European alchemists first called this alcoholic distillation which they thought would be a cure-all "the elixir of life." Spirits are one of the most traditional forms of drinks, made since antiquity in the Middle East, arriving in the West during the crusades and changing little since then.
Schnapps is a spirit which has been very popular for a long time. It comes in a variety of flavours and can be made from different raw ingredients. In this article, we will arm you with the knowledge you need to find the best schnapps and other spirits and enjoy them.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best schnapps products: Our Picks
- 4 Shopping Guide: What you should know about schnapps
- 4.1 What is schnapps?
- 4.2 Where does schnapps come from?
- 4.3 What is special about schnapps?
- 4.4 How do you classify schnapps?
- 4.5 What types of spirits are there?
- 4.6 What are the characteristics of schnapps?
- 4.7 What percentage of Schnapps is alcohol?
- 4.8 Spirits as a base for other alcohols
- 4.9 How long does an open bottle of schnapps last if kept properly?
- 4.10 How should I drink schnapps?
- 4.11 What goes well with schnapps?
- 5 Shopping criteria
- 6 Summary
- Spirits were first made by Arab alchemists as an alcoholic base for perfumes. The first Eastern alchemists who created the art of distillation used it to extract the "spirit" from wine. It is thought that the first spirits were used for medical remedies.
- Some spirits are not only a drink in their own right but are also used as a base for other spirits and liqueurs. Schnapps and other spirits are made from distilling various organic products.
- The first and last step in the distillation process are not suitable for human consumption. These are called the head and the tail and are used to make other drinks.
- These drinks are classified based on the raw ingredients used for distillation of the original "paste." Rum, tequila, whisky and vodka are types of spirits.
The Best schnapps products: Our Picks
Shopping Guide: What you should know about schnapps
Schnapps is a traditional spirit, which has been distilled for centuries. Today there is a wide variety of schnapps available on the market, with different types, brands and flavours. To help you understand more about schnapps, we’ve prepared a shopping guide with the most frequently asked questions.
What is schnapps?
The term “schnapps” can refer to a range of different alcoholic spirits. It is typically between 15 and 20% alcohol (30 to 40 proof), but it can be much stronger.
Where does schnapps come from?
What is special about schnapps?
How do you classify schnapps?
Many spirits do not have a particular name but are rather referred to according to their key ingredients. Cider is an example of this, as is palm liqueur or mead. You can also classify spirits as wines (for example fruit wines) or pomace liqueurs.
What types of spirits are there?
Other spirits which are common in Asia are made from fermenting milk, for example tuba, buri or Mongolian brandy. These usually have the suffix “arrac”, a very broad term which covers any kind of exotic spirit.
Below is a table of the most common schnapps, spirits and liqueurs:
|Pear Brandy||Pears||Clear||Fermented inside the bottle or in steel jars. Does not go off.||Some add the pear to the bottle, others apply the bottle to the pear while it is growing.|
|Plum brandy||Plum||Red||Made with a variety of plums depending on where it is made.||Sweet liqueur.|
|Juniper spirit||Juniper berries||Clear||-||Gin is a common example. Also called Alise, from the provence of Alsace in France.|
|Apple brandy||Apple||Clear or amber.||Distilled like cider and aged in an oak barrel.||Two types: cider or apple spirit.|
|Grape brandy||Grapes and wines.||White if it is wine. Amber if it is brandy.||Distillation of wine. Fermentation process produces grape brandy.||Known as brandy or cognac.|
|Grains spirit||Various types of cereals and grains.||Clear or amber.||Fermented from a paste of crushed cereals, grains and sugars.||Depending on the raw ingredients, can be: whisky, sake, or vodka.|
|Cherry brandy||Cherries and sour cherries.||Dark||Fruit and leaves are crushed together, then fermented and distilled.||Best known variety is “marraschino”.|
|Tequila||Blue agave and American agave.||Clear||Amber when aged.||The agave is cooked and fermented, then distilled and aged in oak barrels.|
|Sugar cane spirits||Sugar cane and molasses.||Dark||Made from crushed sugar cane. The pulp is then fermented and distilled.||Called rum when made from sugar cane.|
What are the characteristics of schnapps?
Schnapps is typically taken after large meals, as an aid to digestion. It has also been long used to improve circulation and to calm nerves and ease stress.
What percentage of Schnapps is alcohol?
Spirits as a base for other alcohols
You can buy spirits which are designed specifically to be used as a base to make other liqueurs. These are different to those you'll typically find in the bottle shop, as they are not suitable for consumption without modification, they don't have any flavour and they are very strong.
How long does an open bottle of schnapps last if kept properly?
On the other hand, other spirits such as milky liqueurs last much less long. These needed be stored in the fridge with the lid properly closed. These kinds of spirits usually have a printed expiration date.
How should I drink schnapps?
What goes well with schnapps?
As you have already seen, there are a wide variety of spirits and liqueurs available on the market these days. This variety reflects different distillation methods, raw materials and flavours. Schnapps and other spirits are complex drinks, so to help you choose the right one we have outlined the most important criteria to look for when making a purchase.
The presentation of an alcoholic beverage says a lot about it. Not only because the bottle designs can be really quite beautiful. Large distilleries are committed to quality in every aspect and design is one of them. As with many things, a quality spirit enters first through the eye and then through the mouth.
The best brands have very professional designs and interestingly shaped bottles. The labels are usually of high quality, and may describe the history or background of the distillery. Of course, there are some brands which present their product in luxury packaging without this really representing the quality of the drink itself.
Some distilleries have a long tradition of making great spirits. In Mexico, for example, we find the famous 10 tequila houses. This is an important aspect to note, as many of the best spirits come from the most famous distilleries.
Today you have so many options at your fingertips, you can browse through hundreds of wineries and distilleries. Our recommendation is that you choose one from a distillery with a long tradition since they have years of experience and family recipes passed from parents to children.
Pure or mixture
Pure spirits are made from a single raw material. In the market, you will find apple, pear, plum, cereals, rice and cherry based spirits. These are traditional, light coloured and full-bodied spirits. They are high in alcohol and are usually taken after meals.
Mixed spirits are distilled with other elements. The most common is that made with anise, such as Sambuca. Also fruity mixtures such as plum or apricot brandies. Some mixed spirits are made from juniper berries, which are the main component in gin, and the most exotic are milk-based.
Type of spirit
As we have already mentioned, there are different types of spirits. The easiest way to categorize them is according to their main ingredients. That's why you can find rice spirits, which are typical of Asia, such as sake or soju. In the West, the most common spirits are wine or grains.
Sweet or dry
Generally, spirits are distilled without added sugars. Pure spirits are a type of alcohol with very few calories and which, through distillation processes, all sugars are eliminated. These dry spirits are more natural, made with traditional recipes and from organic agricultural ingredients.
Other spirits, such as tequila or rum, do contain sugar. There are also derivatives of schnapps and brandy with added sugars. These drinks are more palatable but less natural.
Spirits usually contain between 30% and 45% volume of alcohol, although the term aguardiente can refer to practically any beverage with high alcohol content. Some spirits can reach 75% alcohol.
Be sure to check the alcohol content before buying any spirit or liqueur. If you plan to drink it on its own, in a cold glass after meals, choose one that has between 30 and 45% alcohol at most, otherwise, it will be very strong and may even be unpleasant.
Although spirits are a drink to be consumed in their own right, they can also used as a base to distill other liquors. If you plan to do this, choose a distilled base designed for this purpose, since it will be much cheaper than commercially sold versions, as they have no taste or smell and are made for that use.
Schnapps is the oldest distilled drink known to man. It is a traditional liquor that is made from the fermentation and distillation of organic agricultural products. It is a spirit drink that is taken around the world, especially as a final "touch" after a big meal, as it helps with digestion.
These days you can find a wide variety of spirits on the market. The simple ones are made from a single raw ingredient such as grapes or grain. The mixed spirits are usually sweeter and used as a base for another liqueur or wine. In this article, we have explained how to find and select the best spirit on the market.
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(Source of the featured image: Tadeusz Wejkszo: 29571911/ 123rf.com)