What alcoholic drinks are made of

Alcohol is also known as ethanol. You may have seen a bottle labelled ethanol in your school’s chemistry department. This would have been 100% ethanol. If you drink this then you may well die. We drink diluted alcohol at concentrations normally ranging between 2% (beer) to 40% (spirits). Drinking 100% ethanol is the equivilent of drinking 2.5 times as much vodka.

Hmm. After doing some googling I’ve learnt that perhaps it’s a methanol impurity in ethanol which is the most dangerous.

If methanol concentration in your blood gets high, you will first suffer from nausea, vomiting and mild nervous damage including impaired vision. Consumption of about 10 ml of methanol will make you permanently blind. About 25 ml usually kills you.

So this means that 100% ethanol is not exactly 100% since it contains methanol. Also, do normal alcoholic drinks contain methanol?

Certain yeasts are capable of turning carbohydrates into ethanol, in a process called fermentation. This is how alcoholic drinks are made. The starting food can in theory be anything that contains carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) – pea wine, potatoes, banana

Anyway, on to the purpose of the post. Here’s a list of what various alcoholic drinks are made of.

  • Beer is made from wheat
  • Ale is made from barley
  • Cider is made from apples
  • Wine is made from grapes
  • Vodka is made from wheat / potatoes / other grains
  • Rum is made from sugarcane
  • Whiskey is made from grains
  • Sake is made from rice
  • Ouzo is made from grains + secret ingredients…
  • Liquers e.g. Amaretto is made from grains + sugar + other sweet things
  • Gin is made from grains + flavourings especially juniper berries
  • Bourbon is made from corn
  • Tequila is made from blue agave (a cactus like plant)
  • Mead is made from honey & water
  • Brandy is made from distilled wine
  • Eggnog is made from cream, sugar, eggs (for a frothy texture), liqeur

One thought on “What alcoholic drinks are made of

  • September 13, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Hey Greyshark! Nice post on differentiating different alcoholic drinks! Might as well bookmark this page for future reference. I never tasted an eggnog… might try it sometimes.


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