Spirits Around the World: Schnapps

Sweet, or not too sweet—that is the question. And depending on where you’re drinking schnapps, it could be either

Ah, schnapps. Put the liqueur on a cocktail menu, and it’s likely to be met with a mixed response: To many, schnapps’ reputation as a saccharine, often cheap, alcohol is enough to scare away the most adventurous cocktail drinker from indulging in a sip.

But the liqueur wasn’t always so sweet—in fact, traditionally, schnapps wasn’t supposed to be sweet at all.

Classic schnapps—the generic term for all clear brandies fermented with fruit, without the addition of sugar or fragrances—is a colorless alcohol with a light, fruity flavor. It is traditionally distilled in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and it can be made with cherries, apricots, plums, pears and apples.

The American version, however, is what gives the liquor a bad rap. Although American schnapps does go through a similar distillation process, the big difference comes during bottling. During this process, extra sugar is added to the liquor, creating the sweet, syrup-like alcohol that’s unlike traditional schnapps. (The added sugar also contradicts the original definition of schnapps, leading some distillers to believe that American schnapps isn’t a true schnapps at all.) 

Now, a super sweet or fruity drink isn’t every attendees’ cup of tea (or cocktail, so to speak)—but it’s high time planners reclaim this diverse and storied liqueur and show attendees what it can do. Try schnapps these four ways: 

Present it traditionally. It’s customary that schnapps is served after dinner, at room temperature and in small 1- to 2-ounce tulip-shaped glasses to get the most flavor. Because it’s best sipped slowly, consider serving schnapps as an after-dinner, wind-down drink during Network events. 

Offer it as a mark of celebration. Schnapps was traditionally offered as a way to seal an agreement or a gesture of friendship, so extend the same courtesy in business-forward Decide meetings. 

Throw it in a cocktail. If planners only have American schnapps on hand, it’s best served in a cocktail rather than straight. Drinks such as a Fuzzy Navel and Sex on the Beach are crowd favorites, and both include a touch of peach schnapps. 

Make it dessert. If you’d rather have your schnapps and eat it, too, skip the bar treatment entirely and add schnapps to dessert. Sweet treats such as a boozy peach cobbler or ice cream sundaes with a butterscotch schnapps topping will do the trick.