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Schnapps (/ʃnɑːps/ or /ʃnæps/; [ʃnaps] ( )) is a term that refers to any kind of strong alcoholic beverage. The English word "schnapps" is derived from the German Schnaps (plural, Schnäpse).[1]

Schnaps is a Low German noun that means "swallow"; it has been documented in its High German meaning since before the 18th century.[2]



A sign advertising home-made Marillenschnaps in Austria.

The German term Schnaps refers to any kind of strong alcoholic drink.

In Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany, and the French region of Alsace, a type of Schnaps called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit)[3] is very popular. These spirits are actually eaux de vie, though that term is not used in German.

Obstler are 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 Schnaps are apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Apricots are another popular fruit; they are used to make an Austrian Schnaps called Marillenschnaps. Fruits other than these five kinds are rarely used for German Schnaps. Apples are used along with pears to make a fruit brandy called Obstwasser. Pears are used to produce Poire Williams (Williamsbirne); plums make Zwetschgenwasser, and cherries make Kirschwasser.

A raspberry-flavored spirit called Himbeergeist is also a Schnaps, 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.


American schnapps are alcoholic beverages that are produced by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit flavors or with other flavors. This mixture is then bottled with added sugar and (usually) glycerine, producing a smooth, syrup-like drink. Their alcohol content can be between 15% and 50% ABV (30–100 proof).[4]

American schnapps can be bought in a very wide variety of flavors, including aniseed, apricot, banana, blackberry, black currant, butterscotch, cherry, cinnamon, coffee, espresso, grape, lemon, mandarin orange, menthol, peach, peppermint, raspberry, watermelon, honeydew, strawberry, mango, root beer, and sour apple.

These drinks technically fall into the category of liqueurs because of their added sugar content.[5]

Schnapszahl, Schnapsdatum[edit]

In Germany, a number that is composed of identical digits (for example, 33, 444, or 1111) is called a Schnapszahl.

Dates that are composed of identical or nearly identical digits, such as 08-08-08 or 09-09-(19)99, are popular as dates for wedding ceremonies. Such a date is called a Schnapsdatum.

The first Schnapsdatum in the 21st century was 01-01-(20)01. An especially prized date for a German wedding was 11.11.(20)11, which was a "perfect" Schnapsdatum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Branntwein at p. 298 and Schnaps at p. 1305.
  2. ^ Kluge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 23., erweiterte Auflage (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 734.
  3. ^ Wahrig: Deutsches Wörterbuch (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2006). See Obstler at p. 1087, "aus einer Obstsorte hergestellter Branntwein."
  4. ^ See, for instance, Hot Damn 100 Proof Cinnamon Schnapps produced by DeKuyper and Southern Comfort produced by Brown-Forman.
  5. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 306–307.