A picture of som liquors and liqueurs.

Liquor vs. Liqueur: What’s The Difference?

Liquor and liqueur, with their similar spelling and pronunciation, can be easily confused. However, liquor and liqueur are different types of alcoholic beverages with distinct characteristics. In this quick guide, you’ll learn the difference between liquor and liqueur and how these two types of drinks are produced and consumed. We’ll also provide you with lots of examples of liquors and liqueurs so you’ll easily be able to spot them in the future.

What Is A Liquor?

Liquor, also known as spirits, is an alcoholic beverage produced by distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetables, where fermentation converts sugars into alcohol, which is then concentrated through distillation. This process increases its alcohol content significantly, typically ranging from about 40% to 50% alcohol by volume (ABV). Liquors are often used as the base in cocktails and can be consumed neat or with mixers. They have a strong, often sharp taste and are valued for their clear, refined flavors.

Liquor Examples

  • Scotch Whisky
  • Irish Whiskey
  • American Whiskey
  • Bourbon
  • Tennessee Whiskey
  • Rye Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • White Rum
  • Dark Rum
  • Spiced Rum
  • Gin
  • Blanco Tequila
  • Reposado Tequila
  • Añejo Tequila
  • Brandy
  • Cognac
  • Armagnac
  • Mezcal
  • Absinthe

What Is A Liqueur?

Liqueurs are sweet alcoholic beverages that are flavored with a variety of ingredients like fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, nuts, or cream. Making liqueurs typically involves starting with a base spirit (a type of liquor) and then adding additional flavors. Take Bailey’s Irish Cream, for instance. This liqueur starts with Irish Whiskey as its base, which is then blended with cream and other flavorings such as cocoa and vanilla.

Liqueurs are typically much sweeter than liquors and have a lower alcohol content, usually between 15% to 30% ABV. Liqueurs are often used in cocktails to add flavor and sweetness and can also be enjoyed on their own, often as a digestif or in dessert drinks.

Liqueur Examples

  • Baileys Irish Cream – A cream-based liqueur with Irish whiskey
  • Amarula – A cream liqueur made from the African marula fruit
  • Grand Marnier – An orange-flavored liqueur made with cognac
  • Chambord – A raspberry-flavored liqueur
  • Limoncello – A lemon-flavored liqueur from Italy
  • Cointreau – A sweet and bitter orange-flavored liqueur
  • Jägermeister – A German herbal liqueur
  • St-Germain – An elderflower-flavored liqueur
  • Kahlúa – A coffee-flavored liqueur from Mexico
  • Frangelico – A hazelnut-flavored liqueur
  • Amaretto – An almond-flavored liqueur, often associated with a sweet, marzipan flavor
  • Sambuca – An anise-flavored liqueur, often served with coffee beans
  • Midori – A melon-flavored liqueur
  • Drambuie – A Scottish liqueur made from whiskey, honey, and herbs
  • Benedictine – A herbal liqueur with a complex flavor profile
  • Chartreuse – A French liqueur made by Carthusian monks with a mix of herbs and spices
  • Aperol – An Italian aperitif with a bitter orange flavor
  • Campari – An Italian bitter liqueur, known for its dark red color