Everyone, it seems, is making a schnapps - a rising beverage in America's otherwise sagging distilled spirits market. At least 33 domestic and 12 imported brands are listed in Beverage Media, a guide to liquor store products and prices.
When the great-grandparents said ''schnapps'' (from the German ''schnaps,'' for ''spirits''), they meant brandy or a hard, dry spirit such as gin. When their descendants say ''schnapps,'' they mean a sweet liqueur that is a bit viscous and tastes intensely of amaretto or anise or apple. Or of apricot, banana, butterscotch, cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple or chocolate, to name only a few.
In American schnapps, flavoring and sometimes color is added to clear neutral spirits distilled from grain. Schnapps differs from high-proof brandy, which is distilled from wine and fruits and includes calvados (from apples), fraise (strawberries), kirsch (cherries) and slivovitz (plums). The Government designates schnapps a liqueur. But schnapps is not so sweet or heavy as such traditional liqueurs as Cherry Heering and creme de menthe.
Principal domestic brands of schnapps include DeKuyper (produced by John DeKuyper & Son, partly owned by the National Distillers Products Company), which sells 7 flavors; Hiram Walker Inc., 14 flavors; Arrow (Heublein Inc.), 18; Leroux, 13; Dr. McGillicuddy's (Joseph E. Seagram & Sons), 4; Mr. Boston (Glenmore Distilleries Company), 10, and Ed Phillips & Sons, 7.
Other brands include Bols, Mohawk, Regnier, Jacquin, Marie Brizard, Stock, Van der Herr and Wintergarten.
Since 1982, when fruit-flavored schnapps arrived on the market with Mr. Boston apple, schnapps has become a favorite of baby-boomers who were reared on sugary colas and for whom lower-alcohol drinks signify health, fitness and safe driving. Most schnapps range from 48 to 60 proof.