Over 2 billion people worldwide consume ethanol daily. For centuries, folks have been drinking ethanol-based drinks for a variety of reasons; some cultural and religious, while others down to personal preference. The consumption of alcohol dates back to the Neolithic period (Late Stone Age) and has played important social roles in many cultures across the world.
Topics Covered in this Guide
- 1 What is an alcoholic drink?
- 2 General Recipes or Preparation of Alcoholic Drinks
- 3 Different Types of Alcoholic Drinks
- 4 Alcoholic Drinks: Laws and Age Restrictions
- 5 Alcohol Concentration
- 6 Common Alcoholic Drinks and Their Concentration
- 7 Benefits of Alcoholic Drinks
- 8 Popular Brands of Alcoholic Drinks
What is an alcoholic drink?
Humans have been consuming alcoholic drinks for as long as you would care to remember. And by definition, an alcoholic drink is a drink that contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol produced via fermentation of yeast, sugars, grains, and fruits).
Generally, alcohol is both a chemical and psychoactive drug. It functions as a depressant when consumed in small quantities and can:
- Cause Euphoria
- Increase sociability.
- Reduce anxiety.
However, alcohol doesn’t come without its side effects. Excessive use of ethanol suppresses the nervous system, thereby hampering judgment. Moreover, the human liver can metabolize limited quantities of alcohol, and excessive consumption damages liver function. When consumed in higher doses, alcoholic drinks can cause:
- Increases risk of certain cancers
- Unconsciousness or even death
And while alcoholic drinks are legal in most regions worldwide, some laws regulate the production, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcoholic drinks. Some countries ban alcoholic drinks entirely while others use restrictive regulations on age and consumption of alcohol.
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Despite that, the global alcoholic drinks industry is booming and exceeded $ 1.2 trillion in 2020. That said, let’s take a closer look at the alcoholic drinks industry, including the different types, popular brands, their industrial preparation, and the health benefits, if any, that are associated with the consumption of alcoholic drinks.
General Recipes or Preparation of Alcoholic Drinks
Alcohol is the most preferred recreational drug in the world, with over one-third of the world population (an equivalent of over 2 billion people) using it. A 2018 study in the United States found that over 86% of adults had taken alcohol at some point. The same study revealed that 70% had consumed alcohol in the previous year, with 56% having had it in the past month.
So, it is no surprise that alcoholic drinks are a household commodity that someone would attempt to make at the comfort of their home. And while that’s possible, the average alcohol by volume (ABV) for most alcoholic drinks ranges from 3% to 50%, which means not all types of alcohol can be DIYed at home. In general, fermentation of sugars, starches, grains, or fruits, and the accompanying distillation or filtration process describe the preparation of alcoholic drinks, which can be divided into three categories, namely:
Different Types of Alcoholic Drinks
Depending on the method of preparation, 2 categories of alcoholic drinks exist, namely:
- Fermented (undistilled) and
- Distilled drinks.
- Fermented (Undistilled) Alcoholic Drinks
Fermentation is the process by which yeast or bacteria chemically converts starches or sugars into ethanol. Different types of fermented alcoholic beverages include:
- Beer: Beer is fermented from grain mash, usually barley or a combination of grains. Once fermentation is complete, the mash is naturally carbonated to obtain beer, which is the most preferred alcoholic beverage worldwide. However, the resulting mash can be distilled to obtain spirits.
- Wine : Wine is obtained from the natural process of fermentation that involves grapes of special types of fruits. And unlike beer, wines require longer periods of fermentation, followed by even lengthier periods of aging. Most wines contain alcohol by volume (ABV) content of between 9% to 16%.
- Mead : Mead is obtained via fermentation of a mixture of honey and water. other regions use fruits or hops, but the resulting drink contains alcohol percentage of between 3% to 20%.
- Distilled Drinks
Distillation is the process that comes after fermentation. And it involves the conversion of a fermented mash or substance into another that has more concentration of alcohol. Through distillation, liquor producers concentrate alcohol by separating it from the mash, water, or other components of a fermented mash.
Liquors that are produced via distillation (concentrating alcohol) are called spirits, and they have an ABV of at least 20%. The most common alcoholic drinks obtained through this process have an alcohol concentration of around 40%, and includes but are not limited to:
Alcoholic Drinks: Laws and Age Restrictions
In virtually all countries and jurisdictions, authorities have established laws that regulate the manufacture, distribution, packaging, labeling, sale, and consumption of alcoholic drinks. As explained above, ethanol is toxic and excessive use comes not without its consequences. And such regulations seek to limit the adverse social and health implications associated with alcohol consumption.
Generally, alcohol laws outline the legal drinking age (which often varies from 16 to 21 years – depending on the region and type of drink), legal purchasing age (usually 18 years), the legal days and hours of selling alcoholic drinks for pubs, while other laws prohibit drink driving or give religious exemptions like those we see in the Arab world.
Many people are often confused as to what percentage of alcohol constitutes the amount of liquid in their glasses or bottles. Different types of alcoholic drinks; from beer and malt liquor to wine and spirits, can have varying amounts of alcohol per unit. Many beer enthusiasts, for instance, would discover that regular beer has on average, 5% alcohol concentration, while light beer is slightly lower at 4.2% averagely.
The amount of liquid in your glass or bottle is not reflective of the alcohol content in the drink. That’s why it is important to understand how much alcohol is present in your drink. In the U.S, for example, a standard drink (equivalent to one alcoholic drink) carries about 14 grams of pure ethanol (alcohol), and this can be found in the following quantities of drinks:
- 5 ounces of wine (usually at about 12% alcohol concentration)
- 12 ounces of normal beer (usually at 5% alcohol content)
- 5 ounces of distilled spirits (at about 40% concentration)
The concentration of alcohol in an alcoholic beverage is stated as the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), which is the amount of pure ethanol present in 100 ml of beverage. Pure ethanol is 97.5% concentrated. At 60 degrees, which is the concentration limit obtainable for alcohol. As for beers and wines, the highest concentration of alcohol is around 18%, which is the practically achievable limit because bacteria and yeast used in fermentation stop reproducing at that concentration.
Common Alcoholic Drinks and Their Concentration
- Fruit juices – 0.1%
- Beers – usually 5%, but some can range from 3% to 15%.
- Ciders/wine coolers – 4% to 8%.
- Spirits – often 30% to 40%, but the range is varied from 15% to 98% depending on the use case.
- Wines – typically 13%, but can range from 8% to 17%.
- Fortified wines – ranges from 15% to 22%.
Benefits of Alcoholic Drinks
You have probably heard once and again how negatively drinking alcohol can impact your health. However, studies have shown that occasional glasses of liquor, sipped in moderation, can rejuvenate specific aspects of your health such as weight and attitude.
Well, this isn’t the green light for you to proceed and down four beers or consume all types of cocktails at your next party. Not at all. But it is simply a heads-up as to how you can hit the joint and enjoy your drink, knowing that moderation could be beneficial for your overall well-being at the end of the day. That said, let’s dive into some of the benefits you can enjoy with alcoholic drinks.
- Red Wines Improve Metabolism and Fat Burning: Red wine, as scientists have revealed, can help those looking to shed some weight. A study from Oregon State University indicated that red grapes used to produce red wine contain a chemical called ellagic acid, which is great for those managing obesity or fatty livers. Ellagic acid inhibits the growth of fatty cells by boosting the metabolic function of the liver.
- Moderate Consumption Can Improve Sexual Function in Men: Still, on wines, a study conducted by the University of West Australia revealed that wine drinkers experienced lower rates of erectile dysfunction, with credit to red wines that contributed to a 30% reduction.
- Beer Is Packed with Essential Vitamins: Beers, from Guinness to Bud Light, contain high levels of Vitamin B and are packed with minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Moreover, darker beers are rich in iron, which is essential in the formation of red blood cells in the human body.
- Boosts Cardiovascular Health: Alcohol consumption has been shown to improve your cardiovascular health. A moderate amount of alcohol can jumpstart your blood flow and prevent cardio-related diseases, especially if you balance moderate drinking with healthy workouts.
- Improves Social Life: Alcohol relieves anxiety, which is a key factor in daily social life. The reason alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world is because of its magic in igniting evenings and night outs. In such circumstances when everyone is letting it loose, it is much easier to make acquaintances. And unlike when you are sober, it is highly unlikely you will experience as much fun on a night out.
- Alcohol Relieves Stress: The busy globalized world has everyone engaged in hectic daily schedules. And what better way to relax and eliminate mental inhibitions than take a drink at the end of the day? Simply going out to the joint and taking a sip can help you relax. And it can only get better when you do it while surrounded by friends. You will feel stress-free and also be ready for work the following day.
Popular Brands of Alcoholic Drinks
Alcohol, for centuries, has been marked as a premium ingredient to make ceremonies, cultural activities, and parties memorable. That’s so because of the relaxation, euphoria, and inhibition of anxiety that is associated with it.
Today, more folks have developed taste for alcoholic beverages, which is why we have compiled a list of popular alcoholic drinks to check out.
- Beer: Beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic drink in the world and is the pioneer to the drinking world. On the list of heavily consumed beverages in the world, beer comes only third behind water and tea. And with an alcohol content of between 4% and 8%, it is a favorite for many alcohol enthusiasts.
- Wine: Wines are obtained from grapes or special fruits that have been fermented for years and come with an alcohol concentration of between 8% and 15%. The liking for wines is prevalent in women because it has a desirable quality; wine doesn’t affect waistlines. Besides, it is a sophisticated and classy drink that comes with several health benefits.
- Champagne: Talking of bubbles at parties, champagnes are favorites for all forms of celebrations. In France, a certain region is nicknamed Champagne because that’s where all its champagnes are produced using grapes. Champagnes come in multiple flavors and are considered classy and luxurious.
- Whiskey: Whiskeys are often attributed to the Old West and Scotland and are made from a fermented mash with at least 40% alcohol content. It is a classy and strong drink that is aged in barrels for years.
- Margaritas: Dating back to the 1930s, Margarita is an old classic that’s still going strong for many folks. Among its components are tequila, lime, lemon juice, triple sec, and it is served with salt at the glass rim for the complete experience. Elsewhere, people mix a variety of ingredients to make margaritas, which makes it quite a versatile drink.
- Martini: Typical Martinis are made using gin, vermouth, and garnished with a lemon twist or olive oil. And depending on your preference or available alcohol, you can vary the base drink with vodka.
- Tequila: This is a Mexican classic that originates from the city of Tequila. The drink has a sharp texture and is based served with lemon or lime to alleviate the burning sensation.
The Bottom Line
Are you an alcohol enthusiast? If not, do you fancy trying out one day? Well, just so you know, over 80% of folks worldwide consume alcohol or have drunk it at some point in their lives. And don’t get it twisted. We are not advocating for alcohol consumption. Alcohol is indeed bad for your health when taken in large quantities. However, and as discussed above, moderate consumption of alcohol has been shown by researchers to accrue some health benefits, which you can take advantage of.