Ask the Bartender: What Exactly Is Schnapps?

Each week we answer all those burning questions that you've always wanted to know the answer to, but then get too drunk (or shy) and forget to ask. From the home office:

What is schnapps exactly, and why is there a root beer flavored version?

Schnapps. The word makes me picture an icy-breathed huddle of teenagers passing around a fifth before a Bears game. Schnapps has the worst reputation, no thanks us.

TRUE SCHNAPPS: In Germany, schnapps is a clear brandy distilled from various fruits; the spirit barely resembles the children’s cough syrup rainbow we associate with the word. German schnapps is similar to, but fruitier than, Italian grappa or French eau de vie.

NASTY SCHNAPPS: Schnapps, in America, refers to the white trash portion of the bar most looted by underage girls, that gaggle of artificially sweetened and flavored liqueurs that do nothing but attract fruit flies and make shot with “sexy” names that said underage girls will puke up before last call. Peach schnapps, one of the foulest bottles in the bar, has done more to defile the category than all other flavors combined. These liqueurs usually serve as adjuncts to novelty drinks that mimic childhood memories, like root beer floats or watermelon Jolly Ranchers, hence the assortment of super fun flavors.

Schnapps regained a bit of footing during the Appletini insanity a few years ago (made possible by Apple Pucker). And just in case you wanted to know, yes we bartenders were judging you on that one. The biggest perpetrator of schnapps, DeKuyper, has just rebranded their entire line of schnapps into categories like Puckers, Luscious, Bursts, and Fruit Brandies—doing away with the word “schnapps” altogether; but perhaps they can interest you in peach brandy or “Luscious Peach Tree”? I am particularly amused that they would want to separate themselves from the negative connotations of the word, connotations that they largely helped to create.

Schnapps rule of thumb: If the bottle is clear and has German words you can't pronounce, try some. If the liquid inside the bottle reminds you of the color of your favorite Otter Pop, take a pass.

If you have a nagging booze question you want answered, email me HERE.

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