I read several times in media about people who were harmed or even killed by drinking adulterated schnaps.

What does it mean to adulterate e.g. schnaps? Why is it so dangerous? And what is the "benefit" of doing this?

2 Answers 2


To adulterate means to dilute or debase a substance. So adulterated schnapps means schnapps with something added in. Much like cocaine cut with flour, that something need not be a similar substance, but is likely to be something cheap.

It gets worse when this adulteration is "off the books", because it means that a company can pass one product with the relevant consumer authority, then turn around and add whatever they want into it. That stuff might end up poisonous.

As you can see, it's rightly considered a crime:

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  • Another good example of this is absinthe - bathtub concoctions usually contained copper sulfate in order to achieve the green color. Hence the myth from back in the day that absinthe 'drives you insane.' Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 21:14

The word is ADULTERATE. Which means to change, alter or transform in some way. This is not so much a problem in the USA, but many countries unscrupulous alcohol sellers will "cut" the ethanol with methanol or water instead. Methanol, while an alcohol, is poisonous to humans (well, I guess ethanol is too in high enough quantities). A quick search found that this is a big problem in India and Russia. The other most common way is to dilute the drink with water. The benefit of doing is this is using something that is cheaper to produce than ethanol and and stretch out your supply of legitimate alcohol and make more money.

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