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Alcoholic Beverages: Beers, Wines, Spirits, Liqueurs

Types of Alcoholic Beverages

In this article:

Alcoholic beverages: alcohol and calorie content
Distilled beverages
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages

Amount of Alcohol in Alcoholic Beverages: Units

The units for the amount of alcohol in beverages are milliliters of alcohol per 100 milliliters of beverage, or in short:

  • % abv (percent of alcohol by volume), used in the English speaking world
  • Vol % or % vol (volume percent) used in continental Europe
  • Proof (% abv x 2) used in the U.S. for distilled spirits, for example, 40 % abv whiskey is 80 proof

In some parts of the U.S., the amount of alcohol in beverages can be expressed as grams of alcohol per 100 grams of beverage or % abw (alcohol by weight). Conversion: abw = 0.8 x abv, and abv = 1.25 x abw [1].

Chart 1. Alcoholic Beverages: Alcohol and Calorie Content

Alcoholic Beverage (usual serving)

Alcohol Content (% abv, grams)

Calories (kcal)

“Alcohol-free” beverage, such as alcohol-free beer (12 oz, 355 mL) US: 0.0%; EU: <0.05%, <0.15 g 50-100
“Non-alcoholic” beverage or “dealcoholized” beverage (12 oz, 355 mL) US, EU: <0.5%; <1.5 g; Canada: <1.1%; <4.5 g [9] Varies
“Non-alcoholic,” “NA” (US), “dealcoholized” (EU), “near” or “small beer” (12 oz, 355 mL) US, EU: <0.5%; <1.5 g [48]; Canada: <1.1%; <4.5 g 50-100
Kombucha; carbonated beverage, produced by fermentation of sweat black/green tea, using Kombucha bacteria/yeasts (16 oz, 475 mL) Usually <0.5%; <2 g (range: 0-3%, 0-11.5 g) [12] 60-120
Boza (in Eastern Europe, Turkey) beverage from fermented maize, wheat, millet or other cereals (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually ~1%; ~3 g (range: 0-7%, 0-18 g) [10,49] 100-180
“Low-alcohol” drink (12 oz, 355 mL) EU: 1.2%; <3.5 g Varies
Kvass (in Eastern Europe); low-alcohol beverage fro fermented rye bread (12 oz, 359 mL) <1.2%; <3.5 g 200
“Low-alcohol beer” or “reduced alcohol beer” (12 oz, 355 mL) US: <2.5%; <7 g [11] ~100
Radler (in Europe, Australia) = beer + citrus soda (17 oz, 500 mL) 2.5%; 10 g 100-125
Chicha (in Latin America) = a home-made beverage from corn (12 oz, 355 mL) 1-3%; 3-9 g ~120
Shandy (in UK, US) = beer + citrus soda or ginger ale (12 oz, 355 mL) 0.5-4%; 1.5-11 g ~130
“Light beer” or “lite beer” (in US, Canada); “table beer” or “biere de table” or tafelbier (in Belgium) (12 oz, 355 mL) Canada: 2.6-4% [9]; Australia: 2.2-3.2%; Belgium 1.5-4%; 4-11 g 100-150 (In US “light” can mean 1/3 less calories [50])
“Session beer” = drinkable, mildly flavored beer (12 oz, 355 mL) <5%; <14 g [13] 100-170
Beer, regular (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-6%; 11-17 g 160 (140-200)
Sangria = wine/fruit punch (8.5 oz, 250 mL) 6-11.5%; 12-23 g 150 (140-200)
Palm wine (West Africa, South Asia) = fermented palm sap (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-7%; 11-20 g 100-200
Breezers, coolers (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-7%; 11-20 g 120-270
Irish coffee = coffee, brown sugar, cream, 1 oz 40% Irish whiskey (6 oz, 180 mL) 10%; 14 g 160
Malt liquor = strong ale, porter or stout (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually 6-8%; 17-22 g (range:5-14%, 15-41 g) 150-350
Cider (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually 4-6%, 11-17 g (range 1.2-13%, 11-37 g) [14] 100-300
Caffeinated alcoholic beverage; example (23.5 oz, 695 mL) 12%; 67 g 660
Sparkling wine (4.1 oz, 120 mL) Usually 10-12%, 9-11 g (range: 5.5-13.5%, 5-13 g) 80 (50-120)
Ice wine, late harvest wine (5 oz, 150 mL) Usually 9-13%, 11-16 g [15] 170 (160-190)
Wine (grape, table, light wine) (5 oz, 150 mL) EU: 8.5-15%; US: table wine <14%; 8-18 g 125 (70-160)
Fruit table wine (cherry, blueberry, citrus wine, etc.) (5 oz, 150 mL) US: <14%; Canada: 7.1-14.9%; 8.5-18 g [9,16] 125 (70-160)
Eggnog with alcohol, commercial (3.4 oz, 100 mL) ~15%; ~12 g Varies
Sake = Japanese “rice wine” (5 oz, 150 mL) 15-17%; 18-20 g [17] 195 (160-220)
Mead = “honey wine” (5 oz, 150 mL) Usually 10-14%; 12-17 g (range: 8-18%; 10-23 g) 150-220
Soju = “Korean vodka;” diluted spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually ~20%, 40 proof, ~7 g (range: 15-45%, 30-90 proof, 5.5-16 g) [18] 40-120
Shochu = “Japanese vodka” (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually ~25%, 50 proof, ~9 g (range: 15-45%, 30-90 proof, 5.5-16 g) [19] 65 (40-120)
Pastis = French anise-flavored liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-45%, 80-90 proof, 14-16 g 140-170
Cynar = Italian artichoke-flavored spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 16.5%, 33 proof, 6 g ~100
Vermouth (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 13-18%, 5-6.5 g ~70
Fortified or dessert wine (sherry, port, madeira, marsala) (3.4 oz, 100 mL) 15-22%, 12-18 g 160 (110-170)
Campari, Limoncello (liquers) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 24%, 48 proof, 9 g 130-170
Amaretto (liqueur) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 28%, 56 proof, 10 g 175
Martini = cocktail from gin and vermouth (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 16-30%, 32-60 proof, 6-11 g 70-80
Jägermeister = German herbal liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 35%, 70 proof, 12.6 g 155
Cream or egg liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 11-38%, 22-76 proof, 4-14 g 100-230
Gin, dry (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-55%, 75-110 proof, 13.5-20 g 100-140
Vodka (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 37.5-80%, 75-160 proof; 13.5-29 g) 100 (130-210)
Whiskey (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40-50%, 80-100 proof; 14-18 g (range: 40-75%, 80-150 proof; 14-27 g) 110-130 (up to 200)
Tequila = Mexican spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 38-40%, 76-80 proof, 14 g (range: 35-55%, 70-110 proof, 13-20 g) 100 (up to 140)
Rum (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 37.5-50%, 75-100 proof, 13.5-18 g) 100-130
Airline miniature spirits (1.7 oz, 50 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 16 g 110
Sambuca = Italian anise-flavored liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Commonly 42%, 84 proof, 15 g 170
Ouzo = Greek anise-flavored pomace brandy (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-48%, 75-96 proof, 13.5-17 g 100-180
Aquavit = Scandinavian herbal caraway-flavored spirit, “flavored vodka” (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Commonly 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range 37.5-50%, 75-100 proof, 13.5-18 g) 90-110
Schnaps = German spirit (1 oz, 30 mL) Commonly 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 32%-45%, 64-90 proof, 11.5-16 g) 80-110
Grappa = Italian spirit from grape pomace (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-60%, 75-120 proof, 13.5-22 g 100-160
American schnapps = liqueur from neutral grain spirit + fruit juice (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 15-50%, 30-100 proof, 5-18 g 60-150
Cognac = French grape brandy (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-43%, 80-86 proof, 14.5-15.5 g 110
Baijiu = “Chinese wine”, “white wine” or “white liquor”; clear spirit distilled from sorghum (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-65%, 80-130 proof, 14-23 g 100-160
Arak or arack = clear anise-flavored spirit from the Middle East (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-50%, 80-100 proof, 14-18 g 160-200
Overproof rum (spirit) (1 oz, 30 mL) Commonly: 75.5%, 151 proof, 18 g (range: 51-90%, 122-180 proof, 12-22 g) 130 (up to 154)
Absinthe = anise-flavored spirit (to be diluted) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 38-90%, 76-180 proof, 14-32 g 100-230
Everclear = clear spirit (1 oz, 30 mL) 75.5-95%, 151-190 proof, 18-23 g 130-160
Neutral grain spirit or pure grain alcohol (1 oz, 30 mL) 95%, 190 proof, 23 g 160

Alcohol in Foods

Kefir (1 cup, 237 mL) 0.05-3%, 0.1-7 g [20]
Cheese fondue (1 cup, 215 g) <1%; <1 g
Vanilla extract (1 tbsp, 13 g) ~30%; 4.5 g
Tiramisu (1/12 of 7×12″ dish) <1%; <1 g
Flambe dishes (1 cup) ~2%; ~5 g
Vinegar (balsamic, cider, distilled, fruit, malt, rice, wine) (2 tbsp, 30 g) Traces; <0.01 g
Bread, doughnuts, pastries, pizza, hot dog rolls and foods made of dough, without added alcohol Traces (0.04-1.9%) [21,22]
Sauces, gravies with added cooking wine (1/2 cup, 237 mL) Less than 1%; < 3 g
Alcohol-filled candies (1 candy, 15 g) Up to ~10%; up to ~1.5 g
Rum-kokos balls (1 ball, 10 g) <3%; <0.3g
Christmas pudding (1 piece, 3.4 oz, 100 g) Up to ~5%; up to ~5 g
Overripe fruits Up to 5% [23]
Soy sauce (1 fl.oz, 30 mL) 2% or more; 0.6 g or more

Chart references: [5,6,7,8,producers]


Beer is usually produced by fermentation of barley, but other cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn or sorghum, can be used. During the first brewing step — malting — the starch from grains is converted to various sugars collectively called malt [51]. During the second step — fermentation — naturally present or added brewer’s yeasts convert malt to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Hops is added as a flavor and preservative. The whole beer production process is called brewing. The alcohol content of beer is usually 4-6% but can range from 2.5 to 15% abv [24]. There are two main types of beer: ale and lager. Ale is further divided into varieties, such as pale ale, brown ale and stout. There are several beer styles, such as bitter, bock, lambic, mild, pilsener (pilsner or pils) and porter.

Alcohol-free beer (in the U.S.) is beer that contains no alcohol (0.0% abv) [11].

Non-alcoholic beer (in the U.S., Canada) is beer that contains less than 0.5% abv [9,48-p.612].

Light or “lite” beer in the U.S. sometimes, but not always, means 1/3 less calories [50]. Light beers are not necessary low in calories, because they may be high in carbohydrates. In Canada, light beer contains 2.6-4% abv and extra light beer less than 2.5% [9]. Low-calorie beer or diet beer may contain as low as 55 kilocalories per 12 oz.

Fermented malt beverage, in the U.S., is any beverage produced from fermented malt that contain no less than 0.5% abv; they include beers (except nonalcoholic beers), malt liquor and malt-based alcopops.

Malt liquor. Common malt liquor in the U.S. is cheap but strong beer containing 6-9% abv and poorly flavored with hops; it often comes in 40 oz bottles [52].

Shandy, shandygraff (in the UK), radler (in central Europe), panaché (in France, Switzerland) are beers mixed with citrus soda, ginger ale or ginger beer and may contain 0.5-4% abv.

Barley wine is a non-carbonated alcoholic beverage produced by fermentation of barley. It is a beer style but is called wine because of high alcohol content: 8-12% abv (range: 7-18%) [25].

Fermented Beverages Other Than Beer or Wine

  • Boza is a low-alcohol (~1%) beverage produced by fermentation of maize, wheat, millet. It is popular in Eastern Europe.
  • Cashew wine is produced by fermentation of cashews. It may contain 6-12% of alcohol [26].
  • Chicha is a home-made beverage in Latin America, produced by fermentation of maize, yuca, rice, potatoes, pineapple, etc. It may contain 1-3% of alcohol.
  • Kvass is a carbonated beverage from Eastern Europe produced by fermentation of rye bread. It contains less than 1.2% abv.
  • Palm wine is produced by fermentation of the palm sap. It is popular in West Africa and South Asia. Regional names include emu (Africa), kallu, toddy (India) and tuba (Mexico). It may contain 4-7% abv.
  • Rice wine is a non-carbonated alcoholic beverage produced by fermentation of rice. It may contain 12-20% abv. It is popular in East and South Asia. Examples include huangjiu or yellow wine (China), sake (Japan), sato (Thailand), makgeolli (Korea) and sonti (India). Sweet rice wines are used in cooking.


In the European Union, wine is defined as an alcoholic beverage produced by fermentation of grapes that contains minimally 8.5% and maximally 15% abv [27]. In the U.S., table wine, also called light wine, is defined as grape wine that contains no more than 14% abv [16].

Wine production starts by crushing grapes, which are left to be fermented by yeasts, either naturally present or added brewer’s yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevesiae), for one or two weeks. Yeasts convert grape sugars to ethanol and carbon dioxide; the later is lost into the atmosphere. Grapes are then pressed and wine is separated from the solid parts and stored in steel containers or wooden barrels where it is aged for several months or years before bottling.

Dry and sweet wines. The more residual sugar (sugar that has not been converted to alcohol during fermentation) the sweeter the wine will be [54]:

  • Very dry: up to 5 g sugar/liter
  • Off-dry: 5-25 g sugar/liter
  • Semi-sweet or medium: 25-45 g sugar/liter
  • Sweet: 45-65 g sugar/liter
  • Very sweet: >65 g sugar/liter

White wines are produced from white grapes from which the skins have been removed before fermentation. Examples of white wines: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Moscato, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon, Semillon and Viognier. Red wines are produced from red or black grapes with the skins left intact during fermentation. Examples of red wines: Barbera, Beaujolais, Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chianti, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Syrah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. Rose wines are the wines that have pink color. They are usually produced from red grapes that are allowed to be fermented together with the skins for few days. They are tannins from the skins and not the grape pulps that give pink color to rose wine. Rose wines can be also produced by mixing red and white wines.

Sparkling wine is wine made fizzy by carbon dioxide produced solely by fermentation of wine within a closed container or bottle [16]. Sparkling wine is usually white, sometimes rosé or, rarely, red. According to the EU legislation, sparkling wine should contain minimally 9% abv [27]. Examples of sparkling wines:

  • Champagne (from France)
  • Cava (from Spain)
  • Sekt (from Germany)
  • Espumante (from Portugal)
  • Spumante is a general term for Italian sparkling wines, such as Trento and Asti.

Crackling wine or frizzante wine is sparkling wine with a small amount of carbon dioxide [16]. Examples: cremant, reciotto.

Carbonated wine is fizzy wine with carbon dioxide added rather than produced during wine fermentation [16].

Fruit wines are alcoholic beverages produced by fermentation of fruits other than grapes or citruses [16]Fruit table wine should not contain more than 14% abv [16]Fruit dessert wine should contain more than 14% abv and not more than 24%. Examples: apple, berry (produced from more than one berry), blackberry, blueberry, cherry, date, fruit (produced from more than one fruit), peach, plum and strawberry wine. Fruit wines may be flavored with herbs, sweetened or fortified with a spirit, just like grape wines.

Citrus wines, such as orange wine or grapefruit wine, are produced by fermentation of citrus fruits.

Vegetable wines are produced by fermentation of vegetables. Sugar is usually added before fermentation. Examples: carrot and dandelion wine. Vegetable wines contain about the same amount of alcohol than other wines.

In the U.S., cooking wine is low-quality wine intended for cooking. It may contain added salts, preservatives and colors [28]; it contains about the same amount of alcohol than table wines, but a lot of alcohol may evaporate during cooking.

Fortified wines are wines with higher alcohol content than table wines. They are produced by adding distilled spirits, usually grape brandy, or neutral spirits, to wines. In the U.S., they are called dessert wines and may contain 16-24% abv [29]. In the European Union, they are called liquor wines and may may contain 15-22% abv [30]. Fortified wines may be dry or sweet. If alcohol is added early during the wine fermentation, it will kill yeasts and thus prevent conversion of the remaining sugar to alcohol, so the resulting wine will be sweet. Sweet fortified wines contain more than 10% residual sugar. Examples of fortified wines:

  • Angelica, sweet (from California, U.S.)
  • Madeira, dry or sweet (from Madeira Islands, Portugal)
  • Marsala, dry or sweet (from Sicily)
  • Muscatel, sweet
  • Port, dry or sweet (from Portugal)
  • Sherry, dry or sweet (from Spain)

Fortified wines that are aromatized with dry herbs, fruits, barks or caramel are called bitters, aperitifs or aperitif wines. Aperitif (from Lain aperire = open) supposedly “opens,” that is stimulates, appetite. Aperitifs have bittersweet taste. Examples of aperitifs:

  • Cocchi Aperitivo Americano (from Italy); 16.5% abv
  • Pineau des Charentes (from France); usually 17% abv
  • Quinquina – a general French name for aperitifs containing quinine
  • Vermouth is grape wine fortified with the grape (or other) spirit and with added sugar and flavorings, such as cinnamon, citrus peel, cloves, ginger, juniper, marjoram or quinine. Usually 17% abv. Vermouth varieties:
    • Dry vermouth contains less than 5% sugar, is white and usually contains 18% abv. It is used in cocktails, such as dry martini (gin + dry vermouth, ratio 5:1). Dry martini contains less and wet martini more dry vermouth.
    • Sweet vermouth usually contains 10-15% sugar and is usually 15-16% abv. It may be white or red (aromatized with caramel). Sweet red vermouth plus bourbon or rye whiskey is used in a cocktail Manhattan.

Vermouth is commonly used to make cocktails, such as martini (dry vermouth + gin) and Manhattan (sweet vermouth +bourbon or rye whiskey).

More about wine: Wine types

Cider (Cyder)

Non-alcoholic cider or soft cider is an unfiltered raw apple juice. Alcoholic cider or hard cider is a fermented apple juice [31]. Yeasts, naturally present in apples, convert sugars from apple juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Cider may contain 1.2-13% abv (usually 4-6%). In the U.S., cider with high alcohol percent (10-13%) is called apple wine. Cider may be dry or sweet, still or sparkling. Examples of cider related drinks are perry (from pears), rhubarb and quince cider.

Distilled Beverages or Spirits

Spirits, also called liquors (from Latin liquere = to be liquid), are distilled beverages that contain at least 20% abv and have no added sugar. They are produced by fermentation of grains, fruits or vegetables (that yields ethanol from starches and sugars) followed by distillation (to remove solid parts and some water and thus increase alcohol content). Spirits may contain 20%-95% abv.

Spirits categorization, according to the U.S. Federal Standards of Identity (FSI) [32] and regulations in the European Union [33]:


Brandy (from Dutch brandewijn = “burned wine”) is a spirit distilled from fermented fruit juice, mash, wine or pomace, produced at less than 85% abv (190 proof) and bottled in the U.S. at no less than 40% abv or 80 proof and in the EU at no less than 36% abv [32,33]. Certain brandies are flavored with fruits or herbs or sweetened with sugar.

Grape Brandy

  • Armagnac – French brandy
  • Bejois – south Indian brandy
  • Brandy de Jerez – Spanish brandy
  • Cognac – French brandy
  • Metaxa – Greek brandy, flavored by muscat or anise
  • Pisco – Chilean/Peruan brandy
  • Travarica – Croatian herb-flavored grape brandy
  • Weinbrand – German brandy

Pomace Brandy

Pomace brandy is produced by distillation of grape pomace, that is pressed solid parts (skins, pulp, seeds, stems) left after wine-making process [34].

  • Chacha – Georgian pomace brandy
  • Grappa – Italian pomace brandy; it may contain 40-45% abv [47]
  • Lozovaca (loza) – Serbian pomace brandy
  • Marc – French pomace brandy
  • Orujo – Spanish pomace brandy
  • Ouzo is Greek pomace brandy mixed with grain, potato or fruit distillates and flavored by anise and other herbs. Sugar may be added after distillation. 37.5-48% abv (75-96 proof)
  • Tsipouro – Greek pomace brandy

Fruit Brandy

Fruit brandy is a general term for brandies distilled from fruit wines (except grape wines) or fermented berries [34]. Examples of fruit brandies:

  • Applejack – American apple brandy
  • Calvados – French apple brandy
  • Coconut brandy – from coconut flowers
  • Eau-de-vie (water of life) – a general French term for colorless fruit brandy
  • Kirsch or kirschwasser – German cherry brandy
  • Pálenka – a general term for Slovak fruit brandy
  • Pálinka – a general term for Hungarian fruit brandy
  • Rakia– a general term for fruit brandies from Balkan
  • Schnaps or German schnapps is a general term for German fruit brandy
  • Slivovica, slivovice, šljivovica, slivovitz – plum brandies from Balkan and Central Europe
  • Viljamovka – pear brandy from Balkan
  • Žganje – Slovenian fruit brandy


Gin is a spirit produced by distillation of fermented grains, followed by redistillation in the presence of juniper berries. In the U.S., it is bottled at no less than 40% abv or 80 proof and in the EU at no less than 37.5% abv [32,33].

Neutral Spirit

Neutral spirit is the spirit distilled from any material at no less than 85% abv (190 proof) and bottled at no less than 40% abv (80 proof) without any flavors added [32]. Neutral spirit produced from grains is “grain neutral spirit” or “pure grain alcohol,” the one produced from grapes is “grape neutral spirit” and so on. Neutral spirits have no color, distinct taste or odor.


Rum is a spirit made from a fermented juice of sugar cane or molasses distilled at less than 85% abv (190 proof) and bottled in the U.S. at no less than 40% abv or 80 proof, and in the EU at no less than 37.5% abv [32,33].


Tequila is a Mexican spirit from a fermented mash of blue agave (Agave Tequilana) distilled at less than 85% abv (190 proof) and bottled in the U.S. at no less than 40% abv (80 proof) [32].


Vodka is a neutral spirit produced from fermented grains or potatoes at no less than 85% abv (190 proof) and treated with charcoal or other means in order to remove any distinctive taste or color. In the U.S., vodka should be bottled at no less than 40% or 80 proof, and in the European Union at no less than 37.5% abv [32,33]; it can contain as much as 80% abv (160 proof).


Whiskey is a spirit produced from fermented grains, distilled at less than 85% abv (190 proof) and bottled at no less than 40% abv (80 proof) [32,33]. Common whiskey varieties (American and Irish whiskeys are usually spelled with “e”):

  • Bourbon whiskey, from the U.S., is blended multi-grain whiskey, but 51% of grain used has to be corn; usually bottled at 40% abv (80 proof), but up to 75.5% abv (151 proof).
  • Canadian whisky (from historical reasons often called “rye whisky” despite a low amount of rye used in modern Canadian whiskies) is usually blended multi-grain whisky; grains used may include corn, wheat, barley or rye. It is usually 40-50% abv (80-100 proof).
  • Irish whiskey may be “single grain,” usually made from barley, or “blended” from distillates of various grains, such as barley, wheat and corn. It is usually 40-43% abv (80-86 proof), but can be up to 60% abv (120 proof).
  • Scotch whisky may be, among other, “single malt whisky,” which is produced from malted barley, or a blend of various Scotch whiskies. It is usually 40-43% abv (80-86 proof), but can be up to 60% abv (120 proof).

Other popular distilled alcohol beverages

  • Akvavit or aquavit is Scandinavian spirit distilled from grains or potatoes and flavored with caraway or other herbs. Usually 40% abv (80 proof), but may range from 37.5% (75 proof) to 50% abv (100 proof).
  • Arak is an anise-flavored spirit from the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean or North Africa. It contains 50-63% abv (100-126 proof).
  • Arrack is a spirit from South Asia (Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines), produced by distillation of the sap of coconut flowers, red rice, sugar cane or fruits. It contains 33-83% abv (66-166 proof).
  • Korn is a German spirit distilled from whole grains (rye, wheat, barley, oats or buckwheat). It is bottled at no less than 32% abv (64 proof); if it is higher than 36% abv (72 proof), it may be called kornbrand [33].
  • Mescal or mezcal is a Mexican spirit produced from the leaves of a maguey plant (a form of agave). It may contain up to 55% abv (110 proof).


Moonshine is a generic term for artisanal, domestically produced distilled alcoholic beverages from all around the world. Slang terms for moonshine include hooch, hootch, bathtub gin, bootleg, firewater, home brew, mountain dew, rotgut and white lightning. Alcohol content in moonshine is usually 40-60% abv (80-120 proof), but may be as high as 95% abv (190 proof). Domestic spirit production is illegal in many, but not all, countries. Certain moonshine beverages may contain dangerous ingredients, such as methanol or heavy metals. Examples of moonshines by country:

  • Armenia: aragh or oghi or oghee made from home-grown garden fruits
  • Austria, Germany, Switzerland: obstler or schnaps – a generic term for moonshine, usually apple or pear brandy
  • Balkan (legal in most Balkan countries: Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria): a generic name is rakia or, in Balkan languaes, rakija or, in Albania, Greece and Turkey, raki. Rakia usually contains 35-60% abv. Popular varieties are slivovica (from plums) and lozovaca (from grapes). Apricots, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, figs, blackberries or quinces may be also used. Certain rakija varieties are flavored with herbs; rakija with honey is called medica.
  • Brazil: cacaçha made from sugarcane juice; it contains 38-48% abv.
  • Canada: shine or screech, produced from cane sugar or molasses. Legal varieties contain 50-75% abv.
  • Czech, Slovakia: slivovica, slivovice or slivovitz, from plums; about 50% abv.
  • Chile, Peru (legal): pisco, from grapes
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: lotoko, usually made from maize
  • Finland: pontikka, a home-made vodka produced from grains
  • France: moonshines are commonly called by the fruit used: mirabelle (prune), poire (pear), etc.
  • Georgia: chacha, “Georgian brandy” or “Georgian vodka,” produced from grapes
  • Germany: schwarzgebrannter
  • Hawaii: okolehao or oke from the root of Ti plant; up to 65% abv.
  • Hungary: hazipalinka, from fruits
  • Iceland: landi, from potatoes
  • India, Pakistan: tharra, latta, desi, hooch from sugar cane; poisoning by copper or methanol is common.
  • Indonesia: arrack
  • Iran: arak
  • Ireland: poitín or poteen made from malted barley or potatoes; 60-95% abv.
  • Italy: grappa, from grapes
  • Kenya: changaa, “kumi kumi,” from maize. Illegal; may cause blindness due to dangerous adulterants
  • Malayzia: langkau, from fermented rice wine
  • Nepal: raksi, from fruits
  • New Zealand (legal): hokonui
  • Norway, Sweden: hjemmebrent, heimebrent or hembränt with nickname HB from sugar or potatoes; 90-95% abv.
  • Philippines: lambanog, from the sap of the coconut tree flowers or nipa palm fruit
  • Poland: bimber, from sugar or fruits; siwucha, homemade vodka
  • Russia (legal for the home use and licensed sale): samogon, pervach, from sugar, beets, potatoes or fruits
  • Slovakia: slivovice, from plums
  • Slovenia (legal): a general term is žganje, common varieties are sadjevec (from apples) and viljamovka (from pears). Homemade liqueurs from blueberries, cherries, walnuts are commonly produced.
  • South Africa (licensed sale is legal): mampoer, from peaches or marulas, or witblits, from grapes
  • Spain: orujo from grapes; 50+% abv
  • Sri Lanka: kasippu, from white sugar
  • Switzerland (legal): absinthe; 54-72% abv
  • Thailand: lao khao or sura khao, or yadong when mixed with herbs; from glutinous rice
  • Tunisia: boukha, from figs; 36-40% abv
  • Turkey: raki
  • The U.S: white lightning, from corn and sugar

The maximal alcohol concentration of an alcoholic beverage produced by ordinary distillation is 95.6% abv [35]. At this concentration a mixture of alcohol and water becomes an azeotrope, a mixture of fluids that cannot be separated by distillation [35,53].

Liqueurs or Cordials

Liqueurs are distilled spirits with added sugars (in the EU at least 10%, in the U.S. at least 21.5%), extracts of herbs, fruits, woods or other flavorings [32,33]. Liqueurs currently on the market contain from 11% to 55% abv (22-100 proof) or more.

According to the U.S. Federal Standards of Identity (FSI) [32], “gin liqueur,” “rum liqueur,” “brandy liqueur,” “flavored brandy,” “flavored gin,” “flavored rum,” “flavored vodka,” and “flavored whisky,” should be bottled at no less than 30% abv (60 proof).

Examples of liqueurs:

  • American schnapps
  • Cynar: an Italian artichoke-flavored bittersweet aperitif liqueur
  • Jägermeister: a German herbal bittersweet liqueur
  • Kirsch: a German cherry liqueur
  • Pastis: a French anise-flavored liqueur; 40-45% abv (80-90 proof)
  • Sambuca: an Italian anise-flavored liqueur
  • Cream liqueur: any spirit with at least 25% sugar [33]
  • Egg liqueur: any spirit with at least 14% egg yolk and 15% sugar [33]


Alcopops are mixtures of alcohol beverages and other beverages, which resemble soft drinks but contain 4-7% abv. They are also called RTDs (Ready To Drink) or FABs (Flavored Alcoholic Beverages). Alcopops include:

  • Malt beverages + fruit juices or other flavorings, also called “clear malts,” FMBs (Flavored Malt Beverages), malternatives, “Cheerleader beer”
  • Wine + fruit juices or other flavorings; they are called wine coolers
  • Spirits + fruit juices or other flavorings; examples: breezers, punch, gin and tonic, hard lemonade


Subyou is a powdered alcohol intended to add to soft drinks; it was once popular in Germany [44].

Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages (CABs)

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CABs) or alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs) contain 5-12% abv, sugar, caffeine and, sometimes, other stimulants, such as taurine and guarana. They often come in large 23.5 or 32 oz cans. Among students, CABs may be known as a “blackout-in-a-can” or “liquid cocaine.” There were some reports about alcohol poisoning after drinking CABs [36]. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding caffeine to alcohol beverages is unsafe, because [37,38]:

  • Caffeine masks the depressant effects of alcohol what may result in consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
  • According to some studies, drinking CABs is often associated with alcohol poisoning, driving while drunk, sexual assaults or violence.

List of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Some producers have stopped adding caffeine to alcohol beverages after FDA sent them warning letters in November 2010. Currently, in the U.S., CABs are banned in several states.

Other Terms for Alcoholic Beverages

  • Bevvy, booze, drink, inebriant, intoxicant, libation, tincture
  • “On the rocks” = Alcohol with ice cubs
  • Neat = pure liquor (without ice)
  • Brew = beer
  • “Boiler-maker” = whisky with a beer chaser

Alcohol Without Liquid (AWOL)

AWOL (Alcohol Without Liquid) is an alcohol inhalation device, an alcohol nebulizer, that has been released in the U.S. in 2004 [39]. Producers claim that the use of the AWOL machine leads to intoxication 10 times faster than regular drinking and does not cause hangover (because it does not contain carbohydrates and other congeners). There is lack of studies about AWOL safety. AWOL has been banned in several states in the U.S. [39].

Some people heat hand sanitizers and inhale alcohol evaporating from them.

Alcohol Injection

Self-administration of alcohol into a vein is life-threatening [40-p.157]. A doctor may give an intravenous ethanol injection (in an appropriate solution) as an antidote to a person with methanol poisoning or to a chronic alcoholic before unscheduled surgery to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol injections are also used in studies about alcohol effects on the human body [41].

Alcohol Enema

Alcohol enema–introduction of alcohol into the rectum–is life-threatening [40-p.157], since alcohol is absorbed from the rectum rapidly and may lead to much higher blood alcohol concentrations than when ingested by mouth. According to one 2005 report, a man died after introducing wine enema in his rectum; his blood alcohol concentration was 0.40 g/100 mL [42]. Alcohol enema may cause rectal inflammation and bleeding [43].

Medications That Contain Alcohol

Ethanol in relatively high concentrations can be found in certain antiseptic mouthwashes, cough, analgesic, antihistamine, multivitamin, potassium and iron syrups, nasal decongestants, asthma inhalers, liquid antidiarrheals, diuretics, sedatives, antipsychotics or anesthetics [45]. Examples of alcohol-containing drugs (with alcohol concentration in %) [45,46]:

  • Anesol; oral antiseptic (70%)
  • Listerine Antiseptic; mouthwash (26.9%)
  • Theophylline Elixir; anti-asthmatic (20%)
  • Choedyl Elixir; anti-asthmatic (20%)
  • Intensol (diazepam); anxiolytic (19%)
  • Lomotil Liquid; spasmolytic (15%)
  • Phenobarbital Elixir; sedative (14%)
  • Benadryl Elixir; antihistamine (14%)
  • Cyclosporine oral sulution; antibiotic (up to 12.5%)
  • Furosemide Liquid; diuretic (11.5%)
  • Peri-colace; stool softener (10%)
  • Ambenyl-D; cough suppressant (9.5%)
  • Lanoxin Elixir Pediatric; cardiac medicine (10%)
  • Imodium A-D; anti-diarrheal (5.25%)

Alcohol from medications in recommended doses would not likely cause any symptoms, but could possibly result in a positive breath alcohol test or fail to start a car equipped with an interlock device.

Conversion of Ethanol to Acetic Acid (Vinegar)

In the presence of oxygen and “vinegar bacteria” or “acetic acid bacteria” (the genus Acetobacter), ethanol is converted (oxidized, fermented) to acetic acid [55]. This is why wine, which naturally contains vinegar bacteria, becomes progressively sour from the third day or so after you leave it in a half-emptied bottle at room temperature. To slow down the wine spoiling you can close the already opened bottle, suck out the air by a special pump and keep the bottle in a refrigerator. Alcohol in high concentrations destroys vinegar bacteria, so spirits are not converted to vinegar when exposed to air.

Commercial vinegar is usually produced from the sources containing 5-9% abv on a temperature between 70 and 86 °F (21-30 °C) [3,55]. The Acetobacter culture is usually added to stimulate fermentation. Common types of vinegar include apricot, apple (cider), balsamic, cane, coconut, corn sugar, malt (from barley), rice, sherry, white (from distilled grains) and wine vinegar.

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