Liquor vs. Liqueur: The Two Unique Differences & Examples of Each

Two glasses of whiskey with ice cubes served on wooden planks. Vintage countertop with highlight and a glass of hard liquor

Liquor vs. Liqueur: The Two Unique Differences & Examples of Each

Liquor vs. liqueur: Is there a difference? There's more of a difference than you might think. While most people get confused, there's a difference between alcohol and sweeteners. There's a difference between liquor and beer and wine.

There's also a unique history that makes liquor and liqueur quite different. For instance, liqueur is alcoholic, but the difference is that it has added sweetener. In fact, it was originally invented in the 15th century when it was used as a form of medicine. However, liquor has existed for thousands of years, dating back to 7000–6600 BCE. However, these two kinds of drinks have evolved over the years to create some of the finest.

Looking more into the unique differences between liquor and liqueur will show when you when to use each one properly. You'll have a better understanding of the specifics that define each one. You'll also know how each one is used for special drinks.

Liquor Is a Distilled Beverage, While Liqueur Is a Sweetener

Pouring whiskey from bottle to two glasses with ice cubes, served on wooden planks. Vintage countertop with highlight and a glass of hard liquor
Liquor and liqueur are more different than you might realize.


When it comes to liquor, it's used to describe spirits and alcoholic beverages. Another way to look at it is they are used to define any distilled beverage. For example, liquor is made of plants and grains, which are made for gin, rum, vodka, and tequila. Another unique fact about liquor, also sometimes called booze, is that it's distilled and has an alcohol content of 20% to 40%.

One of the differentiating factors when compared to liqueur is that liquor is not sweet. It may be fermented to make gin, vodka, rum, and tequila, but the sole purpose of liquor isn't for it to be sweet. It isn't sweet when the flavor is.

However, liqueur is sweet. It's made to be sweet. Liqueur is designed to describe the spirits or alcoholic drinks that are sweetened with different flavors or extracts. Having said that, you can easily mix liquor and liqueur to make a mixed drink. For example, some people will use liquor like brandy or rum as a base to mix with a sweetened liqueur flavor. It gives the drink a sweeter taste.

It's important to recognize that liqueur still has alcohol in it. Another way to think about it is that liquor-sweetened is liqueurs. Additionally, liqueurs have about 10% to 20% alcohol in them compared to higher alcohol in liquor. You can also get a variety of sweetened flavors with liqueur, such as citrus or mango. Cocktails are often made with liqueur to give it a sweeter taste.

Liquor vs. Liqueur: The Different Flavors

The history of liqueur is unique. For instance, the liqueur dates back to the 13th century when it was used as herbal medicine. Some of the liqueur recipes are secretive. In fact, Chartreuse is still a secret recipe used today. Over time, different flavors have come out that have made liqueur unique.

Liqueurs have a variety of flavors that create some of the finest mixed drinks. You can find flavors like orange, floral, fruity, coffee, and salmon flavors. In addition, there are also cream liqueurs like Bailey Irish Cream that is often added to whisky or Guinness beer.

Here are some of the most popular liqueur flavors found in grocery stores:

  • Amaretto
  • Chambord
  • Cointreau
  • Crème de menthe
  • Irish cream
  • Kahlua

While liquor originated thousands of years ago, the evolution of different liquor has a different history. For example, gin was thought to have come out in the 1550s by a Dutch physician. Additionally, rum is said to have come out in the 1600s. Each has a unique history.

When it comes to flavors, liquor has also evolved. They are used to mix well with either other liqueurs or sodas like Coke. For example, liquors are often combined to create gin and tonic, rum and Coke, seven and seven, and more unique drinks. There are also a variety of martini and cocktail drinks you can make with liquor.

Here are some of the most popular found in grocery stores.

  • Jim Beam
  • RumChata
  • Fireball Whiskey
  • Tito's Whiskey
  • Corn Whiskey

Liquor vs. Liqueur: More Different Than You Think

Liquor and liqueur can be confusing because they both sound the same and are spelled the same. However, they are much more different than you realize. Saying the right word can help you understand what you may need to pick up at the grocery store. It can also help you know the difference if you create mixed drinks for a party.

Knowing the difference can ultimately make you understand what you or your friends want to drink. It gives you a better understanding that helps you avoid common confusion.

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Creamy Kahlúa Liqueur Fudge

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  • Author: MomsWhoThink.com
  • Yield: 2 3/4 pounds 1x


Units Scale
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 7ounce jar of marshmallow creme
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 cup milk chocolate pieces
  • 2/3 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Line an 8″ square baking pan with foil. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine sugar, marshmallow creme, milk, butter, Kahlua, and salt.
  2. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly for 5 min. Remove from heat; add all chocolate. Stir until melted.
  3. Add nuts and vanilla. Turn into prepared pan.
  4. Refrigerate until firm. To serve, cut in squares. 
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