An alcoholic beverage is a drink that contains ethanol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes for taxation and regulation of production: beers, wines, and spirits (distilled beverages). They are legally consumed in most countries around the world. More than 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption. Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, after water and tea.
Alcoholic beverages have been consumed by humans since the Neolithic era; the earliest evidence of alcohol was discovered in Jiahu, dating from 7000–6600 BC. The production and consumption of alcohol occurs in most cultures of the world, from hunter-gatherer peoples to nation-states.
Alcoholic beverages are a source of food energy. Each gram of alcohol provides 7.1 kcal, and each millilitre provides 5.6 kcal.
- 1 Distilled beverages
- 2 Fermented beverages
- 3 Fortified beverages
- 4 Congeners
- 5 History
- 6 Standards
- 7 Usage
- 8 Alcohol and health
- 9 Legal status
- 10 Religious aspects
- 11 Alcoholic beverages listed by type of base material
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
A distilled beverage, spirit, or liquor is an alcoholic beverage produced by distilling (i.e., concentrating by distillation) ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables. Unsweetened, distilled, alcoholic beverages that have an alcohol content of at least 20% ABV are called spirits. For the most common distilled beverages, such as whiskey and vodka, the alcohol content is around 40%. The term hard liquor is used in North America to distinguish distilled beverages from undistilled ones (implicitly weaker). Vodka, gin, baijiu, tequila, whiskey, brandy, and soju are examples of distilled beverages. Distilling concentrates the alcohol and eliminates some of the congeners. Freeze distillation concentrates ethanol along with methanol and fusel alcohols (fermentation by-products partially removed by distillation) in applejack. Paracelsus gave alcohol its modern name, which is derived from an Arabic word that means “finely divided” (a reference to distillation).
- Neutral grain spirit (also called pure grain alcohol (PGA) or grain neutral spirit (GNS)) is a clear, colorless, flammable liquid that has been distilled from a grain-based mash to a very high level of ethanol content. The term neutral refers to the spirit's lacking the flavor that would have been present if the mash ingredients were distilled to a lower level of alcoholic purity, and also lacking any flavoring added to it after distillation (as is done, for example, with gin). Other kinds of spirits, such as whiskey, are distilled to a lower alcohol percentage in order to preserve the flavor of the mash. As a defined standard of identification under U.S. law, "neutral spirits" or "neutral alcohol" are distilled spirits produced from any material at or above 95% alcohol by volume.
- "Rectified spirit" or "rectified alcohol" is neutral alcohol which has been purified by means of "rectification" (i.e., repeated distillation). It will contain at least 95% ABV. It is normally used for medicinal purposes but can also be used to make homemade liqueurs. It can be a grain spirit or can be made from other plants. Rectified spirits are used in mixed drinks, in the production of liqueurs, for medicinal purposes, and as a household solvent. In chemistry, a tincture is a solution that has alcohol as its solvent.
- Beer styles: In general, a beverage fermented from a grain mash will be called a beer. Beer is made from barley or a blend of several grains. If the fermented mash is distilled, then the beverage is a spirit.
- Wine and brandy are usually made from grapes but when they are made from another kind of fruit, they are distinguished as fruit wine or fruit brandy. The kind of fruit must be specified, such as "cherry brandy" or "plum wine."
- Whiskey (or whisky) is made from grain or a blend of several grains. The type of whiskey (scotch, rye, bourbon, or corn) is determined by the primary grain.
- Vodka: Vodka is distilled from fermented grain. It is highly distilled so that it will contain less of the flavor of its base material. Gin is a similar distillate but it is flavored by juniper berries and sometimes by other herbs as well. Applejack is sometimes made by means of freeze distillation.
- Cider: In the United States and Canada, cider often means unfermented apple juice (sometimes called sweet cider), and fermented apple juice is called hard cider. In the United Kingdom and Australia, cider refers to the alcoholic beverage.
- Fortified wine: Fortified wine is wine with an added distilled beverage (usually brandy). Fortified wine is distinguished from spirits made from wine in that spirits are produced by means of distillation, while fortified wine is simply wine that has had a spirit added to it. Many different styles of fortified wine have been developed, including Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Commandaria wine and the aromatized wine Vermouth.
- Mixed drinks: Mixed drinks include alcoholic mixed drinks (cocktails, flaming beverages, fortified wines, mixed drink shooters and drink shots) and non-alcoholic mixed drinks (including punches). Blending and caffeinated alcoholic drinks may also be called mixed drinks.
- Ready to drink: Alcopops
In the alcoholic beverages industry, congeners are substances produced during fermentation. These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as other alcohols (known as fusel alcohols), acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, and aldehydes (e.g., propanol, glycols, ethyl acetate). Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic beverages, and contribute to the taste of non-distilled drinks. It has been suggested that these substances contribute to the symptoms of a hangover.
Furfural is a congener that inhibits yeast metabolism. It may be added to alcoholic beverages during the fermentation stage. Although it occurs in many foods and flavorants, furfural is toxic with an LD50 of 65 mg/kg (oral, rat).
Tannins are congeners found in wine. Tannins contains powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols.
Excessive concentrations of alcohols other than ethanol may cause off-flavors, sometimes described as "spicy", "hot", or "solvent-like". Some beverages, such as rum, whisky (especially Bourbon), incompletely rectified vodka (e.g., Siwucha), and traditional ales and ciders, are expected to have relatively high concentrations of non-hazardous alcohols as part of their flavor profile. However, in other beverages, such as Korn, vodka, and lagers, the presence of alcohols other than ethanol is considered a fault.
Since ancient times, people around the world have been drinking alcoholic beverages. Reasons for drinking alcoholic beverages vary and include:
- Being part of a standard diet
- Medical purposes
- Relaxant effects
- Euphoric effects
- Recreational purposes
- Artistic inspiration
- Putative aphrodisiac effects
Examination and analysis of ancient pottery jars from the neolithic village of Jiahu in the Henan province of northern China revealed residue left behind by the alcoholic beverages they had once contained. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, chemical analysis of the residue confirmed that a fermented drink made from fruit, rice and honey was being produced in 7000–6600 BC. The results of this analysis were published in December 2004. This drink, as of now, precedes the evidence of grape wine from the Middle East by more than 500 years. Wine's first appearance dates from 6000 BC in Georgia. Evidence of alcoholic beverages has also been found dating from 3150 BC in ancient Egypt, 3000 BC in Babylon, 2000 BC in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and 1500 BC in Sudan. Distilled alcoholic beverages were first recorded in Europe in the mid-12th century. By the early 14th century, they had spread throughout the European continent.
The concentration of alcohol in a beverage is usually stated as the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) or as proof. In the United States, proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume at 60 degrees Fahrenheit (e.g. 80 proof = 40% ABV). Degrees proof were formerly used in the United Kingdom, where 100 degrees proof was equivalent to 57.1% ABV. Historically, this was the most dilute spirit that would sustain the combustion of gunpowder.
Ordinary distillation cannot produce alcohol of more than 95.6% ABV (191.2 proof) because at that point alcohol is an azeotrope with water. A spirit which contains a very high level of alcohol and does not contain any added flavoring is commonly called a neutral spirit. Generally, any distilled alcoholic beverage of 170 proof or higher is considered to be a neutral spirit.
Most yeasts cannot reproduce when the concentration of alcohol is higher than about 18%, so that is the practical limit for the strength of fermented beverages such as wine, beer, and sake. However, some strains of yeast have been developed that can reproduce in solutions of up to 25% ABV.
Alcohol-free beverage definition controversy
The term alcohol-free (e.g. alcohol-free beer) is often used to describe a product that contains 0% ABV. As such, it is permitted by Islam, and is also popular in countries that enforce alcohol prohibition, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran.
However, alcohol is legal in most countries of the world where alcohol culture also is prevalent. Laws vary in countries when beverages must indicate the strength but also what they define as alcohol-free.
In the EU the labeling of beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol must indicate the actual alcoholic strength by volume, i.e., show the word "alcohol" or the abbreviation "alc." followed by the symbol "% vol."
Most of the alcohol-free drinks sold in Sweden's state-run liquor store monopoly Systembolaget actually contain alcohol, with experts calling the label "misleading" and a threat to recovering alcoholics. Systembolaget defines alcohol-free as a drink that contains a maximum of 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.
A standard drink is a notional drink that contains a specified amount of pure alcohol. The standard drink is used in many countries to quantify alcohol intake. It is usually expressed as a measure of beer, wine, or spirits. One standard drink always contains the same amount of alcohol regardless of serving size or the type of alcoholic beverage.
In the United Kingdom, there is a system of units of alcohol which serves as a guideline for alcohol consumption. A single unit of alcohol is defined as 10 ml. The number of units present in a typical drink is sometimes printed on bottles. The system is intended as an aid to people who are regulating the amount of alcohol they drink; it is not used to determine serving sizes.
In the United States, the standard drink contains 0.6 US fluid ounces (18 ml) of alcohol. This is approximately the amount of alcohol in a 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) glass of beer, a 5-US-fluid-ounce (150 ml) glass of wine, or a 1.5-US-fluid-ounce (44 ml) glass of a 40% ABV (80 proof) spirit.
In the United Kingdom, serving size in licensed premises is regulated under the Weights and Measures Act (1985). Spirits (gin, whisky, rum, and vodka) are sold in 25 ml or 35 ml quantities or multiples thereof. Beer is typically served in pints (568 ml), but is also served in half-pints or third-pints.
In Ireland, the serving size of spirits is 35.5 ml or 71 ml. Beer is usually served in pints or half-pints ("glasses"). In the Netherlands and Belgium, standard servings are 250 and 500 ml for pilsner; 300 and 330 ml for ales.
The shape of a glass can have a significant effect on how much one pours. A Cornell University study of students and bartenders' pouring showed both groups pour more into short, wide glasses than into tall, slender glasses. Aiming to pour one shot of alcohol (1.5 ounces or 44.3 ml), students on average poured 45.5 ml & 59.6 ml (30% more) respectively into the tall and short glasses. The bartenders scored similarly, on average pouring 20.5% more into the short glasses. More experienced bartenders were more accurate, pouring 10.3% less alcohol than less experienced bartenders. Practice reduced the tendency of both groups to over pour for tall, slender glasses but not for short, wide glasses. These misperceptions are attributed to two perceptual biases: (1) Estimating that tall, slender glasses have more volume than shorter, wider glasses; and (2) Over focusing on the height of the liquid and disregarding the width.
Apéritif and digestif
An apéritif is any alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite while a digestif is any alcoholic beverage served after a meal, in theory to aid digestion. Fortified wine, liqueur, and dry champagne are common apéritifs. Because apéritifs are served before dining, the emphasis is usually on dry rather than sweet.
Sensation of warmth
In cold climates, potent alcoholic beverages such as vodka are popularly seen as a way to “warm up” the body, possibly because alcohol is a quickly absorbed source of food energy and because it dilates peripheral blood vessels (peripherovascular dilation). This is a misconception because the “warmth” is actually caused by a transfer of heat from the body’s core to its extremities, where it is quickly lost to the environment. However, the perception alone may be welcomed when only comfort, rather than hypothermia, is a concern.
Alcohol is a moderately good solvent for many fatty substances and essential oils. This attribute facilitates the use of flavoring and coloring compounds in alcoholic beverages, especially distilled beverages. Flavors may be naturally present in the beverage’s base material. Beer and wine may be flavored before fermentation. Spirits may be flavored before, during, or after distillation.
Sometimes flavor is obtained by allowing the beverage to stand for months or years in oak barrels, usually American or French oak.
A few brands of spirits have fruit or herbs inserted into the bottle at the time of bottling.
Use as a substitute for water
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2013)|
At times and places of poor public sanitation (such as Medieval Europe), the consumption of alcoholic drinks was a way of avoiding water-borne diseases such as cholera. Small beer and faux wine, in particular, were used for this purpose. Although alcohol kills bacteria, its low concentration in these beverages would have had only a limited effect. More important was that the boiling of water (required for the brewing of beer) and the growth of yeast (required for fermentation of beer and wine) would kill dangerous microorganisms.
The alcohol content of these beverages allowed them to be stored for months or years in simple wood or clay containers without spoiling. For this reason, they were commonly kept aboard sailing vessels as an important (or even the sole) source of hydration for the crew, especially during the long voyages of the early modern period.
Alcohol and health
Short-term effects of alcohol consumption include intoxication and dehydration. Long-term effects of alcohol include changes in the metabolism of the liver and brain and alcoholism. Alcohol is converted to the carcinogen acetaldehyde by the liver. Drinking small amounts of alcohol can offer some protection for people at risk of heart disease, but large amounts can increase the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol) is a psychoactive drug and the main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic beverages. In countries with drinking culture, the social stigma cause many people to not view it as a drug because it is an important part of social events in their cultures. As a result in these cultures, many young binge drinkers prefer to call themselves hedonists before binge drinkers (or recreational drug users) and undergraduate students often position themselves outside the categories of 'serious' or 'anti-social' drinkers. However, about 40 percent of US college students could be considered alcoholics in 2012 according to new criteria introduced in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, officially published in May 2013.
Alcohol laws are laws in relation to the manufacture, use, influence and sale of ethanol or alcoholic beverages that contain ethanol. Alcohol laws often seek to reduce the availability of alcoholic beverages, often with the stated purpose of reducing the health and social side effect of their consumption. In particular, such laws specify the legal drinking age which usually varies between 16 and 25 years, depending upon the country and the type of drink. Some nations do not have a legal drinking or purchasing age, but most set the age at 18 years. This can also take the form of distribution only in licensed stores or in monopoly stores. Often, this is combined with some form of alcohol taxation. In some jurisdictions alcoholic beverages have been totally prohibited for reasons of religion (e.g., Islamic countries with certain interpretations of sharia law) or perceived public morals and health (e.g., Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933).
Some religions forbid, discourage, or restrict the drinking of alcoholic beverages for various reasons. These include Islam, Jainism, the Bahá'í Faith, the Church of God In Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, the United Pentecostal Church International, Theravada, most Mahayana schools of Buddhism, some Protestant denominations of Christianity, some sects of Taoism (Five Precepts (Taoism) and Ten Precepts (Taoism)), and some sects of Hinduism.[which?] In some regions with a dominant religion the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages is forbidden to everybody, regardless of religion. For instance, some Islamic states, including member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen, prohibit alcoholic beverages because they are forbidden by Islam.
In some religions alcoholic beverages are used for ritual purposes. For example, the Roman Catholic Church uses wine in the celebration of the Eucharist; in Judaism kosher wine is used in holidays and rituals.
Carnival in the Netherlands is historically a Roman Catholic feast which is well known for its excessive drinking of alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages listed by type of base material
The names of some alcoholic beverages are determined by their base material.
|Grains||Name of fermented beverage||Name of distilled beverage|
|barley||beer, ale, barley wine||Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, shōchū (mugijōchū) (Japan)|
|rye||rye beer, kvass||rye whiskey, vodka (Poland), Korn (Germany)|
|corn||chicha, corn beer, tesguino||Bourbon whiskey; and vodka (rarely)|
|sorghum||burukutu (Nigeria), pito (Ghana), merisa (southern Sudan), bilibili (Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon)||maotai, gaoliang, certain other types of baijiu (China).|
|wheat||wheat beer||horilka (Ukraine), vodka, wheat whiskey, weizenkorn (Germany)|
|rice||beer, brem (Bali), huangjiu and choujiu (China), Ruou gao (Vietnam), sake (Japan), sonti (India), makgeolli and chungju (Korea), tuak (Borneo Island), thwon (Nepal)||aila (Nepal), rice baijiu (China), shōchū (komejōchū) and awamori (Japan), soju (Korea)|
|millet||millet beer (Sub-Saharan Africa), tongba (Nepal, Tibet), boza (the Balkans, Turkey)|
|buckwheat||shōchū (sobajōchū) (Japan)|
|Fruit juice||Name of fermented beverage||Name of distilled beverage|
|juice of grapes||wine||brandy, Cognac (France), Vermouth, Armagnac (France), Branntwein (Germany), pisco (Peru, Chile), (Grozdova) Rakia (The Balkans, Turkey), singani (Bolivia), Arak (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan), törkölypálinka (Hungary)|
|juice of apples||cider (U.S.: "hard cider"), Apfelwein||applejack (or apple brandy), calvados, cider|
|juice of pears||perry, or pear cider; poiré (France)||Poire Williams, pear brandy, Eau-de-vie (France), pálinka (Hungary), Krushova rakia / Krushevitsa (Bulgaria)|
|juice of plums||plum wine||slivovitz, țuică, umeshu, pálinka, Slivova rakia / Slivovitsa (Bulgaria)|
|juice of apricots||Kaisieva rakia (Bulgaria), pálinka (Hungary)|
|juice of pineapples||tepache (Mexico), Pineapple Wine (Hawaii)|
|bananas or plantains||Chuoi hot (Vietnam), Cauim (Kuna Indians of Panama), urgwagwa (Uganda, Rwanda), mbege (with millet malt; Tanzania), kasikisi (with sorghum malt; Democratic Republic of the Congo)|
|gouqi||gouqi jiu (China)||gouqi jiu (China)|
|coconut||Toddy (Sri Lanka, India)||arrack, lambanog (Sri Lanka, India, Philippines)|
|ginger with sugar, ginger with raisins||ginger ale, ginger beer, ginger wine|
|Myrica rubra||yangmei jiu (China)||yangmei jiu (China)|
|pomace||pomace wine||Raki/Ouzo/Pastis/Sambuca (Turkey/Greece/France/Italy), tsipouro/tsikoudia (Greece), grappa (Italy), Trester (Germany), marc (France), orujo (Spain), zivania (Cyprus), Bagaço (Portugal), tescovină (Romania), Arak (Iraq)|
|Vegetables||Name of fermented beverage||Name of distilled beverage|
|juice of ginger root||ginger beer (Botswana)|
|potato||potato beer||horilka (Ukraine), vodka (Poland and Germany), akvavit (Scandinavia), poitín (poteen) (Ireland)|
|sweet potato||soju (Korea)||shōchū (imojōchū) (Japan)|
|juice of sugarcane, or molasses||basi, betsa-betsa (regional)||rum (Caribbean), Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, pinga or cachaça (Brasil), aguardiente, guaro, Gongo, Konyagi (Tanzania)|
|juice of agave||pulque||tequila, mezcal, raicilla|
|Other base materials||Name of fermented beverage||Name of distilled beverage|
|sap of palm||coyol wine (Central America), tembo (Sub-Saharan Africa), toddy (Indian subcontinent)|
|sap of Arenga pinnata, Coconut, Borassus flabellifer||Tuak (Indonesia)||Arrack|
|honey||mead, horilka (Ukraine), tej (Ethiopia) Kangara(Tanzania)||distilled mead (mead brandy or honey brandy)|
|milk||kumis, kefir, blaand||arkhi (Mongolia)|
|sugar||kilju and mead or sima (Finland)||shōchū (kokutō shōchū): made from brown sugar (Japan)|
- Alternative psychoactive alcohol use
- Beer and breweries by region
- Chinese alcoholic beverages
- Cooking with alcohol
- Home brewing
- List of alcoholic beverages
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- Emerald Media Group: About 37 percent of college students could now be considered alcoholics
- Alcohol, Health-EU Portal
- International Center for Alcohol Policies — Website
- International Center for Alcohol Policies — List of Tables
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - What Is a Standard Drink?
- Most Widely Consumed Alcoholic Beverages