An alcoholic beverage is a drink which contains a substantial amount of the psychoactive drug ethanol (informally called alcohol). Drinking alcohol plays an important social role in many cultures. Alcohol has potential for abuse and physical dependence.
Almost all countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption, and some countries ban such activities entirely. However, alcoholic beverages are legal in most parts of the world. The global alcoholic beverages industry exceeded $1 trillion in 2014.
It is one of the most widely used recreational drugs in the world. In the United States 89% of adults have drunk alcohol at some point in time, 70% have drunk in the last year and 56% in the last month. Alcoholic beverages are typically divided into three classes—beers, wines, and spirits—and typically contain between 3% and 40% alcohol by volume.
Discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggest that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (cir. 10,000 BC). Many nonhuman animals also consume alcohol when given the opportunity and are affected in much the same way as humans, although humans are the only species known to produce alcoholic beverages intentionally.
- 1 Fermented beverages
- 2 Distilled beverages
- 3 Health effects
- 4 Apéritifs and digestifs
- 5 Flavoring
- 6 Congeners
- 7 Rectified spirit
- 8 Alcohol concentration
- 9 Serving measures
- 10 Food energy
- 11 Laws
- 12 History
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Wine is a fermented beverage produced from grapes. Wine involves a longer fermentation process than beer and also a long aging process (months or years), resulting in an alcohol content of 9%–16% ABV. Sparkling wine can be made by means of a secondary fermentation.
Beer is a beverage fermented from grain mash. It is made from barley or a blend of several grains. If the fermented mash is distilled, then the beverage is a spirit. Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world.
Cider or cyder (// SY-dər) is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from any fruit juice; apple juice (traditional and most common), peaches, pears ("Perry" cider) or other fruit. Cider alcohol content varies from 1.2% ABV to 8.5% or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, cider may be called "apple wine".
Mead (//) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey.
A distilled beverage 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).
Fortified wine is wine, such as port or sherry, to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) has been added. 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, and the aromatized wine vermouth.
Alcoholic beverages are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans). IARC classifies alcoholic beverage consumption as a cause of female breast, colorectum, larynx, liver, esophagus, oral cavity, and pharynx cancers; and as a probable cause of pancreatic cancer.
Apéritifs and digestifs
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 for the purpose of improving digestion.
Pure ethanol tastes bitter to humans; some people also describe it as sweet. However, ethanol is also a moderately good solvent for many fatty substances and essential oils. This facilitates the use of flavoring and coloring compounds in alcoholic beverages as a taste mask, especially in distilled beverages. Some flavors may be naturally present in the beverage’s raw material. Beer and wine may also be flavored before fermentation, and 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 made of American or French oak. A few brands of spirits may also have fruit or herbs inserted into the bottle at the time of bottling.
In the alcoholic beverages industry, congeners are substances produced during fermentation.
These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as occasionally desired other alcohols, like propanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol, but also compounds that are never desired such as acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, glycols, and 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.
Tannins are congeners found in wine in the presence of phenolic compounds. Wine tannins add bitterness, have a drying sensation, taste herbaceous and are often described as astringent. Wine tannins adds balance, complexity, structure and makes a wine last longer, so they play an important role in the aging of wine.
Rectified spirit, also called "neutral grain spirit," is alcohol which has been purified by means of "rectification" (i.e., repeated distillation). The term "neutral" refers to the spirit's lacking the flavor that would have been present if the mash ingredients had been distilled to a lower level of alcoholic purity. Rectified spirit also lacks 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.
Rectified spirit is a clear, colorless, flammable liquid that may contain as much as 95% ABV. It is often used for medicinal purposes. It may be a grain spirit or it may be made from other plants. It is used in mixed drinks, liqueurs, and tinctures, but also as a household solvent.
|Fruit juices||< 0.1%|
|Cider, wine coolers||4–8%|
The concentration of alcohol in a beverage is usually stated as the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV, the number of ml of pure ethanol in 100 ml of beverage) 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.
Shot sizes varies significantly from country to country. In the United Kingdom, serving size in licensed premises is regulated under the Weights and Measures Act (1985). A single serving size of 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 Israel, a single serving size of spirits is about twice as much, 50 or 60 mL.
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.
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 US proof) spirit.
Alcoholic beverages are a source of food energy. The USDA uses a figure of 6.93 kilocalories (29.0 kJ) per gram of alcohol (5.47 kcal (22.9 kJ) per ml) for calculating food energy. In addition to alcohol, many alcoholic beverages contain carbohydrates. For example, beer usually contains 10–15 g of carbohydrates (40–60 kcal or 170–250 kJ) per 350 ml (12 US fl oz) which may contribute to an increase in body weight and beer belly.
However, aside from the direct effect of its caloric content, alcohol is known to potentiate the insulin response of the human body to glucose, which, in essence, "instructs" the body to convert consumed carbohydrates into fat and to suppress carbohydrate and fat oxidation.
Alcohol laws regulate the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Such laws seek to reduce the health and social effects of their consumption.
In particular, alcohol laws specify the legal drinking age, which usually varies between 16 and 25 years, sometimes depending upon the type of beverage. Some countries do not have a legal drinking or purchasing age, but most set the minimum age at 18 years. Such laws may take the form of permitting distribution only to licensed stores or monopoly stores, and they are often combined with taxation.
In some jurisdictions, alcoholic beverages are totally prohibited for reasons of religion (e.g., Islamic countries with sharia law) or for reasons of public health and morals (e.g., Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933). In jurisdictions which enforce sharia law, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is an illegal offense, although such laws may exempt non-Muslims.
- 10,000–5,000 BC: Discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggests that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period.
- 7000–5600 BC: 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 of grape and hawthorn fruit wine, honey mead and rice beer was being produced in 7000–5600 BC (McGovern et al., 2005; McGovern 2009). The results of this analysis were published in December 2004.
- 12th century: 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.
- List of alcoholic beverages
- List of countries by alcohol consumption
- Beer and breweries by region
- Chinese alcoholic beverages
- Cooking with alcohol
- Home brewing
- Mixed drink
Social and health
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- Emerald Media Group: About 37 percent of college students could now be considered alcoholics Emerald Media Group Daily Emerald
- Alcohol, Health-EU Portal Health-EU Portal
- International Center for Alcohol Policies — Website International Center for Alcohol Policies
- International Center for Alcohol Policies — List of Tables ICAP
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - What Is a Standard Drink? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism