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Spirits on the supermarket shelf

A spirit drink ( Latin spiritus 'spirit' ; neuter plural : spirituosa 'spiritual' ) or spiritual drink , colloquially also called schnapps or derogatory fusel , is an alcoholic liquid that is intended for human consumption, has special organoleptic properties and according to the current EU - Right has a minimum alcohol content of 15% vol .; 14% vol is sufficient for eggnog . In the past, the term brandy was also used , which is still used today in some laws. The alcoholic base is obtained by burning ( distilling ) natural, fermented , vegetable products.

Selection of spirits (as a "spirits offer" at a party in a hotel restaurant)
Spirits miniatures
If not mixed, spirits are drunk from special small glasses (2cl, double portion 4cl)


The European Economic Community put 1,989 uniform for their area definitions, designations and packaging for spirits fixed. The term "brandy", which was previously used in Germany as a generic name, is now only used for brandy made from wine or brandy as a trade name and was used in Germany until the end of 2017 for the taxation of alcohol-containing liquids produced by distillation ( brandy tax , in the alcohol tax law since 2018 regulated). In this context it was and is irrelevant from which raw materials the alcohol was distilled. In 2008, the definition of the term in Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 (Spirits Regulation) , now known as the EU Spirits Regulation, was revised .

Colloquially, spirits are often referred to as "schnapps". The word comes from the Low German language and is related to the word “schnappen”, which refers to the fact that the schnapps is usually drunk in a quick sip from a small glass (Kurzer, Pinnchen, Stamperl, Schnapper, Schnabbes).

Health hazard

The risk of addiction and the health risk associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages are largely independent of the type of beverage in which the alcohol is contained. It is mainly about the total amount of pure alcohol consumed and the amount of additional harmful ingredients such as methyl alcohol and fusel oils contained in the drink .

Alcoholic beverages with a higher alcohol content can be flammable. Improper handling can lead to burn injuries . Accordingly, alcoholic beverages are listed in the UN list of dangerous goods under number 3065 with the hazard number 30 (flammable) for alcohol contents of 24 to 70% by volume and 33 (highly flammable) for more than 70% by volume.


Distilling kettle

The starting material of spirits, either by fermentation of sugar-containing solutions of cereal or fruit juices or mash or by inserting ( macerating made) from berries and fruits in alcohol. Subsequently, each a single or multiple distillation , also burning called. The distillate is partially stored in oak barrels for maturation, which also give it its slightly brownish color. The alcohol content is generally reduced to drinking strength by adding water. Small amounts of plant extracts are added to some spirits when they are distilled for flavoring.

Fire, water or spirit

A distinction is made according to how the ready-to-drink spirit was prepared:

  • Brandies or waters (mostly used synonymously) are made from the fermented mash of the respective fruit, ie the alcohol is created from the carbohydrates present during fermentation . The resulting alcohol-containing liquid is then distilled. This fermentation technique is used for all raw materials that contain enough sugar to ferment them into alcohol in an economically viable manner. Examples are pear brandy or kirsch.
  • In the case of the spirit, added, neutral-tasting, high-percentage alcohol macerates the aromas from the crushed but not fermented fruits. This technique is used for many fruits, especially berries, which contain a lot of aromatic substances but too little sugar to ferment them economically. One example is raspberry spirit .

Ethanol of agricultural origin as the base

Ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin , also known as neutral alcohol , agricultural alcohol or (in Switzerland) as drinking liquor , is - similar to vodka - largely free of the aromas of the raw materials and serves as the basis for the production of many spirits. Most liqueurs are made by flavoring, sugaring and coloring neutral alcohol. Also gin is prepared with neutral spirit, depending to the quality level with aroma imparting botanicals ( " botanicals a second time can be distilled") such herbs or spices. Port wine and fortified wine are added to neutral alcohol during fermentation to stop fermentation and to preserve the residual sweetness. Other beverages containing wine are partially mixed with neutral alcohol (" fortified ") in order to achieve a higher alcohol content, for example wormwood .


Labeling requirement

Within the EU there is a uniform labeling requirement for alcoholic beverages. It is regulated by Commission Directive 87/250 / EEC of April 15, 1987 on the indication of the alcohol content as volume concentration on the labeling of foodstuffs containing alcohol and intended for the end consumer . The directive complements the Community provisions of Directive 76/766 / EEC on the definition of the alcohol content of beverages and Directive 79/112 / EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States on the labeling and presentation of certain foods for the end consumer . The directive applies to beverages with more than 1.2 percent alcohol by volume. For an up-to-date overview of mandatory labeling, please refer to the article on alcohol content .

It is imperative that the name of the product be confused, the manufacturer / bottler, the container size and the alcohol content of the spirit in percentages by volume.

The alcohol content is determined using EU-standardized measuring methods. This purpose is served Alcoholometer (density spindles) with EEC initial verification capability and official correction tables. Since only pure alcohol-water mixtures can be determined with this measuring method, a test distillation must first be carried out for most spirits .

The following deviations are permitted when specifying the alcohol content:

  • 0.5% vol. For beer with a maximum alcohol content of 5.5% vol. And beverages made from grapes falling within subheading 22.07 B II of the Common Customs Tariff;
  • 1% vol. For beer with more than 5.5% vol. Alcohol content and beverages made from grapes falling within subheading 22.07 BI of the Common Customs Tariff, cider, perry and similar fermented beverages and beverages made from fermented honey;
  • 1.5% vol. For drinks with pickled fruits or parts of plants;
  • 0.3% vol. For other beverages.


In Germany, a consumption tax, known as the spirits tax, is levied on all spirits and is paid to the federal government. Taxation is administered by the Federal Monopoly Administration for Spirits . In 2001 their revenue amounted to € 2.1 billion. For each liter of pure alcohol, 13.03 euros have to be paid to the tax authorities, which explains the sometimes high price of spirits compared to fermented products such as beer. In addition to the closure distillery , where the alcohol actually received must be taxed, there is also a severance payment distillery in parts of Germany . The severance alcohol produced there is produced without official closures or security measures. For the severance payment brandy, the brandy tax is paid in advance on the expected amount of alcohol. This is based differently depending on the amount and type of fuel, such as cherry mash, yeast lees, i.e. H. officially estimated on the basis of the applicable rate of exploitation according to Section 120 BrennO.

The Alcohol Tax Act in conjunction with Section 68 of the Alcohol Tax Ordinance exempts private individuals from registering firing devices with the main customs office, provided that a maximum volume of 2 l is not exceeded. However, this does not mean an exemption from the spirits tax. The amount of the spirits tax can be obtained from the responsible main customs office.

The distribution of brandy to persons under the age of 18 is prohibited in Germany.


There is also the brandy monopoly in Austria, which originated from Maria Theresa and was taken over by the Republic of Austria after the First World War . Accordingly, the spirits tax must be paid for distilling schnapps, depending on the type of distillery ( severance payment or closure distillery ).

The distribution of brandy and mixed brandy drinks to young people is prohibited in Austria. In most federal states, the age limit is 18 years. Only in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland was it 16 years. However, since January 1, 2019, she has also reached the age limit of 18 years there.

Classification of spirits

Brandy made from wine

  • Brandy is the general name for all spirits made from wine. Therefore, product names such as pomace brandy now no longer allowed. From a legal and tax point of view, this also includes all other spirits.
  • Brandy is a brandy that has matured in oak barrels for at least six months or, if the capacity is over 1000 liters, for twelve months.

Spirits made from by-products of winemaking

Fruit brandies

Fruit brandies are distilled either from the juices ( must ) fermented to produce fruit wine or from the fermented fruit mash . The latter is the most common way, as there is no need to squeeze the juice as a production step. A fruit brandy can alternatively be referred to as Obstwasser or fruit schnapps.

A schnapps, only known as fruit brandy or fruit schnapps, is distilled from the mash of two or more types of fruit, the amount of fruit types contained is usually given in descending order. Obstler is mostly distilled from apples and pears . For pure apple brandies, only very aromatic varieties such as Braeburn, Goldparmäne or Jonagold are used as a rule.

Fruit spirits

Black Forest raspberry spirit

In contrast to fruit brandy, fruits are used for a fruit spirit that are not suitable for fermentation because of their low sugar content, but have a lot of aroma. The fresh or frozen fruits are macerated with neutral-tasting agricultural alcohol , i. H. soaked in it so that the flavors and colors dissolve in the alcohol. This fruit-alcohol mixture is then distilled. Spirits typically come from berry fruits such as elderberries , rowanberries , blueberries , rose hips, and especially raspberries .

Grain spirits

Brandies based on grain (some can also be made from potatoes).


Grain brandy is only made from whole grains of wheat , barley , oats , rye or buckwheat .

  • Grain with at least 32% alcohol by volume
  • Kornbrand with at least 37.5% alcohol by volume; mostly available as double grain with 38% vol.
  • Wheat grain or wheat doubles are corresponding products that are largely obtained from wheat.


Whisk (e) y is distilled from grain, especially barley (malt) but also maize (bourbon, corn), rye (rye) or wheat and usually matures for several years in wooden barrels (mostly made of oak) with a capacity of up to 700 Liters. Whiskey is bottled as a single malt or as a blend (ed) (mixture of different whiskeys).

The most famous varieties are:


Vodka is made from grain (rye, wheat), potatoes or molasses and is also available flavored (lemon, tangerine, vanilla, blackcurrant). Pure vodka is almost tasteless, as the distillate is freed from fusel oils and flavors using activated charcoal .


Rice spirits can be found in all Asian countries

  • Choum: Chinese rice schnapps, sometimes it is perfumed with flowers or fruit essences
  • Ruou : Vietnamese rice schnapps
  • Kome-Shōchū : Japanese rice schnapps that is drunk on ice or diluted with hot water.
  • Lao Khao is a spirit from Thailand that is distilled from glutinous rice.


Other grain brandies

  • Baijiu : various Chinese grain spirits
  • Shōchū : Japanese schnapps, can be made from other raw materials in addition to rice.

Fires from underground parts of plants

Sugar cane fires

  • Rum : mostly made from molasses , rarely syrup or sugar cane juice
  • Cachaça : made from green sugar cane and sugar cane juice
  • Mae Kong: mostly incorrectly called Thai whiskey

Other fires

Palm wine brandies

  • In addition to palm sap or wine , arrak also consists of fermented rice mash. The Batavia Arrak from Java (Indonesia) is known.

Agave fires


Liqueur is the generic term for alcoholic beverages made with at least 100 grams of sugar per liter and aromatic ingredients. A minimum alcohol content of 15% vol. Is specified within the EU. However, the alcohol content can be significantly higher. Cream, milk, fruit, fruit juice or wine can be added to a liqueur. There is a wide range of options and options for flavoring. Liqueurs in the lower price segment (party liqueurs such as vodka-fig, Fernet, Jagdbitter) are mainly produced synthetically. Natural or nature-identical flavor concentrates in combination with alcohol and water form their basis. The upper price segment is made up of liqueurs that are handcrafted with a great deal of time and effort through direct maceration or percolation of the natural aromatic carriers (herbs, fruits). Certain liqueurs of supraregional importance are protected in terms of their composition and / or their geographical origin. The aniseed liqueur Sambuca, for example, must have 350 grams of sugar, 1 gram of natural anethole per liter of liquid and an alcohol content of 38% vol. To be allowed to use the name Sambuca. The exact designations and regulations are set out in the appendix of Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 (Spirits Regulation) of the European Parliament and the Council of January 15, 2008.

Juniper spirits

Basis for juniper schnapps are agricultural alcohol or grain fires that are burning again. In this case, either the alcohol vapors above the juniper berries passed or will juniper berries together with the alcohol into the internal bladder filled and distilled together. Other flavoring substances may also be added, but the juniper flavor is always the main component.

Spirits with anise (aniseed)

Anise schnapps Anís del Mono from Spain

Aniseed spirits are made by flavoring ethanol of agricultural origin with natural extracts of star anise , anise , fennel or other plants that have essentially the same flavor. Other natural plant extracts or flavoring seeds can be used in addition, but the aniseed taste must remain predominant. A spirit drink with aniseed may be called "aniseed" if its characteristic aroma comes exclusively from aniseed and / or star aniseed and / or fennel.

  • Arak : mainly found in Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.
  • Aguardiente : a liquor made from sugar cane and anise common in Colombia.
  • Ouzo is flavored by distillation or mashing with anise and, if necessary, fennel seeds, the mastic from a mastic bush native to the island of Chios and other spicy seeds, plants and fruits and comes exclusively from Greece. Ouzo must be colorless and can have a sugar content of up to 50 grams per liter.
  • Pastis also contains natural extracts from licorice and has a sugar content of less than 100 grams per liter.
  • Rakı : in Turkey and the Balkans
  • Sambuca : Italian digestif made from anise, which is flavored with various herbs and spices, has a high sugar content and an alcohol content of around 40% vol., Which is unusual for a liqueur.

Spirits with caraway seeds

Spirit that is obtained by flavoring with caraway seeds . Other natural flavorings and flavor extracts as well as nature-identical flavorings can be added, but the character of the product must be shaped by caraway or dill .

  • Caraway, called Köm in Low German , is a schnapps made from caraway, which is particularly drunk in northern Germany.
  • Aquavit gets its aroma by coating distillates with caraway and / or dill seeds. Other natural or nature-identical flavorings may be used, the caraway taste must be predominant, bitter substances must not dominate.

Spirits / liqueurs made from roots

  • Bärwurz : the roots are mixed with neutral alcohol and distilled, similar to a spirit.
  • Bloodroot : a maceration of the roots is processed into a liqueur or a spirit.

Bitter or bitter spirits

Spirits with a predominantly bitter taste are called bitter . The demarcation to the liqueurs is fluid; if a bitter is also a liqueur, the sales names can be used optionally.

  • Absinthe : Spirit between 45 and 85% vol. Alcohol with wormwood, aniseed, fennel and a number of other herbs.

Consumption of spirits in Germany

The per capita consumption of spirits in the Federal Republic of Germany was 4.2 liters per year in 1960, rose to 8.4 liters by 1976 and has been falling continuously since then. In 1991 it was 6.2 l in the old federal states, but more than twice as high in the new federal states at 12.9 l. According to estimates by the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry (BSI), it fell rapidly there in the 1990s (1999: 6.3 l, 5.9 l in Germany as a whole). In 2009 and 2010 per capita consumption in Germany was 5.4 l.

This means that in 2010 every German consumed around 1.8 liters of pure alcohol in the form of spirits. For comparison: The annual beer consumption in the same year was 107 l (corresponds to approx.5.2 l alcohol), for wine it was 20.5 l (corresponds to 2.3 l of alcohol), for sparkling wine 3.9 l (corresponds to 0, 4 l alcohol).

Liquor industry

The world's largest spirits manufacturer is Diageo with an annual turnover of around 18 billion euros and a sales volume of 960 million liters (2012), followed by Pernod Ricard (2011/2012: 8.2 billion euros, 870 million liters), Bacardi (2011 : converted approx. 3.3 billion euros, 330 million liters), Beam Global (2011: converted approx. 2.1 billion euros, 270 million liters), Brown-Forman (2011/2012: converted approx. 2, 8 billion euros, 180 million liters) and the Campari Group (2012: approx. 1.2 billion euros).

The spirits industry producing in Germany is predominantly medium-sized and mostly organized in the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry and Importers .

In 2010 the German spirits industry employed almost 3,000 people in 50 companies (with more than 20 employees). In relation to the old federal states, the number of companies has fallen to around a tenth since 1960 and that of employees to around a fifth. The industry's turnover in 2010 was a good 2.5 billion euros.

Production in Germany - based on 0.7 liter bottles - was 489 million bottles in 1970, reached 615 million bottles in 1976 and then fell continuously to around 400 million bottles by the end of the 1980s (all figures only in the old federal states). After reunification in 1990, total German production rose briefly to 801 million bottles in 1994 and has since declined again. In 2010, 507 million bottles were produced in Germany. The exports have multiplied over the same period: Lay the West German exports in 1970 at 5 million bottles, it was in the 1990s, over 100 million (old and new countries), 2010 239 million bottles. The imports to Germany have (194 million bottles) more than doubled since 1990 to 2010 (423 million bottles). Including the mixed spirits drinks, the total range on the German market in 2010 was almost 700 million bottles.

The largest share of the total supply (excluding mixed spirits) was made up of liqueurs at 29%, followed by grain and other clear spirits (around 15%), rum, arrack , taffia (14%), vodka (14%), brandy and cognac and Armagnac (10%), whisk (e) y (9%), fruit brandies (5%), other spirits (3%) and finally gin, genever and juniper (1%).

Within the European Union , most spirits are produced in the United Kingdom (2009: 11.5 million hectoliters), followed by France (6 million hectoliters), Germany (3.7 million hectoliters), Poland and Italy (3.2 million hectoliters each) . hl). These five countries accounted for 71% of the spirits production among the 27 EU Member States . In relation to the value of the spirits produced, the ranking is somewhat different, with Germany in fourth place behind Portugal. In total, the European spirits manufacturers produced 39 million hectoliters of spirits in 2009 with a value of over 23 billion euros. In 2010, 61 companies in Germany produced spirits. The turnover of the German spirits industry in 2011 was around 2.37 billion euros.

Related topics

  • In the rum pot , spirits are used to preserve fruit.

Regional names

  • Schabau is a colloquial term for high-proof spirits, i.e. schnapps, which is common in the Rhineland and parts of South Westphalia in particular . The saying comes from Cologne : “Schabau määt smart!” (Schnaps makes you smart!). The word is a transformation from the "Vinum Sabaudicum" (Savoy wine) known since 1650.
  • Along with schnapps, Schluck is the colloquial term for high-proof spirits in northern Germany.
  • Soot in Saxony, especially in the Leipzig area.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Spirituose  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Spirits  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 15, 2008 . Article 2 paragraph 1.
  2. Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 15, 2008 . Appendix II, 41. Eggnog or Advocaat / Avocat / Advokat .
  3. Regulation (EEC) No. 1576/89 of the Council of 29 May 1989 laying down the general rules for the definition, description and presentation of spirits
  4. Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation and labeling of spirits and the protection of geographical indications for spirits and the repeal of Regulation (EEC) No. 1576 / 89
  5. The great Larousse gastronomique: Choum, p. 159
  6. Per capita consumption of spirits , data from the Federal Statistical Office and calculations by the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry, accessed on December 29, 2011.
  7. Per capita consumption of various alcoholic beverages , data from the Ifo Institute for Economic Research , the German Brewery Association, the German Winegrowing Association , the Association of German Sektkellereien and the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry eV, accessed on December 29, 2011.
  8. The largest spirits manufacturers , Wirtschaftswoche online, article from July 31, 2013, accessed on February 27, 2014.
  9. Structure of the spirits industry , data from the Federal Statistical Office on the website of the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry and Importers eV, accessed on December 29, 2011. Until 2007, however, the statistics also include companies with between 10 and 20 employees.
  10. Spirits balance sheet , data from the Federal Statistical Office on the website of the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry eV, accessed on December 29, 2011. However, some of the figures show double counting.
  11. ^ Share of the types of spirits in the total market supply , data from the Federal Statistical Office and calculations by the Federal Association of the German Spirits Industry, accessed on December 29, 2011.
  12. Industry Statistics - Volume and Value of Spirits Produced (English), production statistics of the European Spirits Organization (European umbrella association of the spirits industry), accessed on January 10, 2012.
  13. Spirits: Figures and Information. Accessed April 24, 2013.