What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is the ingredient found in beer, wine, and spirits that causes intoxication. The alcohol chemical binds with other atoms to create secondary alcohols. The secondary alcohols produced are methanol, isopropanol, and ethanol. All three types of alcohol are toxic but only ethyl alcohol is safe for human consumption, while the other two are used for cleaning and manufacturing. Drinking any amount of isopropanol or methanol is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.
Three Types of Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is primarily used for sterilization. We use this type of alcohol for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, tools, and human bodies. This type of alcohol is found in everyday cleaning products and even small amounts in some cosmetics or lotions.
Methyl alcohol, sometimes called wood alcohol, is most commonly used in manufacturing. It can be used to make products such as paint remover or antifreeze, and its byproducts can make everything from plastics to explosives. This type of alcohol also works to fuel cars and boats and keeps other fuels from freezing.
Ethyl alcohol (grain alcohol) is produced by fermenting various sugars, yeast, and starches. This type of alcohol is known for its ability to alter mood and behavior and has been used as a recreational drug for thousands of years. It is the only type of alcohol that can be metabolized by the human liver (in limited quantities). In fact, ethanol has many harmful effects on the body and over time causes damage to organs like the liver and the brain. Ethanol affects the central nervous system by impairing coordination and judgement. Abusing alcohol by binge drinking or heavy drinking can lead to health problems and alcohol addiction.
Distilled and Undistilled Alcohol
Alcohol by volume (ABV) and alcohol proof are ways to measure the amount of alcohol in a fermented drink. ABV is the number of milliliters of ethanol per 100 milliliters in a solution, and alcohol proof is twice the percentage of ABV. For example, a drink with 50% ABV is considered 100 proof. Distilled drinks such as liquors and spirits contain more alcohol by volume and higher alcohol proof than undistilled.
Different Types of Alcoholic Drinks by Alcohol Content
There are a wide variety of alcohol beverages and can be categorized into 3 main types: wine, spirits, and beer. Certain alcoholic drinks contain more alcohol than others and can cause drunkenness and alcohol poisoning more quickly and in smaller amounts.
Beer is considered the most popular alcoholic beverage around the world. It is also believed to be the oldest alcoholic drink in history. The process of making beer is called brewing and is usually produced by fermenting barley or other cereal grains such as wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, or sorghum. Alcohol content in beer ranges anywhere from 2.5% to 15% ABV but a standard drink usually contains between 4% to 6% ABV.
Wine is also considered one of the most popular and oldest alcoholic drinks in the world. Wine is produced by crushed grapes that are fermented with yeast. The yeast converts grape sugars into ethanol which is later stored to be aged and bottled. There are 5 fundamental groups for wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified. In the United States, standard wine is defined as having less than 14% ABV. Certain wines are made “stronger” with distilled alcohol and known as “fortified wine” or “dessert wine”.
Hard cider is produced from fermented apple juice and typically contains 4-6% ABV.
Mead is a blend of water with fermented honey and has an ABV between 10% to 14%.
Sake is a well-known Japanese drink that is produced by fermenting rice. The standard alcohol concentration in sake is about 16% ABV.
Distilled Drinks (Liquors and Spirits)
Gin is a spirit made by distillation of fermented grains then redistillation in the presence of juniper berries. The ABV can be anywhere from 35% to 55%.
Brandy is distilled wine and the ABV typically ranges from 35% to 60%.
Whiskey is produced from fermented grains. The ABV of whiskey ranges from 40% to 50%.
Rum is made from fermented sugarcane or molasses and usually has an alcohol concentration of about 40% ABV. Certain rums are “overproof”, meaning that it has a higher ABV, usually reaching 75.5% ABV.
Tequila is a Mexican spirit made from a fermented mash of blue agave. The typical alcohol concentration of this type of alcoholic beverage is about 40%.
Vodka is a liquor made from fermented grains and potatoes then usually treated with charcoal to remove any distinctive taste or color. The standard alcohol concentration for vodka in the U.S. is 40% ABV.
Absinthe is made from a variety of leaves and herbs and usually has a high alcohol concentration. Although it is popularly believed that absinthe is a hallucinogen, there is no evidence of this claim. Certain types of absinthe have around 40% ABV but others may have up to 90% ABV.
Get Help Today for Alcohol Addiction
There are many different types of alcoholic beverages but all of them have the potential to cause harm and lead to addiction. Alcohol is not only intoxicating, but it also causes long term damage to the liver and other organs. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, contact a treatment professional today and learn about your options for recovery.