Alcoholic beverages are drinks containing ethanol, popularly called alcohol.

Table of contents
1 Types of alcoholic beverages
2 Uses
3 Alcoholic content
4 Legal considerations
5 See also
6 External links

Types of alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages include low-alcohol-content beverages produced by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing products, and high-alcohol-content beverages produced by distillation of the low-alcohol-content beverages. Sometimes, the alcohol content of low-alcohol-content beverages is increased by adding distilled product, particularly in the case of wines. Such fortified wines include Port wine and Sherry.

The names of the beverages are determined by the source of the material fermented:

Source Name of fermented beverage Name of distilled beverage
grain beer, ale, sake (rice) whiskey (also spelled whisky)
juice of fruits, other than apples or pears wine (most commonly from grapes) brandy, grappa (Italy), trester (Germany)
juice of appless ("hard") cider applejack (or apple brandy), Calvados
juice of pears perry, or pear cider pear brandy
juice of sugarcane, or molasses basi, betsa-betsa (regional) rum, cachaša
juice of agave pulque tequila, mezcal
juice of plums   slivovitz
honey mead

Note that in common speech, wine or brandy is made from grapes unless the fruit is specified: "plum wine" or "cherry brandy" for example, although in some cases grape-derived alcohol is added.

In the USA, cider often means unfermented apple juice (see the article on cider), while fermented cider is called hard cider. Unfermented cider is sometimes called sweet cider. Also, applejack was originally made by a freezing process described in the article on cider which was equivalent to distillation but more easily done in the cold climate of New England. In the UK, cider is always alcoholic, and in Australia it can be either.

Two common distilled beverages not listed in the above chart are vodka and gin. Vodka can be distilled from any source (grain and potatoes being the most common, also industrial cellulose for the cheapest!) but the main characteristic of vodka is that it is so thoroughly distilled as to exhibit none of the flavors derived from its source material. Gin is a similar distillate which has been flavored by contact with herbs and other plant products, especially juniper berries, from which it gets its name.


Alcoholic beverages often are used for ritualistic and symbolic purposes such as for mass or Passover wine. Some religions, most notably Islam, ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Alcoholic beverages can be combined, sometimes with other ingredients, to create cocktails.

In areas and eras with poor public sanitation, consumption of alcoholic beverages (particularly weak or "small" beer) was one method of avoiding water-borne diseases such as the cholera. Though strong alcohol kills bacteria, the low concentration in beer or even wine will not suffice. It is rather the boiling of water, which is required for the brewing of beer, which sanitizes it.

Alcoholic content

The amount of alcohol in an alcoholic beverage may be specified in percent alcohol by volume (ABV), in percentage by weight (sometimes abbrieviated w/w for weight for weight), or in proof.

Alcoholic beverages generally cause intoxication and may result in a hangover. The latter is partly due to the dehydrating effect, which can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water between and after alcoholic drinks.

Legal considerations

Most countries have rules forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages to children, e.g. in the Netherlands one has to be 16 to buy beer or wine and 18 to buy distilled alcoholic beverages. Also there are restrictions on driving after drinking.

In law, sometimes the term "intoxicating agent" is used for a category of substances which includes alcoholic beverages and some drugs. Giving a person these to create an abnormal condition of the mind (such as drunkenness), in order to facilitate committing a crime, may be an additional crime.

See also

External links