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A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is a drinkable liquid containing ethanol that is produced by means of distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetables.[his excludes undistilled fermented beverages such as beer and wine.
The term liquor refers to a distilled beverage that contains no added sugar and has at least 20% ABV. Popular spirits include brandy, fruit brandy (aka eau-de-vie / Schnaps), gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whisky.
Distilled beverages that are bottled with added sugar and added flavorings, such as Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and American schnapps, are liqueurs. In common usage, the distinction between spirits and liqueurs is widely unknown or ignored; consequently all alcoholic beverages other than beer and wine are generally referred to simply as spirits.

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 that the OED mentions in reference to a “liquid for drinking” occurred in the early- to mid-1300s. Its use as a term for “an intoxicating alcoholic drink” appeared in the 16th century.

Modern distillation
The actual process of distillation itself has not changed since the 8th century. There have, however, been many changes in both the methods by which organic material is prepared for the still and in the ways the distilled beverage is finished and marketed. Knowledge of the principles of sanitation and access to standardised yeast strains have improved the quality of the base ingredient; larger, more efficient stills produce more product per square foot and reduce waste; ingredients such as corn, rice, and potatoes have been called into service as inexpensive replacements for traditional grains and fruit. For tequila, the blue agave plant is used. Chemists have discovered the scientific principles behind aging, and have devised ways in which aging can be accelerated without introducing harsh flavors.

Modern filters have allowed distillers to remove unwanted residue and produce smoother finished products. Most of all, marketing has developed a worldwide market for distilled beverages among populations which in earlier times did not drink spirits.

Microdistilling is a trend that began to develop in the United States following the emergence and immense popularity of microbrewing and craft beer in the last decades of the 20th century. It is specifically differentiated from megadistilleries in the quantity, and arguably quality, of output.

In most jurisdictions, including those which allow unlicensed individuals to make their own beer and wine, it is illegal to distill beverage alcohol without a license—with the notable exception of New Zealand, where personal alcohol distillation is legal (although selling still requires an appropriate license). Although illegal, moonshining has a long tradition in some locations.