Schnapps (// or //) is a term for a family of alcoholic beverages that may take several forms, including distilled fruit brandies, 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 term Schnaps [ʃnaps] ( listen) (plural: Schnäpse) which is often used in reference to the consumption of spirit drinks. The words stems from Low German language and is related to the German word "schnappen", which refers to the fact that the spirit or liquor drink is usually consumed in a quick slug from a small glass (I.e., a shot glass). In British-English often the term "dram" [of liquor] is spoken.
In Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany, and the French region of Alsace, a type of schnapps called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit) 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 referred to as schnapps, although it is not a Obstler. Instead, it is an infusion of fresh berries in neutral spirits, which steeped for several weeks before being distilled.
An inexpensive heavily sweetened form of liqueur is made in America by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit syrup, spices, or other flavors. Referred to as "schnapps", these are bottled with an alcohol content typically between 15% and 20% ABV (30–40 proof), though some may be much higher.
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- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. p. 1562. ISBN 978-0-547-04101-8.
- Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Branntwein at p. 298 and Schnaps at p. 1305.
- Kluge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 23., erweiterte Auflage (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 734.
- Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Obstler at p. 1087, "aus einer Obstsorte hergestellter Branntwein."
- Die Schnapsbrenner Detailed description of the method of production, in German.
- Fachlexikon General information about the production of Schnaps, including Himbeergeist, in German.
- Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 306–307.