The 2 Categories and 13 Types of Alcoholic Beverages
People who like to drink can tell anyone so much about their favourite alcoholic beverage. However, even the most avid pub patron may not be aware of how many types of alcoholic drinks there are. They can be different based on the ingredients or methods used to make them.
The Daily Drink can give you a quick browse on every known type of alcoholic beverage. The list below consists of 13 types but they can be further divided into two categories. The separation is determined by whether or not the drink underwent distillation before being served.
Undistilled is also known as ‘fermented alcohol’. It may be considered confusing to divide them into fermented and distilled since all alcoholic beverages have to go through fermentation. Undistilled simply means that the beverage didn’t go through a distillation process. These usually have lesser alcohol by volume (ABV) than distilled ones.
Beer is the most commonly known alcoholic beverage as it is the third most-ingested drink in the world after water and tea. Its primary ingredients include hops, water, yeast, and sugar extracted from barley. It can be divided into subvarieties such as ale, lager, stout, and porter. They are often stored in barrels or drums in a cold but not freezing room. However, they are often served in a pitcher or glass with plenty of ice. Bottled and canned beer are refrigerated.
Also known as simply ‘cider’. Some would also refer to it as ‘apple cider’ but some consider it redundant as most people consider ciders to be specifically made from apples. Meanwhile, peaches processed similarly to cider are called ‘perry’. Most would generalize cider as ‘apple wine’.
The addition of the word ‘hard’ in the name is done to differentiate it from the version of ‘apple cider’ that just means hard-pressed apple juice. The naming is confusing due to regional differences and marketing, but most English-speaking countries refer to the alcoholic beverage when saying ‘cider’.
Mead is made with fermented honey blended diluted by water. It tends to be stronger than beer as it contains 10%-40% ABV while beer has 6% or less. Mead is popularly known as ‘medieval drink’ as it is referenced in many ye olde tales of archived literature. As such, people would often present it in every medieval-themed gathering, references, or fiction. Mead is often flavoured using spices while brewing.
Speaking of cultural association, sake is always identified as a Japanese-classic wine. It is made using rice, water, yeast, and koji spores. It is usually considered a fancy drink but many locals in the Land of the Rising Sun can do it with the proper tools and conditions. Of course, only great brewers manage to make very valuable bottles of sake. This alcohol is also commonly used in many Japanese dishes.
There are plenty of fruits that can be made into wine but grapes are the most popular choice—specifically the species called ‘Vitis Vinifera’. The most common ingredients include sugar, water, and powdered tannins. Wine can be further divided into subcategories depending on its properties.
Sparkling wine is a bottle with fizz or bubbles while still wine doesn’t. It can also be referred to as red wine if it has an opaque, mostly reddish fluid or white if it is clear. Their colours are affected by the type of grapes used.
Wine creates bubbles during fermentation which continues after being sealed. To remove the bubbles, the winemaker either keeps it open until the fermentation stops producing carbon dioxide or by using a decanter.
The process of distillation involves boiling the mixture in a cask to separate water and make a more concentrated solution. This purifies the alcohol which raises its ABV, making them more potent in a smaller dosage. Practically, it helps store valuable brews into smaller bottles but the serving size is for sharing. Ultimately, the process is appreciated mostly by people with a higher tolerance for alcohol.
Absinthe is a very potent drink with a minimum of 45% ABV. The maximum, as far as marketed ones go, can reach up to 90% ABV. Absinthe is made usually of herbs, usually from common woodworm—Artemisia Absinthium—from which its name came. Every glass serving had to be diluted with water, sugar, or ice.
Its other, fancier name is ‘Green Fairy’ which is inspired by its two properties: firstly, it is a green liquid. Secondly, it is hallucinogenic due to its potency. It was banned in many countries in the 20th century. Others still use it for medical purposes.
Brandy is distilled wine. It can reach between 34% to 60% ABV and is usually served as a fancy social drink or after-dinner digestif. Given that hard cider is also called ‘apple wine’, it can also be distilled into what is called ‘apple brandy’. It can also be made by distilling any form of juice so long as it is made from fermented fruit.
Gin is distilled from liquor made of a fermented mash of grains, rye, maize, barley, and wheat. However, its name comes from the source of its flavour—juniper berries. The word ‘gin’ is an English shorthand for the French word for juniper berries—genièvre. Other herbs were used for their flavouring which is added during distillation, not brewing.
Making rum started in the Caribbeans during the 1700s which is why it is associated with pirates, merchants, and sailors in the Age of Discovery. It has 40%-80% ABV but it can be consumed straight-up, in shots, or used in cocktails unlike gin. It is mostly known for its sweet taste from toasted sugar which is mainly because it’s made from pure syrup or molasses.
Tequila is considered to be a fancy party drink that is only served for wealthy patrons in Mexico and the United States. It has an earthy flavour from the agave plant that its base was made from. It is usually clear as water when used in margaritas. This is its state during its first year after distillation. It gains a golden hue over time. Its aged form lasts between 2 months and 3 years but it can be aged up to 5 years.
Just like gin, vodka is distilled from grains but sometimes potatoes. It is associated with the Russians and Polish populations because they are the biggest consumers and producers of this type of alcohol. They also look like gin because they also tend to be clear but sometimes they are foggy. Vodka is also tasteless but it does have a texture that is either smooth or thick.
All whiskey is made from malted grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. After distillation, they are usually aged for a few years or decades. The only kinds of whiskey that are ready to serve straight from distillation are moonshine and white dog. Speaking of which, Whiskey is as famous and widespread as wine where communities of connoisseurs actively seek and study its variations.
Rectified spirit is sometimes called ‘neutral spirits’. It is also sometimes called ‘grain alcohol’ because it is primarily made from grains or other similar crops such as maize. It can also be made from sugarcane, sugar beets, and tubers. They are called ‘neutral’ because they are as clear as water and with no flavour. What made them different is the strength of alcohol which reaches up to 95% ABV.
Rectified spirit is technically under distilled but it can also be separated as its category. Rectification is the process of repeated distillation for the sole purpose of raising its ABV rate. It is most popularly used as an ingredient in blended drinks rather than being served on its own. A popular use for it is the punch bowl.
Drinking alcoholic beverages is practised around the world. Granted, most of them originated from Europe or the Americas with only one coming from East Asia. Today, these drinks are consumed and produced everywhere. It also helps that the business models of pubs and clubs were adopted by most nations. One can find a nice lounge in any major city and order a personal favourite cocktail blend.
Its widespread and centuries-old practice is also the reason why every single type of drink on this list has sub-variants. Wine and beer are especially varied. One might have heard of champagne and wondered why it’s not on the list. It is a general term for sparkling white wine.
The Daily Drink has more interesting facts about alcoholic beverages and each subgroup. Some include recipes on how to make beverages like the Old-Fashioned or Screwdriver Cocktail. The details written above are simply generalized explanations for each type of alcohol. There are more technicalities involving their recipe and making processes. Be sure to review further to learn more.