Liquor vs Liqueur

If you’re underage or just turned 21 (the minimum age for drinking), you probably don’t know the difference between liquor and liqueur. The two terms probably cause some confusion for you especially if you’ve just started working as a bartender. Now, these two terms are completely different. They’re not like Scotch, which is essentially whiskey but made in a specific country (Scotland).

But confusing the two is quite common since they’re both basic bar ingredients, so you’ll probably hear the two terms several times if going to a bar is part of your social schedule, or if you just go there by yourself. To clear things out, we’ve listed the difference between Liquor & Liqueur in this article on “Liquor vs Liqueur”.

So, without further ado, here’s the difference between the two terms.

Difference between Liquor vs Liqueur

Liquor vs Liqueur:

#1: Liquor

The word liquor is essentially pronounced “Licker” and can be used interchangeably with words like spirt or hard alcohol. A spirt must be alcoholic (also distilled), and by that terminology, beer and wine aren’t spirits. Some liquors may include sugar, but in technical terms, liquor should be “sugar-free”. 

The amount of sugar in liquors is still very little and a few examples are Vodka, Gin, Tequila, and Whiskey.  Recently, many new flavored spirts have made their way to the market (cupcake flavored vodka, for example). These new flavors include a lot of sugar which could potentially move them into the liqueur category.

How they’re made:

Making liquors isn’t as complicated as you think. The process of making liquors is called distillation, and the first step is to make an alcoholic mash/liquid via fermentation. 

After that. The mash/liquid has to be poured into a still to extract the alcohol (in high concentration). 

The result is a distilled spirit that’s then aged, and it’s distilled again after the addition of flavors. Instead of distilling the spirit a second time, you can water it down to “bottle strength”. The amount of sugar should be kept at a minimum except if it’s a caveat.

#2: Liqueur

There are two ways to pronounce the word “Liqueur” – “Lick-Keewr” or “Lick-Oor”. Both liquor and liqueur are quite common in the alcohol industry, but they’re not the same. It’s a pretty common mistake, so don’t fret too much if you confused the two. Liqueurs are essentially liquors but with a higher concentration of sugar and flavors.

Liqueurs also contain less alcohol, but that’s not always true. It can be considered partially true due to the watering down effect of adding sugar and flavor. They’re also thicker and more viscous.

How they’re made:

Most of the time, liqueurs are made from liquors. Methods like maceration and infusion are used to add flavor to a distilled spirit, and once that’s done, the sweetener/sugar is added in (in a high concentration of course). Specific criteria need to be provided for the amount of sugar that can be used in a particular liqueur, and oftentimes countries have strict rules related to that.

Using Liqueurs in cocktails:

They’re pretty common in cocktails because of the depth of their flavor and complexity. There are certain types of liqueurs ranging from single-flavored to super-complexed, so cocktail makers have a huge variety of flavors to mess around with. A liqueur always adds sweetness to a cocktail, otherwise, it wouldn’t be considered a liqueur (rather a liquor).

Sweetness and Flavor:

The key differences between the two are sweetness and flavor. Liqueurs generally have a high concentration of the two, while they’re kept at a minimum in liquors. So, typically, a bottle of liquor – Vodka and Gin, for example, won’t have “flavored” written on them.

Liqueur bottles, on the other hand, are labeled with “flavored X” (Cinnamom flavored Whiskey, for example). That pretty much means that the bottle contains a high concentration of sweetness and flavor.


There you have it, the difference between Liquor & Liqueur. Generally, liqueurs are made from liquors with added sugar and flavor, but that’s not always true. The bottom line is that liquor has less sugar and flavor, while liqueur contains a high concentration of the two. They both have their similarities as well, but the differences are much bigger. Liqueur even has less alcohol than liquor.

With that out of the way, we hope this article on “Liquor vs Liqueur” clears out the confusion between the two. If you have any further queries or would like to add something to this article, feel free to comment down below, and we’ll try to respond to as many as we can!

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