Difference between Liquor and Liqueur

March 9, 2017 by Editorial Team

Believe it or not, “liqueur” is not “liquor” spelled differently. Although they have nearly the same spelling, they are actually two different kinds of drinks that are used differently. And no, they are not interchangeable. So what is the difference between “liqueur” and “liquor”? If you have wondered this, this article is for you.

Descriptions

Liquor vs Liqueur
Types of liquor

Liquor is a common term that refers to any alcoholic drink produced by fermenting a mash of grains, fruits, or other plants. This mash then goes through distillation. Depending on the type of liquor, it may be aged in barrels or may contain artificial flavor. Examples of liquor are rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, and pisco.

Liquor usually has a thin consistency. It has an intense flavor with a hint of bitterness and a distinct “afterburn.” Although sugar may be added during the fermentation stage, liquor is never sugary sweet to the palate. In general, liquor has a high alcohol by volume (ABV). Many types of liquor are used as the primary ingredients in cocktails or are served alone.

liqueur
Types of liqueur

On the other hand, liqueur is a sweetened alcoholic beverage. It is typically made by infusing spices, nuts, herbs, fruits, flowers, or plant juice in water or in distilled alcohol (i.e. liquor) which has an added sweetener (e.g. corn syrup or sugar). Examples of liqueur are cinnamon schnapps, Aperol, and Kahlua.

Liqueur has a thick, syrupy consistency. It is sweet and has a low alcohol content or proof because the sweetener and/or flavor added to it during the process minimizes the alcohol level.

Many people believe that liqueur originated from the alcoholic herbal infusions our ancestors used to treat certain illnesses. Nowadays, it is widely used as a cocktail ingredient due to the variety of flavors it offers, or as an ingredient in cooking. It can also be served alone, iced, or mixed with coffee or cream. Finally, it can also be served as a before or after meal drink.

Liquor vs Liqueur

What, then, is the difference between liquor and liqueur?

Liquor is any alcoholic beverage made from a mash of grains, fruits, or other plants, which is fermented and distilled. On the other hand, liqueur is usually made by infusing spices, nuts, herbs, fruits, flowers, or plant juice in water or in distilled alcohol with added sugar.

Liquor is potent, bitter, and has an “afterburn” effect whereas liqueur is sweet. Liquor has a thin consistency and has a high alcohol level. Examples of liquor are rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, and pisco. On the contrary, liqueur is sweet, viscous, and has a lower alcohol level. Examples of liqueur are cinnamon schnapps, Aperol, and Kahlua.

Comparison Chart

LiquorLiqueur
An alcoholic drink produced by fermenting a mash of grains, fruits, or other plants which then goes through distillationA sweetened alcoholic beverage made by infusing spices, nuts, herbs, fruits, flowers, or plant juice in water or distilled alcohol with added sugar
Thin consistencyThick consistency
Bitter; intense flavor; has an “afterburn” effectSweet
Has a high alcohol levelHas a low alcohol level
Examples are rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, and piscoExamples are cinnamon schnapps, Aperol, and Kahlua