The Difference Between Liquor and Liqueur

Whether you’d like to impress a special someone with your liquor knowledge, peruse the spirits aisle at your local liquor store, or are simply just a sucker for the details, we can assure you that knowing the difference between liquor and liqueur will serve you well at some point in your life. And, although the two terms are often used interchangeably, the first pearl of wisdom we can offer is that they actually belong to two different categories within the alcoholic beverage world.

Varying in both use and taste, not knowing which term to use (or which drink to pour) leaves you vulnerable to a slip-up that your audience will only remember as a cringe. Fortunately, we’ve got some expertise in the liquor field! And, we’re here to help you avoid any mishaps or misspelling with a simple breakdown of the difference between liquor and liqueur. 

Liquor and liqueur standing on a bar table with glowing lights.

All Liqueur is Liquor, But not Not All Liquor is Liqueur: Uhm, What?

So, consider how we sometimes refer to champagne as sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. The same applies to liquor and liqueur, only, it’s probably trickier to differentiate because the terms sound so similar. But, as a warm-up, we’ll begin with the simple definitions to better understand the difference between the two: 

Liquor (pronounced li-kr

We use the term “liquor” for alcoholic spirits as a whole. This includes distilled beverages made from grains, vegetables, fruits, and sugars. Liquor differs from alcohols like beer or wine because it has a significantly higher alcohol volume. They usually serve as the base of mixed alcoholic drinks such as cocktails. 

Liqueur (pronounced li-cure

Liqueurs are different types of liquor. Most of them come from base spirits, but with added flavors or spices, giving them a sweeter flavor and lower alcohol content than liquor. The use of these drinks is typically to enhance the flavors in mixed cocktails. 

4 Different Types of Liquor and How to Drink Them

Though there are more classic liquors than we could ever compile into a list, we’ve dropped a few well-known alcoholic drinks so you can put a face (or three) to the name. Plus, we’ve added a few tips on how to get the best sip out of each one: 


A clear liquid with a strong, yet, neutral aroma, vodka is almost flavorless and can be made anywhere in the world from almost any ingredient. Yes, potatoes, cereal grains, and even fog can help formulate this alcoholic concoction! 

How to drink vodka: Thanks to its neutral flavor profile, you can either sip it straight (shots!) or enjoy it as a base for almost any mixed cocktail or something like a Vesper Martini. 


Gin is another type of liquor that you can make from almost anything, but juniper berries are what give this spirit its distinctive taste. It is commonly flavored with other herbal or botanical ingredients, with rose, citrus peel, and lavender being among the most popular. 

How to drink gin: Enjoy straight, indulge in a gin martini, or go with the timeless classic; gin and tonic! 


If you want to delve into the whiskey vs whisky debate, we’ve already unpacked all you need to know right here. But, to keep things simple, whiskey is the umbrella term for distilled spirits made from grain, wheat, corn, barley, or rye, and then aged in a wooden barrel or sherry cask.

How to drink whiskey/whisky: you can best enjoy this classic drink neat, but there’s also no harm in trying a good ol’ Whiskey Sour or an Old Fashioned. 


Strictly made in Jalisco, Mexico, tequila is basically the party-goer’s favorite drink. Made from the blue agave plant, this liquor offers a smooth, sweet, and spicy taste that varies depending on production location, aging time, and storing method. 

How to drink tequila: If you’ve ever had a few tequila shots with friends, you can take our suggestion to drink it neat with a pinch of salt. But, we do encourage easing into it with a zesty margarita!  

Tequila shots on table with salt and lemon.

4 Different Types of Liqueur and How to Drink Them

When it comes to liqueurs, we can assure you that there is a range wide enough to suit everyone’s taste. From coffee and fruit-flavored drinks to herbal and creamy aromas, here are a few popular liqueurs and how to feature them in your next cocktail: 

Herbal Liqueur 

An almost spicy concoction that has been around since the 18th century, herbal liqueurs are usually made with artichokes and other spices. You can look to the notes of crowd favorites like Jagermeister or Sambuca as examples of fine herbal liqueurs. 

How to drink herbal liqueur: This drink does well if you want to add some spice to a warm beverage! But you can also use it as an aperitif before moving on to the “hard” stuff. 

Orange Liqueur 

If you love the flavor of citrus, a cocktail mixed with orange liqueur is likely to be your signature drink. Known for having a smooth and crisp flavor profile, you’ll find this liqueur in drinks like margaritas, and the popular Cosmopolitan. 

How to drink orange liqueur: This vibrant liqueur lends itself well to sangrias and margaritas. 

Cream Liqueur

Cream liqueur tends to be lower in alcohol than the other drinks in this category. But, it still offers a cozy and inviting flavor! With a creamy texture and rich flavor, cream liqueur is often used to add a kick to warm beverages like the popular Irish Coffee.

How to drink cream liqueur: Add a splash to your favorite coffee or hot chocolate. 

Nut-Flavored Liqueur

Amaretto is one of the most well-known nut-flavored liqueurs. The drink gets its flavor from steeped almonds, apricot pits, peach stones, or a mixture of the three. Humans and this liqueur go way back as people have been drinking it since the 1500s. 

How to drink nut-flavored liqueur: Drink Amaretto straight as a digestive or mix up a classic Amaretto sour.   

Two women taking a selfie with tequila shots at the bar.

Impress Them With Your Liquor vs Liqueur Knowledge

Now that you know the difference between liquor and liqueur, we encourage you to go forth and use it as an ice-breaker in as many socially awkward situations as possible. Or, if you don’t feel too confident as yet, you can still impress your friends and family by sending them their preferences! No matter what their taste, Drinkable Gifts has liquor and liqueur to suit all your recipients. 

You’ve learned all about the difference between liquor and liqueur! Now what?

  • Send them their favorite with our endless liquor and liqueur options. 
  • Learn even more with our blog
  • Get exclusive subscriber savings when you subscribe to our newsletter. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *