Liquor Vs Liquor: what’s the difference?

  • All types of liqueurs are considered liqueurs, but not all liqueurs are liqueurs.
  • Alcohol is synonymous with alcoholic spirits as a whole and includes common drinks like vodka or rum.
  • Liqueurs are usually sweet, bitter, lemony or grassy and tend to be much weaker than liqueurs.

Whether you’re planning to browse the liquor aisle at your local liquor store or just want to brush up on your knowledge before exploring new cocktails, knowing the difference between the terms “alcohol” and “liqueur” will prove useful. .

The two terms – often used interchangeably – actually refer to two different categories in the world of alcoholic beverages, as they vary in both taste and use.

Liqueurs, such as vodka or gin, are typically served over ice or used as a base in cocktails, while liqueurs, such as coffee liqueur or cream liqueur, are distilled flavoring additives intended to sweeten or enhance mixed drinks.

Still not sure which term to use when? Here’s exactly what you need to know about the difference between liquor and liquor according to industry experts.

What is the difference between alcohol and liquor?

Alcohol: Alcohol refers to alcoholic spirits as a whole, including distilled beverages made from grains, fruits, vegetables, or sugars.

Liquor is different from other types of alcohol, such as beer or wine, because of its significantly higher alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage. Beer and wine have a much lower alcohol content because they have not been distilled, unlike alcohol.

“Liquors are usually the base of an alcoholic drink or cocktail and are usually unsweetened,” says Brad Neathery, founder of Eden Whiskey.

Liquor: Liqueurs are a type of alcohol. Most liqueurs are made from a base spirit, but flavors and spices are added, resulting in a drink with more sugar and flavor, and a lower alcohol content. Liqueurs are generally used as a flavor enhancer in mixed cocktails.

Types of alcohol

Whiskey is poured from the bottle.

Common examples of alcohol are whiskey, vodka or gin.

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Alcohol is the basis of most, if not all, traditional cocktails, but there are really only a small handful of different alcohols and hard liquors to be aware of. Here are the most common liquors you’ll find on any bar rack:

  • Brandy: Brandy is a liqueur produced by distilling wine and other fruit juices such as apricot and apples and is usually served as an after-dinner digestive. The most common varieties are cognac and armagnac, both of which originate from southwestern France.
  • Gin: The word “gin” is derived from juniper, the Latin word for juniper. The popular clear liqueur is usually flavored with botanical or herbal ingredients. Juniper berries are the only botanical required.
  • Rum: Rum is made by fermenting and then distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. The golden-hued spirit is produced primarily in the Caribbean and forms a large part of the culture of the West Indies and Atlantic Canada.
  • Tequila: Made from the blue agave, tequila is named after a town in Jalisco, Mexico. Strict Mexican laws ensure that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco.
  • Vodka: Vodka is made primarily from water, ethanol, and fermented grain, but can also be made from potatoes, fruit, and even honey. Clear liqueur is the most popular spirit in the world and is widely produced in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
  • Whiskey: Whiskey is made from distilled grains, barley, corn, rye or wheat which have usually been aged in wooden casks or sherry casks. The term “whiskey” is used to describe American or Irish whiskey, while “whiskey” is correct when referring to Canadian, Japanese or Scottish varieties. The term “Scotch” is reserved for whiskey made exclusively in Scotland.

Kinds of liquor

Shaken baileys irish cream cocktail poured.

Common examples of liqueur are Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua or Frangelico.

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Most people don’t enjoy alcohol or liqueurs in the same way, although you can drink both in the same styles – neat, on ice, or chilled. Liqueur is more commonly used to amp up the flavor of certain cocktail recipes. Here are some of the most common types of liquor you’ll find in popular cocktails:

  • Coffee liquor: Coffee liqueur – such as Kahlua or Tia Maria – is made with coffee beans soaked most often in rum, then combined with simple syrup and vanilla extract.
  • Fruit liquor: Fruit liqueur is most often made from neutral spirit or brandy with the addition of macerated fruit and sugar to create a slightly syrupy drink. Limoncello (made with lemons) and Grand Marnier (made with bitter orange) are among the most popular.
  • Cream liqueur: Bailey’s Irish Cream is one of the most common cream liqueur options. The milk drink is made with cream, cocoa and Irish whiskey.
  • Herbal liqueur: Look to the licorice notes of Jagermeister or Sambuca as examples of a fine herbal liqueur. Herbaceous hard liquor is made from a unique combination of herbs and spices and often tastes quite pungent.
  • Hazelnut flavored liqueur: Hazelnut Frangelico and Almond Amaretto are excellent examples of hazelnut liqueurs. These sweet and lightly spiced liquors are often made with rum or whiskey combined with common nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts and even apricot kernels.

Insider’s Takeaways

Alcohol and liquor may look and sound a lot alike, but the two spirits are very distinct in both flavor and use. Alcohol is a catch-all term for any hard spirit that has a higher ABV than wine or beer and includes common drinks like vodka and whiskey.

Liqueur, on the other hand, is usually lower in alcohol content and much sweeter, more lemony, or more herbaceous than regular liqueur due to the addition of flavorings and spices. Liqueurs are used as a flavor enhancer rather than the base of a drink.

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