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  1. Banned
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    #1

    liquors vs. spirits

    We know both liquors and spirits can represent strong alcoholic drinks. What is the difference in AmE? For example, I ask "What are the best liquors or spirits in your store?". Is there any difference in AmE?

  2. Skrej's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    They're pretty much the same, although 'liquor' is more colloquial. As far as I can recall, I've only seen 'spirits' used in articles from food/beverage magazines, blogs, store signs, etc.

    I probably wouldn't ask for the best liquor or spirit in a store, though. I'd probably specifically ask what their best vodka/gin/bourbon/wine/whatever was, depending on what I was looking for.

    Note that 'liquor' excludes beer and wine, however. 'Spirits' could be any alcoholic beverage.

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    #3

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    If you asked someone where you could buy some "spirits" you would probably get some odd looks.

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    #4

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    I've noticed that in the USA, unlike the UK, supermarkets are only licensed to sell beer and wine in their alcoholic drinks section.

    If you want spirits or liqueurs (as well as beer and wine), you've got to find a liquor store.

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    #5

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    If you asked someone where you could buy some "spirits" you would probably get some odd looks.
    Why will I get odd looks if I ask where I can buy the "spirits"? If I ask "liquors", will I get odd looks as well?

  4. Skrej's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I've noticed that in the USA, unlike the UK, supermarkets are only licensed to sell beer and wine in their alcoholic drinks section.

    If you want spirits or liqueurs (as well as beer and wine), you've got to find a liquor store.
    Actually, it varies from state to state. Some states allow supermarkets to sell all kinds of alcohol. Some, as you said, only allow beer and wine in supermarkets. Some, like mine, only allow beer sales in supermarkets.

    Generally, a liquor store (or as they're known is some parts of the Eastern US 'package stores') will carry everything, but even that varies some. I once discovered that in Idaho, liquor stores are forbidden by law to carry beer. Only supermarkets can sell beer in that state.

    Some allow alcohol sales on Sunday, some don't. Some only allow liquor by the drink (i.e. bars/restaurants) to sell on Sundays. When those states happen to border a state that allows Sunday sales, you'll always find a store just inside the state line on every road between the two states. The town I live in is like that - it's about two miles from the city limits to the state line, and so on Sunday there's a steady line of cars crossing over the border to buy on Sunday and bring it back home.

    Never really understood why they don't just buy extra on Saturday if you're planning on drinking on Sunday, but I guess it's close enough to not merit pre-planning.....

  5. Skrej's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    Quote Originally Posted by jokaec1 View Post
    Why will I get odd looks if I ask where I can buy the "spirits"? If I ask "liquors", will I get odd looks as well?
    Because as we've explained, 'spirits' isn't used colloquially. It'd be like asking somebody where you could find some 'cuisine'. They are literary terms only.

    And actually, there are a few certain parts of the US where it would get you a funny look to ask for any kind of alcohol. Certain parts of the US are what we call 'dry', meaning all sales of alcohol are legally prohibited. Of course it doesn't stop people from making their own and selling it illegally, which is referred to as moonshining (the distillation) and bootlegging (the transportation). However, it's all hush-hush, not something you're go about asking perfect strangers.

    Other parts of the US it may not actually be illegal, but the general population frowns upon consumption for religious reasons, so again, if you wanted some, you'd have to make discreet inquiries.

    And of course, from about 1920 to 1933, there was a national law against making, distributing, and selling ALL alcohol throughout the entire United States, during a dark period known as Prohibition. We even made the 18th Amendment to our Constitution making alcohol illegal. Fortunately, we came to our collective senses and repealed it with the 21st Amendment.

    Prior to prohibition, some states were already 'dry'. My state of Kansas was the first to abolish alcohol, in 1881. (Fortunately, I wasn't born for almost another hundred years. )

    During that period of sobriety we also passed an Amendment allowing women to vote. I'm not sure if there's a connection there or not.
    Last edited by Skrej; 14-Jul-2015 at 01:58.

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    #8

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrej View Post
    Actually, it varies from state to state. Some states allow supermarkets to sell all kinds of alcohol.
    I was once in a Publix in Orlando, FL to buy beer. A sign said ALCOHOL ONLY SOLD ON SUNDAY AFTER 10AM.

    It was only Friday, so I hadn't time to wait.

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    #9

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    In fact, 'liquor' can be used to mean any alcoholic drink, as in "Muslims don't drink liquor" or "No liquor allowed".
    I agree that in the context of other alcoholic drinks it means spirits.

    liquor

    (ˈlɪkə) n1. (Brewing) any alcoholic drink, esp spirits, or such drinks collectively

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/liquor

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    #10

    Re: liquors vs. spirits

    In my British English dialect I use the word 'liquor' only for the liquid used in the process of brewing beer. Drinks with an alcohol content of about 35% or higher are 'spirits' to me. Spirits are normally sold in supermarkets in the same row as wines and beers, so there is no need to ask where they are. If they were not, and I could not see them, I might well ask "Where are the spirits?/Where do you keep your spirits?/Where is the spirits section?" without receiving any strange looks.

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