What is in a spirit drink ?

Ingredients and nutrition information is provided in line with the EU’s legal definition for each category of spirit drink. For instance, in the case of liqueurs, energy content is displayed according to the legally prescribed minimum content of sugar. Certain values may differ according to brand.


The distillation process transforms the agricultural raw materials (such as grapes, other fruit, sugar-cane, molasses, potatoes, cereals, etc.) to such an extent that they are no longer found in the final product: a vodka made from potatoes does not contain potatoes; a rum made from molasses does not contain molasses.

While some spirits are essentially a distillate of their raw materials (whisky, wine spirit, fruit spirit, etc), others are more complex and can contain sugar and flavours, can be macerated, etc. The consequence is that the energy content of some spirits derives almost entirely from the alcohol: there are 7 calories in one gram of alcohol, with the number of grams in a spirit depending on its alcoholic strength. For others, notably the various liqueurs, calories from sugar are also significant: there are an additional 12 calories per serving of ‘standard’ liqueurs.

Most of the ‘less complex’ spirits, i.e. often made from a single raw material, do not contain fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugar, protein or salt.

For a spirit to be placed on the market, it has to fit into one of the 47 categories defined by European legislation (Regulation 110/2008 – an updated version of which will enter into force in 2021). The law sets down rules for each category, including in areas such as the agricultural raw material to be used, the production process, the maximum distillation strength, the minimum sugar level, what can and cannot be added, as well as some labeling requirements. (Spirits that do not fit into a pre-defined category are labelled as ‘spirit drink’.)

For consumers who are interested in learning more about how spirits are made, their ingredients and nutrition content, we invite you to select one or more of the categories listed below to discover more – in plain language. You may be surprised at the huge diversity of the EU spirits sector – had you appreciated before that there are 47 defined categories of spirit in Europe?

Please note that the information is not brand – specific but relates to the broad category to which the brand belongs. Precise ingredients etc for individual brands could differ (slightly) from the category information provided herein. For example, in the case of liqueurs, we show energy content on the basis of the legally prescribed minimum for the category.

If you have questions, please send an email at info@spirits.eu