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What kind of alcohol is schnapps?

Schnapps is a type of distilled beverage that is commonly consumed in German-speaking countries. The word “schnapps” comes from the German word Schnaps, which means “mouthful” or “swig”.

Types of Schnapps

There are several main types of schnapps:

  • Fruit Schnapps – Made by distilling fermented fruit mash. Flavored with real fruit juices and essences.
  • Herbal Schnapps – Flavored with botanicals like herbs, roots, flowers or spices.
  • Grain Schnapps – Made from grains like wheat, rye or barley. Tends to have a neutral flavor.
  • Potato Schnapps – Made from potatoes. Tends to have a earthy, nutty flavor.
  • Peppermint Schnapps – Flavored with peppermint oil.

Fruit Schnapps

Some of the most popular fruit schnapps flavors include:

  • Apple
  • Peach
  • Cherry
  • Blackberry
  • Apricot
  • Pear
  • Plum

Fruit schnapps tend to be sweet, vibrant, and fruity. They are usually clear to golden in color. Some brands to look for include Stroh Original, Echte Kroatzbeere, and Briottet.

Herbal Schnapps

Some classic herbal schnapps flavors are:

  • Jägermeister – 56 herbs, roots and fruits including star anise, licorice, cinnamon
  • Underberg – Aromatic herbs and roots
  • Schierker Feinherb – Mountain herbs from the Alps
  • Steinhäger – Juniper berries

Herbal schnapps tend to be bold, bitter, and complex. Popular botanicals used include juniper, anise, licorice, mint, citrus peel, ginger, and alpine herbs. They can range from clear to dark brown depending on the herbs used.

Grain Schnapps

Some examples of traditional grain schnapps include:

  • Korn – Made from fermented rye mash
  • Weizenbrand – Distilled from wheat
  • Obstbrand – Fruit brandy made from apples, pears, plums
  • Himbeergeist – Made from raspberries

Grain schnapps have a dry, spicy flavor with hints of the grain used. They tend to be clear and colorless, resembling vodka.

Potato Schnapps

Some brands of potato schnapps include:

  • Berentzen Korn
  • Krambambuli
  • Helbing Kartoffel

Potato schnapps have an earthy, nutty flavor with a creamy mouthfeel. They range from clear to yellow in color.

Peppermint Schnapps

The most well-known peppermint schnapps is Rumple Minze. This liqueur is made with grain alcohol, peppermint oil, and sugar. It has a cooling, minty flavor and is colorless.

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content of schnapps can vary widely:

  • Fruit Schnapps – 15% to 40% ABV
  • Herbal Schnapps – 35% to 45% ABV
  • Grain Schnapps – 38% to 50% ABV
  • Peppermint Schnapps – 40% to 50% ABV

In Germany, schnapps must contain at least 32% ABV to be called Obstbrand (fruit brandy).

How Schnapps is Made

Schnapps is made by fermenting and distilling the main ingredient (fruit, grains, potatoes, etc). Here is the basic production process:

  1. The main ingredient is crushed/mashed to release the sugars.
  2. Yeast is added to start fermentation where the sugars convert to alcohol.
  3. The fermented mash is then distilled in a pot still or column still.
  4. The distillate is usually diluted with water to the desired ABV.
  5. It is filtered and flavored with fruit juices, spices, herbs or peppermint oil.
  6. Finally, schnapps may be aged in wooden casks or bottled immediately.

High quality schnapps use a pot still for fuller flavor. Column stills produce a lighter, more neutral spirit.

How to Drink Schnapps

There are several traditional ways to drink and serve schnapps:

  • Straight Up – Schnapps can be served neat in a small chilled shot glass.
  • With a Beer Chaser – Take the shot then follow it with a beer to cleanse the palate.
  • In Cocktails – Use peppermint or fruit schnapps to create fun cocktails.
  • After Dinner – Enjoy an herbal digestif like Jägermeister after a heavy meal.
  • On the Rocks – Pour over ice to dilute and slow the chill.
  • With Hot Beverages – Add a splash to coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

When drinking quality straight schnapps, sip slowly and appreciate the subtle flavors. Shooters and shots are better reserved for lower-end commercial brands used in party punch and cocktails.

Popular Cocktails

Here are some popular schnapps cocktails recipes:


  • 1 oz Jägermeister
  • Red bull energy drink

Pour Jägermeister into a shot glass. Drop shot glass into an ice-filled glass of Red Bull. Drink as a shot.

Peppermint Patty

  • 1 oz peppermint schnapps
  • 1 oz creme de cacao
  • 2 oz half-and-half or milk

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass.


  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz peach schnapps

Build drink over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with orange slice.

Where Schnapps Originated

Schnapps originated in Germany and remains an important part of German drinking culture. It is also popular in:

  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Scandinavia
  • Eastern Europe

In Germany, schnapps distilling has a centuries-old tradition dating back to medieval monasteries. It is still produced by many small, family-owned distilleries throughout the country.

Interesting Facts About Schnapps

  • The word “schnapps” dates back to the 16th century in Germany.
  • Schnapps distilling was originally used as a way to preserve surplus fruit and grain harvested by farmers.
  • In Germany, schnapps is traditionally consumed before noon as an eye-opener or digestif.
  • Jägermeister was originally created as a digestif and cough medicine, not a party shot.
  • Peppermint schnapps is believed to have been invented by Albert Fisher in the late 1800s.

Key Takeaways

  • Schnapps is a German term for any kind of distilled fruit brandy or flavored spirit.
  • Common types include fruit, herbal, grain, potato and peppermint schnapps.
  • Schnapps ranges from 15% to 50% ABV depending on the style.
  • It is traditionally consumed straight, in cocktails or with hot drinks.
  • Schnapps has a centuries-old tradition in Germany and German-speaking countries.