. Some types, like butterscotch schnapps, are not made by distilling the flavor source, and this is because it would be hard to distill butterscotch. Instead, they start with base alcohol and add flavor. Even though some American schnapps could be made by distilling fruit juice, they are usually made by soaking fruit in base alcohol like vodka.

What is Schnapps?

Schnapps is a distilled spirit, but the name can also describe two different kinds of liquor. Real schnaps come from Germany, and fruit juices and the base liquor are fermented to make it. These are fruit brandies, also called Eau de to vie, and a strong, often clear, distilled spirit that tastes similar to vodka with a light flavor. In North America, the word “schnapps” refers to a group of sweetened liqueurs that can taste like apples, butterscotch, peppermint, root beer, and other things. Both types come in different flavors, but European Schnapps is usually drunk straight, while North American Schnapps is best when mixed with other drinks.

What is Schnapps Made From?

Schnaps is a word for any strong distilled spirit with at least 32% alcohol by volume (ABV, 64 proof). But the word “schnaps” is usually used for fruit brandies (or lobster) made from fresh fruit juices that have not been aged. Some, like the raspberry-flavored himbeergeist, are made by adding a fruit infusion to a neutral grain spirit during the second distillation. Schnaps is most popular in Germany, where it was first made as a medicine. It is also popular in Austria, Denmark, and Sweden. The word “schnaps” in German means hard liquor or booze in English. The word “snap” comes from the strength of the spirits and is a loose translation of “schnapps.”

Some craft distillers in the U.S. make real schnaps, but most Schnapps made in North America are much sweeter. This type of Schnapps is popular in both the United States and Canada. It is often made by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit syrup, spices, or other flavors. Most of the time, the grain is rye or wheat, but it could also be barley, buckwheat, or oats. Schnaps from Europe are usually well-made 80-proof liquors that are similar to brandies. On the other hand, North American Schnapps are often not very good and are seen by some as novelty liqueurs. There are, of course, some exceptions, and you can pay more for good Schnapps.

Depending on the brand, Schnapps can have anywhere from 15 to 25% ABV (30 to 50 proof) of alcohol. Some flavors, like peppermint schnapps, can be very strong, and you can find bottles that are up to 50 percent ABV (100 proof). When you buy Schnapps, always read the label.

What does Schnapps Taste Like?

There are a lot of different flavors of Schnapps. European schnaps tastes like other fruit brandies, with a strong alcohol taste on top of a real fruit flavor. It tends to be dry and has a clean taste at the end. Even though North American schnaps are usually sweeter than European schnaps, it is often drier than other sweet liqueurs. For example, crème de menthe is sweeter than peppermint schnapps. But apple schnapps is known to be sweet with a tart fruit flavor that will make your mouth pucker.


Some flavors of Schnapps are the same in Europe and North America, but the tastes are usually very different.

In Europe, the most popular flavours of fruit schnaps are apple (marillenschnaps), apricot (marillenschnaps), cherry (kirschwasser, or kirsh), pear (zwetschgenwasser), and plum (zwetschgenwasser). Obstwasser is a fruit brandy made from both apples and pears. Apfelkorn is a sweetened apple schnapps that Berentzen made in the 1970s. Schnaps is also sometimes used to describe herbal spirits like Underberg and Jagermeister.

Most Schnapps in North America tastes like banana, butterscotch, cinnamon, peach, or peppermint. You can also get Schnapps that taste like apricot, blackberry, cherry, grape, lemon, melon, or root beer.

How to Drink Schnapps?

Europeans rarely mix their drinks to make cocktails, and they are usually drunk from a small cordial glass before or after a meal. You can also pour Schnapps over ice, which is also a good idea. The liqueur type of Schnapps is so sweet that it’s best used in mixed drinks or shots where it can add flavor and sweetness simultaneously. Some flavors, like butterscotch, cinnamon, and cinnamon, are good straight and at room temperature, especially on cold days when you want a shot to warm you up.

If you don’t like the taste of Schnapps, you can use a liqueur with the same taste instead (e.g., cherry liqueur instead of cherry schnapps). Remember that the liqueur may be sweeter than the Schnapps, or vice versa. If this is the case, you may need to change the amount of sweetener in the drink to keep the flavors balanced.

Cocktail Recipes

Because there are so many different flavors, you’ll find that some schnapps goes better with certain drinks. For example, apple schnapps often has a sour taste and goes well in apple martinis, and Butterscotch schnapps, which taste sweet, goes well in tasty drinks like Irish caramel coffee. At the same time, peach schnapps can be used in many different ways and is the most common peach liqueur used in drink recipes.

    Where to Buy Schnapps?

    The U.S. market for real schnaps hasn’t been very big in the past, but there is more interest in it now. Find fruit brandies if you want something in the U.S. that is like schnaps in Germany. Many small distilleries make great bottles of brandy with apple, apricot, and other flavors that are as good as European schnaps.

    Be careful with brandies that have added sweeteners, as these are not real brandies but liqueurs. They are more like what we call “schnapps” in North America, which you can buy at most liquor stores. Even in this group, not all Schnapps is the same; in terms of quality, you often get what you pay for. Spend a few extra dollars and shop smartly to get better drinks.

    Because Schnaps and Schnapps are often mixed up, it can be hard to find the real German product outside Europe. Still, it is sold in some liquor stores along with the sweetened American cordial. Most liquor stores have some similar fruit brandy, and stores in areas with a large European population may even have real products from Europe. We’ve had a lot of luck with online retailers, though. For example, one of our favorite places to buy liquor is Drizly. Since it works with local liquor stores, it has a wide range of products and can even deliver them in less than an hour.

    Pear Schnapps


    What are the Popular Brands of Schnapps?

    The North American version is often used in drink recipes that call for schnapps. When it comes to those, the most popular brands are:

    • 99
    • Arrow
    • DeKuyper
    • Dr. McGillicuddy
    • Hiram Walker
    • Schladerer Himbeergeist [Germany]
    • Fidelitas Obstler [Germany]
    • Massenez Kirsch Vieux [France]
    • Clear Creek Kirschwasser [USA]
    • Schladerer Williams Pear Birne [Germany]
    • Bauer’s Obstler [Austria]
    • Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnaps [Germany]
    • Maraska Slivovitz [Croatia]
    • Jägermeister [Germany]
    • Killepitsch [Germany]

    What’s the Difference Between Schnapps & Schnaps?

    You might sometimes see “Schnaps” written as “Schnapps” with a strange second “P.” As was already said, the drink’s name comes from an action whose verb is also spelled with two Ps. Some spellings likely meant the same thing at some point, and they still do that a lot when used in everyday speech. There is a difference between “Schnaps” and “Schnapps,” though.

    German Schnaps means the fruit brandy we discussed above in English, but in its native language, it can mean any spirit of alcohol. On the other hand, American Schnapps are liqueurs often made by macerating already-distilled grain alcohol with sugar and then adding more sugar. Because of this, Schnapps is much weaker and tends to be very sweet and syrupy, unlike its German predecessors. This article will focus on the German version and not the sweetened aperitif.

    Different Types & Varieties of Schnaps

    Most Schnaps are Obstler brandies made from only five kinds of fruit. However, there are a few other kinds that you should know about:

    • Obstwasser: This brandy, meaning “fruit water,” is made from apples and pears.
    • Himbeergeist: Fresh raspberries are steeped in a neutral spirit to make a raspberry infusion.
    • Kirschwasser: The spirit is made from morello cherries and is sometimes just called “Kirsch.”
    • Kräuterlikör: A herbal liqueur often linked to Schnaps, even though it is not an Obstler.
    • Marillenschnaps: A brandy made in Austria that is usually made with apricots.
    • Schlehengeist: A fruit brandy made from sloes left to ferment.
    • Williamsburg: Fruit brandy produced from Williams pears.
    • Zwetschgenwasser Fruit brandy made from plums.

    Even though Krauterlikor, Schlehengeist, and Himbeergeist are not Obstler spirits, they are often linked to Schnaps because of their Germanic roots. Himbeergeist and Schlehengeist are the ones most like Obstler because they are both made with fruit. But because sloes and raspberries don’t have much sugar, it’s hard to get enough alcohol out of them.


    Schnapps is usually 40 percent alcohol, like vodka, gin, rum, and many other hard drinks (80 Proof). Rarely can you find it with a higher proof than this, but it’s not unusual to find different kinds with 30 percent alcohol (60 Proof) or even less. People often drink this spirit on its own, straight or with ice, and it is also used in various mixed drinks with different flavors.

    Schnapps is usually 40 percent alcohol, like vodka, gin, rum, and many other hard drinks (80 Proof). Rarely can you find it with a higher proof than this, but it’s not unusual to find different kinds with 30 percent alcohol (60 Proof) or even less. People often drink this spirit on its own, straight or with ice, and it is also used in various mixed drinks with different flavors.