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Schnapps (/ʃnɑːps/ or /ʃnæps/) is a "strong alcoholic drink resembling gin and often flavored with fruit."[1] The English word "schnapps" is derived from the German Schnaps [ʃnaps] (plural: Schnäpse),[2][3] a Low German noun meaning "swallow" documented in High German meaning[which?] since before the 18th century.[4]



A sign advertising home-made Marillenschnaps in Austria

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

In Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany, and the French region of Alsace, a type of schnapps called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit)[5] 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 apples, pears, plums, cherries, and apricots. Fruits other than these five 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 (plum water); cherries make Kirschwasser (cherry water); and apricots are used to make Austrian Marillenschnaps (apricot brandy).

A raspberry-flavored spirit called Himbeergeist (raspberry spirit) is also a referred to as schnapps, 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.

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.

Another popular form of schnapps is herbal based, often sweetened, Kräuterlikör (herbal liqueur). Well known brands include Jägermeister, Underberg, Kuemmerling, Killepitsch and Wurzelpeter.


American schnapps are alcoholic beverages that are produced by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit or other flavors. This mixture is then bottled with added sugar and (usually) glycerine,[citation needed] producing a smooth, syrup-like drink with an alcohol content of between 15% and 50% ABV (30–100 proof).[6]

American schnapps is available in a broad variety of fruit, berry, and spice flavors. These drinks technically fall into the category of liqueurs because of their added sugar content.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. p. 1562. ISBN 978-0-547-04101-8. 
  3. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Branntwein at p. 298 and Schnaps at p. 1305.
  4. ^ Kluge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 23., erweiterte Auflage (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 734.
  5. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Obstler at p. 1087, "aus einer Obstsorte hergestellter Branntwein."
  6. ^ Examples are Hot Damn 100 Proof Cinnamon Schnapps produced by DeKuyper and Southern Comfort produced by Brown-Forman.
  7. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 306–307.