What Is Peppermint Schnapps?

A Guide to Buying, Making, and Drinking Peppermint Schnapps

Peppermint Schnapps in a Martini Glass

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Peppermint schnapps is a clear, mint-flavored distilled spirit. It's most often made with neutral grain alcohol and peppermint extract and tastes like a liquid candy cane. Though inspired by German schnapps, this flavor is an American creation and it's most often drunk in the U.S. Peppermint schnapps is featured in many winter cocktails, often alongside chocolate, as well as a number of popular shooter recipes.

Peppermint Schnapps vs. Crème de Menthe

The two most common mint-flavored liqueurs are peppermint schnapps and crème de menthe. Though they're made in much the same way, there is a noticeable difference. Peppermint schnapps is less sweet, has a more intense mint flavor, and typically contains more alcohol. Crème de menthe is not creamy—crème refers to the thickness due to a lot of sugar—and it's almost too sweet to drink alone. The gentler mint flavor and lower proof make it more versatile in cocktails.

The two can be used selectively as substitutes for one another. Consider the impact the schnapps will have on a crème de menthe drink as the mint can become overwhelming. A lower-proof schnapps is a better choice because the flavor's not too intense. Green crème de menthe can be used to change the color of a peppermint schnapps recipe. You might have to pour less of the drink's sweetener to maintain balance and that ingredient may be the mint liqueur.

Fast Facts

  • Ingredients: Neutral grain alcohol, mint flavoring
  • Proof: 30–100
  • ABV: 15–50%
  • Calories in a shot: 100–125
  • Origin: United States
  • Taste: Sweet, minty
  • Serve: Straight, chilled, on the rocks, cocktails, shots

What Is Peppermint Schnapps Made From?

Typically, peppermint schnapps is made using neutral grain alcohol. That's blended with an extract of peppermint leaves (or some other mint flavoring ingredient, including spearmint) and sweetened with sugar. The flavoring and sweetener may be natural or artificial, varying from one brand to another. Peppermint schnapps can be bottled anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 30 to 100 proof).

It's important to understand that American schnapps is different from authentic German schnapps, which is a strong liquor distilled directly from fruit juices. If you ask for peppermint schnapps in Germany, you're unlikely to find what you're looking for. Instead, you'll be offered crème de menthe as a substitute.

What Does Peppermint Schnapps Taste Like?

Peppermint schnapps has an intense mint flavor against a sweet background. Those with a higher alcohol content have a stronger peppermint flavor, sometimes reaching the point of a burning sensation or an overwhelming medicinal taste.

How to Drink Peppermint Schnapps

Peppermint schnapps can be drunk straight, though it is best when chilled. It is also a favorite ingredient in winter and holiday cocktails. It's often paired with chocolate and other dessert-worthy flavors. As a shot, it's taken on its own, with whiskey or vodka, or shaken into both the tastiest and most potent shooter recipes. The minty flavor and concentration of alcohol and sugar make it an excellent option for layered shots as well.

what is peppermint schnapps
The Spruce Eats / Bailey Mariner

Cocktail Recipes

With a bottle of peppermint schnapps, you can create some really delicious drinks. Its minty flavor is perfect for chocolate cocktails, ranging from hot to cold and lowballs to shots. You will find it with coffee, cream, and sweet fruits as well. Vodka and whiskey are its most popular liquor companions, though it works well with brandy, too.

Popular Brands

Peppermint schnapps is generally inexpensive and there are many brands that produce it. The quality, price, and production can vary quite a bit. Most liquor stores should offer a few options to choose from.

  • Arrow
  • DeKuyper
  • Dr. McGillicuddy's Mentholmint
  • Hiram Walker
  • Ice 101
  • Mr. Boston
  • Rumple Minze
  • Yukon Jack Permafrost

Homemade Peppermint Schnapps

As an alternative to store-bought peppermint schnapps, you can make the liqueur yourself. This lets you control the mint flavor and gives you the option of using peppermint extract or fresh mint leaves.

  1. Make a simple syrup by stirring 1 cup sugar into 1 cup of boiling water until it dissolves. If you're using mint extract, remove the unflavored syrup from the heat and let it cool.

    If you want to flavor it naturally, add a handful of torn mint leaves. Reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool completely before straining out the mint.

  2. Pour the cooled simple syrup into a glass bottle or jar and add 2 cups of vodka. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of peppermint extract if you're using unflavored syrup.

  3. Seal the bottle and shake it well until everything is combined.

  4. Give your peppermint schnapps a taste. If you want it a little mintier, add more extract (or mint syrup), 1 teaspoon at a time. Shake after each addition until you find your ideal flavor. Make note of your personal recipe so you can duplicate it next time.