What’s the Difference Between Liquor & Liqueur? Resolved

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Learning the difference between a “liqueur” and a “liquor” is useful, whether you’re planning on purchasing alcoholic drinks at your own local liquor store or store or want to improve your knowledge about the field.

Both terms are often used interchangeably, but did you know they vary in taste and use?

Let’s clarify what’s the difference between liquor and liqueur to end the confusion.

Differences Between Liquor & Liqueur 

Liqueur Bottles on a Wooden Table

Liquor refers to alcoholic drinks typically served over ice or as a base spirit in mixed beverages. It is a famous drink in the alcohol world.

Also, liquor is made from various components, such as fermented cereal grains, fruits, vegetables,

It’s different from other alcohol, such as wine and beer, since liquor has significantly higher alcohol. Liquor common examples are rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, gin, and brandy.

On the other hand, the liqueur is a kind of liquor, too. But liqueur typically refers to distilled spirits produced using liquor as their base.

Liqueurs are sweetened and flavored using herbs and oils, sugars and syrups, nuts, chocolate, cream, or coffee beans steeped in liquors, like rum.

These distilled flavor additives meant more sugar and flavor with weaker alcohol content.

Some liqueur common examples are coffee liqueur, cream liqueur (crème liqueur), nut flavored liqueur, fine herbal liqueur, fruit liqueur, whiskey liqueur, orange liqueur, Sambuca [1], and Baileys Irish cream.

Read: How Much Do Liquor Stores Make?

How Are They Different? 

Fermentation & Production Process

Liquor (hard alcohol, distilled beverages, or spirits) undergoes the distillation process. During this phase, the alcohol content is increased due to condensation and heat.

Besides, some liquor types, like rum, are produced by distilling sugarcane molasses, and brandy, a liquor produced by distilling wine.

Liqueurs, sometimes referred to as cordials, are alcoholic libations with added spiciness or sweetness to their base alcohol.

Sweetness & Flavor

Homemade Whiskey on a Bottle

One of the key differences between liquor versus liqueur is their flavor and sweetness.

Unlike pure and raw liquors, liqueurs are heavily sweet and complex flavored drinks, like nut-flavored liqueurs, cream liqueurs, and fruit liqueurs.

Distillers usually start with a base liquor (rum or whiskey base), which then gets infused with spices, herbs, and other flavorings. So, there are flavor variations – from sweet to sour to slightly spicy liqueurs.

Some common crème liqueur options include: Crème De Cassis, Crème de Menthe, Grand Marnier.

“Liquors are usually the base of an alcoholic drink or cocktail and are not usually sweet.”

– Brad Neathery, Oak & Eden Whiskey’s Founder

Liqueurs are usually used to make mixed cocktails, as they offer different flavors, which go well with different mixers like vanilla extract, fruit extract, and other fruit juices.

Usage & Health Benefits

Since liqueur, a slightly syrupy beverage contains more sugar and flavorings, liquor is a healthier option since it’s pure and doesn’t contain much sugar and calories.

Besides, some liquors, like gin and tequila, have botanical or herbal ingredients, such as juniper berries, apricot pits, a blue agave plant, and sugarcane juice.

But not all liquor has low calories, as some Canadian, American, or Irish whiskey is packed with calories, like Crown Royal, Jack Daniel’s, and Bushmills.

Alcohol Content

Bottles of Homemade Liqueurs

Liquors and liqueurs have varying alcohol content. Commonly, flavored liqueurs have lower ABV, ranging from 15-30%.

Meanwhile, liquor is mostly in the range of 40-55% or 80-110 proof. These are alcoholic spirits like whiskey, vodka, and tequila.

How It’s Consumed

In Cocktails

You can consume liquor and liqueur in cocktails.

“Liquor, a bold spirit that ignites the night, while liqueur, a luscious elixir, adds a touch of enchantment to the mix.”

– Liquor Laboratory

Liqueurs are used to enhance mixed drinks or certain cocktail recipes, while liquors are more enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

Straight/On The Rocks

Whiskey On The Rocks

While you can consume both on the rocks, straight or neat, liquor can provide a better experience.

Liqueurs are too sweet to drink straight or neat, while liquor has a flavor balance – suitable for consumption on its own or with mixers like bitter orange, lemon, etc.

Food Recipes

Depending on your style, you can use both as food recipes.

Some food recipes with liquor are:

  • Penne Alla Vodka
  • Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
  • Bloody Mary Soup with Beans

Some food recipes with liqueurs are:

  • Souffle a L’orange
  • Chocolate Cassis Cake
  • Bananas Foster Beignets

Serving Method

Whiskey on a Glasses

Liquor is served straight, neat, or over ice, usually in a rocks glass.

You can serve liqueurs like liquors, but in most cases, they’re mixed with juices in cocktails.

Price Point

The price of liquor and liqueurs varies, depending on the brand, type, and age. But their prices can be between $10 to $30.


Is liqueur considered hard liquor?

A liqueur isn’t considered hard liquor for its reduced alcoholic content. It is a sweetened and diluted alcoholic libation with around 15% ABV, lower than hard liquors with 40% ABV or above.

Can liqueur get you drunk?

Yes, it’s possible to get drunk with liqueurs. This drink typically contains only a small handful but a higher concentration of alcohol than wine or beer [2], which we can consider a potent drink, even though served in small amounts.

Wrapping Up

Although liquor and liqueur look similar in the alcoholic beverage world, they’re very different in their use and flavor.

Liquor is a drink with a higher ABV than beer or wine, like whiskey and vodka.

Conversely, liqueurs have lower alcohol content and are usually more herbaceous or citrusy. It’s sweeter and is used as a flavor enhancer instead of the base of a cocktail.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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