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Where Does Alcohol Come From?


Ethanol (Ben Mills)
The alcohol that you can drink is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. It is produced by fermenting carbohydrates, such as sugars or starches. Fermentation is an anerobic process used by yeast to convert sugars into energy. Ethanol and carbon dioxide are waste products of the reaction. The reaction for the fermentation of glucose to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide is:

C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2

The fermented product may be used (e.g., wine) or distillation may be used to concentrate and purify the alcohol (e.g., vodka, tequila).

Just about any plant matter can be used to produce alcohol. Here is a list of the source material for several popular alcoholic beverages.

Ale - fermented from malt with hops

Beer - brewed and fermented from malted cereal grain (as barley), flavored with hops

Bourbon - whiskey distilled from a mash of not less than 51 percent corn and aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years

Brandy - distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice

Cognac - a brandy distilled from white wine from a specific region of France

Gin - distilled or redistilled neutral grain spirits from a variety of sources, flavored with juniper berries and other aromatics

Rum - distilled from a sugarcane product such as molasses or sugarcane juice

Sake - produced by a brewing process using rice

Tequila - a Mexican liquor distilled from blue agave

Vodka - distilled from a mash as of potatoes, rye or wheat

Whiskey - distilled from mash of grain such as rye, corn, or barley

Scotch - whiskey distilled in Scotland typically from malted barley

Wine - fermented juice of fresh grapes and/or other fruit (e.g., blackberry wine)

If you have other types of alcohol you'd like to add to the list, feel free to post a response.

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