Wiki article on this topic: Liquor is an alcoholic drink produced by distillation of grains, fruit, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. The distillation process purifies the liquid and removes diluting components like water, for the purpose of increasing its proportion of alcohol content. As liquors contain significantly more alcohol, they are considered "harder" – in North America, the term hard liquor is used to distinguish distilled alcoholic drinks from non-distilled ones.
As examples, this term does not include beverages such as beer, wine, mead, sake, or cider, as they are fermented but not distilled. These all have a relatively low alcohol content, typically less than 15%. Brandy is a liquor produced by the distillation of wine, and has an ABV of over 35%. Other examples of liquors include vodka, baijiu, gin, rum, tequila, mezcal, and whisky.
The term "spirit" refers to liquor that contains no added sugar and has at least 20% alcohol by volume.
Liquor bottled with added sugar and added flavorings, such as Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and American schnapps, are known instead as liqueurs.
Liquor generally has an alcohol concentration higher than 30%. Beer and wine, which are not distilled, are limited to a maximum alcohol content of about 20% ABV, as most yeasts cannot metabolise when the concentration of alcohol is above this level; as a consequence, fermentation ceases at that point.
The origin of "liquor" and its close relative "liquid" was the Latin verb liquere, meaning "to be fluid". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an early use of the word in the English language, meaning simply "a liquid", can be dated to 1225. The first use the OED mentions of its meaning "a liquid for drinking" occurred in the 14th century. Its use as a term for "an intoxicating alcoholic drink" appeared in the 16th century.
The term "spirit" in reference to alcohol stems from Middle Eastern alchemy. These alchemists were more concerned with medical elixirs than with transmuting lead into gold. The vapor given off and collected during an alchemical process was called a spirit of the original material.