Schnapps sounds like it’s already drunk. The word dares you to order it with a second-rate Sean Connery impersonation: “Schnapps. Becush schnapps ish delishus, Moneypenny.” While the beverage itself is a discordant juxtaposition of cloying sweetness, venomous bite, and ill-advised chemistry (banana-flavored booze?) its name shares none of these traits. It’s a fun word to say, the sibilance snaking out through the teeth, a cartoonish word that seems like its etymology could be traced to Theodore Geisel – it seems more at home in a Dr. Seuss book than out of it.
U.S. dictionaries try to sully the fun by insisting that schnapps rhymes with snaps, which means ordering it will have you sounding less like James Bond and more like a crabby crone at the DMV. I prefer the softer, rounder British pronunciation that more closely resembles the phonic in shops. That’s the way to say it – it gives the word a grace and elegance that a 50-proof peach-flavored science fair project can’t earn on its liquid merits. Say it aloud and you’ll see what I mean – though not within earshot of a bartender, as the word is more deliciously delightful than the beverage itself.