Difference between Liquor and Liqueur

It is easy to misunderstand the terms “liqueur” and “liquor” because they are so similar. Both are distilled spirits, which contain alcohol. They are essential ingredients in mixing cocktails. However, they are not the same liquids and the terms are not interchangeable.

Liquor is generally not sweeter than liqueurs. Many liquors can be flavored, adding to the confusion. While liquors make up the base of a drink, liqueurs are used mainly as flavoring agents in mixed beverages. Let’s check below what is the difference between liquor and liqueur.

What is the Difference between Liquor and Liqueur


Liquor is also known as spirits. It’s an alcoholic beverage that is made from grains or other plants and fermented to make it potent. Although there are a few other liquors that fall under this umbrella, six types of distilled spirits are generally considered liquors. These include brandy, vodka, rum and tequila.

After fermentation, the distillation process separates water from alcohol. This process raises the alcohol content to at least 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). Brandy, vodka, rum and tequila are typically 40 percent ABV. Whisky is usually between 40 percent and 55 percent ABV. Gin can be anywhere from 37 1/2% to 50 percent ABV.

Mixes and cocktails are made with liquors. They are often drunk neat or on the rocks. Think gin, tonic, scotch, rum, Coke, seven and seven, and the Manhattan, martini and old-fashioned

People often shoot shots. Technically, a shooter is one that includes liqueurs or other mixers to popular drinks.

Flavored Liquors

The fermentation process does not produce liquor that tastes sweet. Even though liquors can be purchased in flavored forms such as cinnamon and citrus, they do not taste sweet. After distillation, the flavor is added through a steeping process. This is similar to how oils and vinegar are infused.

Whiskey is the exception to this rule. Many regulations covering whiskey’s various styles state that any flavoring or sweetener that is added to whiskey must be considered a liqueur. On cherry bourbons and apple whiskeys, you will often find “whiskey liquor” in the fine print. These flavored brandies, as well as many of the bourbons, may contain sugar.


Liquors are technically liquor, as they are made from distilled spirits. Liquids are sweetened spirits that have various flavors, oils and extracts added. Rum, whiskey, brandy and other liquors may be used as base spirits for liqueurs.

Cordials were once called liqueurs in the past. Many liqueurs have a long history because they were used medicinally often. Popular herbal liqueurs, such as Chartreuse and Benedictine, were created originally to treat various ailments by monks who practiced alchemy.

However, liqueurs have a lower alcohol content than liquors due to the additions. You can find a range of a low 15% ABV (30 proof) up to a strong 55% ABV (110 proof), so it is not important.

You can use liqueurs in many different cocktails. These are the special ingredients that make the drink unique. Many can be enjoyed straight, chilled or on the rocks.

Liqueur Varieties

There are many flavors of liqueurs, from orange to almond to coffee. There are cream liqueurs like Baileys Irish Cream and creme liqueurs which are sweeter and are similar to a powerful syrup like creme de cacao.

Grand Marnier is an excellent example of orange liqueur. It’s a classic ingredient in cocktails like the whiskey daisy, and a delicious addition to many recipes. It is also delicious when enjoyed as a nightcap with hot tea.

Amaretto and Chambord are just a few of the well-known liqueurs. Some brands use unique recipes while others have a distinctive flavor and are produced by different companies.

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