Liquor and liqueur are two words most Americans don't understand. Literary junkies call words like this false friends. False friends are words in two languages (or letters in two alphabets) that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning.
Liquor refers to distilled beverages, some people call them spirits - hence our name. Sometimes you find people who use the term hard liquor or hard alcohol for any alcoholic beverage produced by distillation and that's okay too. All the distillation process does is purifies the alcohol and removes diluting properties like water. Once we do that, we increase the alcohol by volume [ABV]. The results give us rum, vodka, whiskey and other favorites.
Granted, we could get granular but I want to keep this conversation high level. Imagine we want to create a potato vodka. We would need to gather our potatoes, cook them in water at given strike temperatures and ferment with yeast for a few days to excite the natural sugars in the starch. Next, we distill our fermented mash, add a little water and bottle. Viola! You have made a neutral grain liquor called vodka.
Just remember all Liqueurs begin liquor. Rum, whiskey and vodka often serve as the base spirit for liqueur recipes. The Alcohol And Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB] classifies a Liqueur as any product containing > or = 2.5% sugar by weight and mixed or re-distilled with type of spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants or pure juices or extracts. All that means you can dump any type of flavoring and/or sweetener in a liqueur as long it comes from a distilled product [er. liquor] in your liqueur. Most liqueurs only have an ABV of 15-30%. However, Fort Worth Liqueur makers, Cold Hammer Stills claims their Black Widow liqueur has an ABV of 53.5% - cause rules are meant to be broken.
Remember our vodka example from earlier? Vodka became our liquor after distillation. If we add sweeteners and extracts to our liquor equation, we land at liqueur.
Hurry, go an impress your friends with your new knowledge.
All icons provided by The Noun Project - Thanks to Evgeniy Artsebasov, Mark Caron, Martin Lebreton, Artem Kovyazin, Davide Tomatis, Chameleon Design, lastspark and Henry Chung.