Liqueurs or liquors: what’s the difference

Liquor liqueur difference
Difference between liqueurs or liquors?

You might have asked yourself one of these questions: what’s the difference between liqueurs and liquors? Are liqueurs and liquors the same? Well, liqueurs are sweet while liquors are not. That’s the easiest way to remember the difference. Now we’ll explain it a little more technical.

But then again liquor slushies are most of the time really sweet because the liquor is mixed with loads of sweet drinks and ice. But focus on the main topic: what’s the difference between liquors and liqueurs?

What is liquor?

Whiskey, tequila, vodka, rum and gin are (distilled) liquors. A distilled liquor is obtained by the distillation of fermented fruits, plants or grains. Fermentation is the process where yeast transforms carbohydrates (= sugar) into ethanol (= alcohol), carbon dioxide and energy.

Distilled liquors are alcoholic beverages in which the concentration of ethanol has been increased above that of the original fermented mixture by the method of distillation. Distillation means that when a liquid which contains ethanol is heated to a temperature above 78.5°C but below 100°C (the boiling point of water) the vapour coming off that liquid condenses. That condensate will have a higher alcohol concentration.

How is liqueur made?

To come to liqueur, liquor is used as a base spirit. The liquor gets flavored with fruit, plants or grains and sweetened by the addition of sugar. The alcoholic percentage of liqueur can vary from 20% to 60% (40 to 120 proof) and it contains at least 100 grams of sugar per liter. To talk about cream or crème, the liqueur should contain at least 250 grams of sugar per liter.

So liqueurs are sweet because they contain a lot of residual sugar, whilst liquors don’t. There are many types of liqueurs:

  • Berry liqueurs such as Chambord
  • Coffee liqueurs such as Tia Maria
  • Cream liqueurs such as Amarula
  • Crème liqueurs such as Crème de Banane
  • Flower liqueurs such as St Germain
  • Fruit liqueurs such as Midori or Cointreau
  • Herbal liqueurs such as Sambuca

Now you know everything about liqueurs and liquors.


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