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.[1]

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.[2] The production and consumption of alcohol occurs in most cultures of the world, from hunter-gatherer peoples to nation-states.[3]

Alcoholic beverages are a source of food energy. The USDA uses a figure of 6.93 kcal per gram of alcohol (5.47 kcal per ml) for calculating food energy.[4]

Distilled beveragesEdit

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.[5] Unsweetened, distilled, alcoholic beverages that have an alcohol content of at least 20% ABV are called spirits.[6] 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).

Rectified spiritEdit

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, in liqueurs, in tinctures, and as a household solvent.


Champagne is a type of sparkling wine and type of alcoholic drinks produced from the grapes, together with secondary fermentation as well as the wine. It was present during the New Year's Eve, together with Wong Kah Wei's house, as well as Christmas parties.


Whisky is a type of distilled alcohol beverage made from fermented grain mash. In Scotland, it is also known to be "scotch whisky".


  • The Balvenie whisky
  • Dalvenie whisky
  • Glenfiddich whisky
  • Glenmorangie whisky
  • The Monkey Shoulder whisky
  • Suntory whisky
  • Yamazaki whisky (Single Malt 12, 18 and 25 Year Old Whisky)

Fermented beveragesEdit


Main article: Wine

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.

File:Port wine.jpg

Sparkling wine can be made by means of a secondary fermentation.

Beverages called "fruit wines" are made from fruits such as plums, cherries, or apples. The kind of fruit must be specified on the label.

Fortified wine is wine, such as port or sherry, to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) has been added.[7] 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.[8]


Main article: Beer

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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.


Template:See also 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.[9] It has been suggested that these substances contribute to the symptoms of a hangover.[10]


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 Template:LD50 of 65 mg/kg (oral, rat).[11]


Tannins are congeners found in wine. Tannins contains powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols.

Fusel alcoholsEdit

Main article: Fusel alcohol

The term fusel is German for "bad liquor".[12] Methanol and isopropanol are fusel alcohols.

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.[13]


File:Liquor store in Breckenridge Colorado.jpg
Main article: History of alcoholic beverages

Since ancient times, people around the world have been drinking alcoholic beverages. Reasons for drinking alcoholic beverages vary and include:

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.[2][15] The results of this analysis were published in December 2004.[16] This drink, as of now, precedes the evidence of grape wine from the Middle East by more than 500 years.[15] Wine's first appearance dates from 6000 BC in Georgia.[17] Evidence of alcoholic beverages has also been found dating from 3150 BC in ancient Egypt,[18] 3000 BC in Babylon,[19] 2000 BC in pre-Hispanic Mexico,[19] and 1500 BC in Sudan.[20] 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.[21]


Alcohol concentrationEdit

Main article: Alcohol by volume

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.[22]

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.Template:Citation needed

Alcohol-free beverage definition controversyEdit

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."[23]

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.[24] Systembolaget defines alcohol-free as a drink that contains a maximum of 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.[25]

Standard drinksEdit

Main article: Standard drink#Pure alcohol measure
File:Glass of whisky.jpg

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.

The standard drink varies significantly from country to country. For example, it is 7.62 ml (6 grams) of alcohol in Austria, but in Japan it is 25 ml (19.75 grams).

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 Template:Convert of alcohol. This is approximately the amount of alcohol in a Template:Convert glass of beer, a Template:Convert glass of wine, or a Template:Convert glass of a 40% ABV (80 proof) spirit.

Serving sizesEdit

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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.[26] 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.[27] 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.


File:Alcohol by Country.png

Apéritif and digestifEdit

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 warmthEdit

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.


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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 waterEdit

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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 healthEdit

Main article: Alcohol and health
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Short-term effects of alcohol consumption include intoxication and dehydration. Long-term effects of alcohol include alcoholism, malnutrition, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, cancer and damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.[29][30][31] Alcohol is converted to the carcinogen acetaldehyde by the liver.[32]

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.[32]

Alcoholic beverages contain calories, which may contribute to an increase in body weight (see beer belly). Each gram of alcohol provides 7.1 kcal, and each millilitre provides 5.6 kcal.[33]

In addition to alcohol, many alcoholic beverages contain carbohydrates. For example, beer usually contains 10-15 g of carbohydrates (40-60 kcal) per 12 fl.oz. 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.[34][35]

Psychoactive drugEdit

Alcohol (ethanol) is a psychoactive drug.[36][37] In countries that have a drinking culture, social stigma may cause many people not to view alcohol as a drug because it is an important part of social events. In these countries, many young binge drinkers prefer to call themselves hedonists rather than binge drinkers[38] or recreational drug users.

Undergraduate students often position themselves outside the categories of "serious" or "anti-social" drinkers.[39] However, about 40 percent of college students in the United States[40] could be considered alcoholics according to new criteria in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5.

Legal statusEdit

Main article: Alcohol laws

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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.[1] 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).

Religious aspectsEdit

Some religions forbid, discourage, or restrict the drinking of alcoholic beverages for various reasons. These include Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, 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. 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.[41]

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.

See alsoEdit


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  6. Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (5th edition) (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 707–709.
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  9. Understanding Congeners in Wine, Wines & Vines. Accessed 2011-4-20
  10. Whisky hangover 'worse than vodka, a study suggests', BBC News. Accessed 2009-12-19
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  13. Aroma of Beer, Wine and Distilled Alcoholic Beverages
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  20. Dirar, H., (1993), The Indigenous Fermented Foods of the Sudan: A Study in African Food and Nutrition, CAB International, UK
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  22. Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (5th edition) (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 365.
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  32. 32.0 32.1 Cancer research UK: Alcohol and cancer "There is no doubt that alcohol can cause seven types of cancer"
  33. Nielsen, S.J. et al. (2012). Calories Consumed from Alcoholic Beverages by U.S. Adults, 2007-2010. Hyattsville, Md.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.
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  37. Drugs and society - Page 189, Glen (Glen R.) Hanson, Peter J. Venturelli, Annette E. Fleckenstein - 2006
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  40. Time: DSM-5 Could Categorize 40% of College Students as Alcoholics, 14 May 2012 The article reports that the new DSM-5 criteria could increase the number of people diagnosed as alcoholics by 60%
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External linksEdit

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