Alcohol has been part of human culture for many centuries – possibly as far back as 10,000 BC. Drinking these substances in modest amounts can help people feel relaxed and maybe even more sociable. If people consume too much it can lead to inebriation and maybe even alcohol poisoning. Those who regularly abuse alcohol run the risk of becoming an alcoholic.
An alcoholic beverage can refer to any liquor or brew that contains alcohol. All of these drinks contain a particular type of alcohol know as ethanol (or ethyl alcohol). It is this that causes people to become inebriated when they drink. Alcohol is a type of recreational drug, but it is so commonly used that people fail to view it that way.
The most popular types of alcoholic beverage include:
* Beer is believed to be alcoholic beverage that humans have been consuming the longest – possibly as far back as 9,600 BC. It is created by fermenting any of a variety of starches including; malted barley, rice, wheat, or maize.
* Cider is made from fermented apple juice – it is sometimes referred to as apple wine.
* Wine can be created from fermented grapes or other fruits. Humans have been drinking wine for at least 8,000 years – wine cultivation occurred in ancient Egypt.
* Spirits refer to those alcoholic drinks that have been distilled to make them stronger.
The word beer can be used to refer to a number of different alcoholic beverages including:
* Larger beers are fermented and conditioned at low temperatures to give them their milder taste – they are usually also a light color.
* Ales are made from malted barley and involve warm fermentation with brewer’s yeast. Stout drinks such as Guinness are also a type of ale.
* Wheat beers are made with wheat as well as barley – this is what gives them their distinctive taste. This type of beer is particularly popular in Europe.
* Fruit beers are often made by adding flavor extracts to beer rather than fermenting fruit.
Some people devote a great deal of their life to understanding all about the different wines, but it is possible to divide them into a number of types including:
* Red wine is made from red or black grapes. The taste of red wine is often described as more complex than that of white wine.
* Rose wine is made from red grapes but these undergo a special process to create the rose look.
* White wine is produced using white grapes. This type of wine has a lighter taste than the red or rose wine.
* Champagne (sparkling wine) gets is bubbles from the fermentation process due to carbon dioxide in the bottles.
* Fortified wines (including sherry and port) have a distilled beverage added to them to make the stronger. The reason why fortified wines originally became popular was that they were easier to transport around the world by ship.
Spirits refer to a large variety of alcoholic beverages including:
* Vodka is usually made from the distillation of grains or potatoes.
* Whiskey/whisky is made from fermented grain mash.
* Rum comes from sugarcane juice.
* Tequila is created from the blue agave plant.
* Gin is made from juniper berries.
* Absinthe is made from a number of different flowers.
* The popular Greek drink Ouzo is made from anise – this is a type of plant.
* Liqueurs cover a wide range of drinks that involve the addition of herbs, nuts, fruits, spices, cream, or flowers. It is also possible to get other spirits that have been turned into liqueurs – for example vodka liqueur.
The most common way to determine the strength of an alcoholic drink is alcohol by volume (ABV). This measurement is the percentage of alcohol per volume. The strengths of the most common alcoholic drinks are:
* Beer can be anywhere from 2% up to 12% ABV. Low alcohol beers have about 1.2% alcohol but some have even lower than this.
* Cider tends to be anywhere from 2% to 8.5% ABV.
* Wines tend to be from 9% to 16% ABV
* Spirits can be anywhere from 20% to 80% ABV.
If people stick to sensible limits then alcohol can be something that gives them pleasure. The recommended levels for safe alcohol consumption are:
* 2 drinks per day for men between the ages of 21 and 65 years of age.
* 1 drink per day for men who are over the age of 65.
* 1 drink per day for women over the age of 21.
* Anyone who has ever had problems controlling their drinking should quit completely.
In regards to these recommendations a drink is considered to be a standard beer, a glass of standard measure wine, and one shot of spirits (not a strong spirit). Anyone who regularly drinks above this level may be putting their mental and physical health at risk.
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