American schnapps are alcoholic beverages that are produced by mixing neutral grain spirit with fruit flavors or with other flavors. This mixture is then bottled with added sugar and (usually) glycerine, producing a smooth, syrup-like drink. Their alcohol content can be anywhere between 15% and 50% ABV (30–100 proof).
American schnapps can be bought in a very wide variety of flavors, including aniseed, apricot, banana, blackberry, black currant (aka crème de cassis), butterscotch, cherry, cinnamon, coffee, lemon, mandarin orange, menthol mint, peach, peppermint, root beer, and sour apple.
German Schnaps is clear, colorless, and has a light fruit flavor. It is distilled from fermented fruit , is bottled with no added sugar, and normally contains about 40% ABV (80 proof). Its appearance and taste are the same as that of eau de vie, but this French term is seldom used in German-speaking countries. In Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany, these beverages are commonly called Obstler or Obstbrand (from the German Obst, fruit). Obstler are associated with the southern part of the German language area; equivalent beverages exist all over central and southeastern Europe, e.g. Slivovitz or Palinka. In northern Germany, almost all traditional distilled beverages are grain-based.
A broader definition of Schnaps includes other German-made spirits such as Kräuterlikör (e.g., Jägermeister), Korn, Kümmel, German gin (e.g., Steinhäger), and generally any distilled beverage.
The main kinds of fruit used for German Schnaps are apples, pears, plums, and cherries — listed here in order from the least expensive to the most. Apricot is another popular fruit that is often used in Austrian Schnaps (Marillenschnaps). Fruits other than these five kinds are rarely used for German Schnaps. Apples are usually used together with pears to make fruit brandy (Obstwasser). Pears alone are used to produce Poire Williams (Williamsbirne). Plums make Zwetschgenwasser, and cherries make Kirschwasser.
A raspberry-flavored spirit called Himbeergeist is also a Schnaps, although it is not produced by means of fermenting raspberries (Himbeeren), which produce a low yield of alcohol due to their low sugar content. Instead, rectified spirit is infused with fresh raspberries, and this mixture is then distilled.