Schnapps (/ʃnɑːps/ or /ʃnæps/) or schnaps is a type of alcoholic beverage that may take several forms, including distilled fruit brandies,[1] herbal liqueurs, infusions, and "flavored liqueurs" made by adding fruit syrups, spices, or artificial flavorings to neutral grain spirits.

The English loanword "schnapps" is derived from the colloquial German word Schnaps [ʃnaps] (About this soundlisten) (plural: Schnäpse)[2][3] which is used in reference to spirit drinks.[4] The word Schnaps stems from Low German and is related to the German term "schnappen", meaning "snap" which refers to the spirit usually being consumed in a quick slug from a small glass (i.e., a shot glass). In Scots, a corresponding term is "dram" [of liquor].[5]

The German term Schnaps refers to any kind of strong alcoholic drink,[6] similar to how eau de vie (water of life) is used in French, aguardiente (burning water) in Spanish, or aguardente Portuguese.

In Hungary there is a big tradition of schnapps (in Hungarian: pálinka), which is made of any fruits growing in Hungary.

In Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany, and the culturally German regions of Alsace and Lorraine in modern-day France, a type of schnapps called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit)[7] is very popular. Obstler, which are fruit brandies, are mainly associated with the southern part of the German-language area. In northern Germany, almost all traditional distilled beverages are grain-based.

The main kinds of fruit used for German schnapps are raspberries (see illustration), apples, pears, plums, cherries, and apricots. Fruits other than these six are rarely used. Apples are used along with pears to make Obstwasser (fruit water); pears are used to produce Poire Williams (Williamsbirne, William's pear); several types of plums make Zwetschgenwasser [de] (plum water); cherries make kirschwasser (cherry water); and apricots are used to make Austrian Marillenschnaps (apricot brandy).

The different kinds of Obstler are similar to the varieties of Rakija found in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Slivovitz is a popular schnapps made from Damson plums found throughout the region.

The most popular schnapps in the UK is Peach Schnapps.[8] It can be enjoyed in many ways, most prefer it on the rocks or mixed with other drinks to form a variety of cocktails.[9] It is made by adding peach flavouring to a neutral grain spirit. It is typically clear and has a strong sweet taste. It became popular in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s.[10] The leading brand is Archers but some large supermarkets do have their own branded peach schnapps which is sold at a reduced price.[11] Archers peach schnapps is more similar to the American style of schnapps.

Many liqueurs referred to as schnapps, but distinct from Obstler, are created by addition of herbal or fruit flavors to a neutral spirit by various methods. The neutral spirit used can vary by location and tradition.

Kräuterlikör (herbal liqueur) is similar to Italian Amaro (liqueur). Well known brands include Jägermeister, Underberg, Kuemmerling, Killepitsch and Wurzelpeter.

Himbeergeist (raspberry spirit) is an infusion of macerated fresh berries in neutral spirits,[12][13] which have been steeped for several weeks before being distilled.

An inexpensive heavily sweetened form of liqueur[14] is made in America by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit syrup, spices, or other flavors. Referred to as "schnapps",[6] these are bottled with an alcohol content typically between 15% and 20% ABV (30–40 proof), though some may be much higher. Schnapps, specifically peach schnapps exploded in popularity in America in the 1980s.[15]

"This schnapps is just what the doctor ordered for you, soldier. One glass cheers your spirit, two make you love the world, three knock you flat". – Stefan Heym, The Lenz Papers[16]


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