If you're looking for a city with a bar every 15 feet, New Orleans is the place for you. After 4 years of living there, I thought it was time to probably learn a little bit more about alcohol, so I became a licensed bartender. In the very first class we discussed liquor vs. liqueurs and how to tell the difference between the two, because mixing them up will inevitably leave you with a sad, gross drink.

So what's the difference? 

The main difference between the two comes down to sugar, according to A Bar Above. Essentially, anything with a significant amount of sugar is a liqueur, like Kahlua or Peppermint Schnapps. A liquor really shouldn't have anything added to it, and is what you would be more likely to see in a basic drink. Liquors are your go-to alcohols: vodka, gin, rum, and tequila, just to name a few.

The rule that I learned in my bartending class was that liquors are more than 35% ABV (alcohol by volume), and liqueurs are anything less than 35%. If you remember the sugar rule, this makes perfect sense. Strong alcohol, like stuff that's more than 35% ABV, doesn't have any sugar in it. That becomes pretty obvious when you take a shot of Crown Russe and it tastes like nail polish remover. It also makes sense if you think about a drink like a grasshopper, which has crème de menthe (25% ABV) and crème de cacao (25%). Those are both liqueurs with a crazy amount of sugar in them, and not that much alcohol.

cocktail, ice, tea, rum, liquor, alcohol, wine
Robert Wehrli

Anything else? 

Another key difference between the two is how people drink them. Liquors are the main ingredient in drinks they are in; they make up the largest percentage. For example, a rum and coke is just that: rum and coke. Or, a margarita is mainly tequila, with some other stuff added in (like lime juice and sour mix).

Liqueurs, on the other hand, can usually be added into drinks with other alcohol in them - like triple sec, which is traditionally added to margaritas. (I know, enough with the margarita example, but it's summer time and I have tequila on the brain. If you're feeling like me, we have a simple recipe right here).

Also, if you're taking shots, you're more likely to be taking a shot of liquor, as opposed to a shot of liqueur. A shot of Bailey's might sound appealing now because it's sweet, but it's actually super thick and kinda difficult to throw back.

syrup, maple syrup, beer, liquor, wine, whisky, alcohol
Christin Urso

To boil it down: liquors usually taste gross because they have no sugar - which makes them the go-to alcohol if you're trying to get drunk quickly. If you're feeling fancy and want to try something more complex than a whiskey coke, you're most likely going to be working with liqueurs, like in these drinks made with Bailey's

Overall, the difference of liquors vs liqueurs is important and will save you a lot of trouble out there in the real world. You'll be thankful when you're looking to drink the strongest thing possible and you get stuck with something that's barely alcoholic. My advice is to get out there and try them all, in the name of research of course.