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A Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Alcohol

Last Updated on May 11, 2022

Millions of people consume alcohol every day, as it is the most popular social beverage for those who want to have a good time with their friends or relax after a long day at work. However, not many people know what they're drinking, and they would be amazed to discover how that "happy juice" is made.

If you're one of these people and want to discover more about the alcohol world, feel free to keep reading this article about the different types of alcohol.

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What Is Alcohol?

There are many types of alcohol in the world, but the popular recreational drug we tend to consume on Friday nights is called ethyl alcohol.

Although this drug can be pretty fun to consume now and then, our job is to warn you about how dangerous it can be to the human body. This is why anyone who decides to drink alcohol must be a legal adult and follow the law whenever they're under its influence.

Types of Alcohol

In this article, we're going to cover the most important types of alcohol, which are usually separated into two categories: fermented and distilled beverages.

Fermentation

This is the original process for creating alcohol, and it first appeared on Earth as an accident. Allegedly, it happened 10,000 ago when cavemen discovered they could make bread by grinding grains to create a flour and adding water.

Then, the combination created wild yeast that started feeding on the sugar of the flour and produced alcohol when it was left overnight. Thousands of years later, this process was refined and tweaked to be called fermentation, and it happens naturally in our everyday world.

Beer

Beer is the most common type of alcohol. It is made of fermented cereals, and it tends to have one of the lowest percentages of ABV among alcoholic drinks. This beverage is usually made of wheat, but it can be made of any cereal you imagine. Moreover, it can also be flavored with other spices to add a particular characteristic to the mix.

Beers also fall into different categories. The most common ones are ales and lagers, which differ in color, flavor, and how they're made. On the one hand, ales are usually darker and stronger, while lagers are lighter and refreshing.

Wine

Wines are highly diverse and complex, and people study them for years before understanding how they work. Still, in summary, they're made of fermented wine juice that usually has a larger ABV than beers. Fortified wines can even reach the 30% ABV mark.

Making wine is a delicate process, as any variation in the winemaking process can alter the result, such as the weather, the time of the year, the vintner's skills, the type of wood used on the barrels, etc.

Moreover, wines usually fall under one of the following categories depending on the previously mentioned factors.

Wine Categories

  • Red wine
  • White wine
  • Rose wine
  • Sparkling wine
  • Fortified wine

Cider

Some people include cider as a wine variation, but we like to classify it differently due to its great variety of flavors. This is usually made the same way winemakers create wine, but it has a much lower ABV mark, and it can be made with any fruit. However, apple, pear, strawberry, and blood orange cider are the most popular.

Many people use it as an alternative to beer, which is fantastic for people with gluten allergies or who don't like the taste of beer.

Distilled

Fermentation is perfect for the previously mentioned beverages, but if you want to create spirits, which are much stronger alcohols, you must put your ingredients through a distillation process. This usually happens once the initial beverage reaches the 15% ABV mark, as anything above it tends to be too strong for the yeast to survive.

Then, the distiller puts the liquid through this process to evaporate the water in the beverage and separate it from the alcohol, creating much more concentrated liquor. This is done by slowly boiling the alcohol from the water and collecting it in another recipient. However, this process maintains the flavor of the other ingredients in the alcohol, which is excellent as alcohol on its own doesn't taste too well.

Spirits

Spirits are the product of the simple distillation of any fermented beverage. They're also called liquors by some people. Some of the most commonly used by bartenders are the following.

Vodka

Vodka is used as a base for several cocktails because it is transparent and usually neutral-flavored, which allows it to be used as diversely as possible. Most distillers make it by fermenting and distilling grains, but it can be made from virtually anything, even potatoes!

Although it doesn't have any flavor, color, or odor, if you taste several brands at once, you may be able to notice slight changes. This is due to the subtle differences in the ingredients used by each brand.

Gin

Gin is a simple beverage made of vodka and flavored with juniper berry and other spices. In most cases, the distiller can pick and choose the herbs they use to flavor gin, but they cannot exclude the juniper berry.

Whiskey

Whiskey is distilled from fermented cereal juice, which is basically beer. Moreover, there are dozens of whiskeys, which can be overwhelming for new bartenders who are barely getting to know their liquors.

Some of the most common types of whiskey are Bourbon, Irish, Scotch, and single malts. These whiskeys are created differently, as distillers can use any cereal in their preparation, such as wheat, corn, or rye.

Rum

Rum is a dark brownish liquor that's created by distilling sugar or molasses. It is a widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the Caribbean, and it is made by aging the sweet mixture in wooden barrels and distilling it. Some distillers add spices to give each mix a characteristic flavor.

Tequila

Tequila used to be considered a low-quality liquor, but it has recently gained popularity due to its characteristic flavor. It is made from blue agave, a native Mexican plant, and many popular premium brands have started including special tequila mixes in their catalogs.

Moreover, some people also include mezcal in the tequila category as they are made from the same plant, but they differ in the distillation process of each alcohol.

Brandy

Brandy is made from fermented juice, usually wine, but any other fruit can be used to create this distilled alcohol. It is consumed by sipping it from special glassed called sniffers, which are meant to help its drinkers appreciate the taste and smell of the liquor.

Most brandy types are aged in wooden barrels for decades before they're ready to be distilled and consumed, so many perceive them as high-quality alcoholic beverages.

Liqueurs

Liqueurs usually have a much lower ABV than liquors, but they're much sweeter and more flavorful, so they're often used in cocktails. However, some liqueurs aren't flavored, and their ABV is much higher than the standard, but as long as they're sweetened, they can be considered liqueurs.

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