Liquor is created by a distilling process that produces ethanol by a means of fermenting potatoes, grains, fruits, or vegetables. Liquor does not include other alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and cider which are not distilled and are lower in alcohol content. In the US we commonly distinguish between distilled and undistilled alcoholic beverage by calling liquor a “hard liquor”.
There are numerous types and variations of Liquor or spirits available over-the-counter. There are however 6 main types of liquor that are readily available and advertised throughout the US.
Vodka origins and how Vodka is made.
Many believe that most Vodkas are made from potatoes. However these days Vodka is mostly made from barley, wheat, corn, and sorghum.
According to some sources Vodka may have had it’s beginnings in what is now considered to be the country of Russia during the 9th century. Most historians believe that the liquor was, at that time, used for medicinal purposes. The Gin and Vodka Association (GVA), believes that the first documented official distillery was probably in operation nearly two hundred years later. The earlier vodka was more primitive by today’s standards and contained amounts of color, smell, and flavor. The alcohol content may have been lower than 14%.
Sometime during the 14th century Vodka became a popular drink in Poland. The word “Vodka” originates from the polish word “Wodka” which originally defined the beverage as a medicine or cosmetic cleanser. The vodka beverage that was consumed at that time was called gorzałka. Large scale production of vodka began sometime in the 16th century in the city of Krakow.
Russian Vodka has it beginnings, according to a legend, around 1430 when a monk called Isidore from Chudov Monastery inside the Moscow Kremlin made a recipe of the first Russian vodka. The monk had a special knowledge of the distillation process and was able to usher in a higher quality beverage.
Vodka is made by taking the same fermenting process as beer and wine and adding distillation. The distillation process raises the alcohol strength to anything above 40% and can reach as high as 95%. It is a common practice to add spring water to the vodka to insure the alcohol strength to 40% before bottling. Vodka is not aged.
Due to distillation and filtering processes most vodkas lack any flavor. Many brands have developed flavored varieties of vodka that include, fruit, citrus, spice, almond, and vanilla.
Whiskey origins and how Whiskey is made.
Unlike vodka, whiskey is an aged beverage. In addition, whiskey has numerous variations in how the wide variety of whiskies are produced.
It is thought that the beverage we know as whiskey has it’s roots in Scotland and Ireland. During the days of the 13th to 14th centuries the habitants of these islands lacked the ability to distill alcohol from wine because of the lack of availability of grapes. They used barley mash or beer in place of wine. The end result was the birth of modern day whiskey.
Scotch Whiskey, often called simply “Scotch”, is produced from grains that have been smoked in special peat moss smokers to arrive at a particular or desired taste. To be called “Scotch”, the whiskey must be aged at least 3 years in oak casks, normally distilled at least twice, and must be made in Scotland. The casks or barrels used for aging have usually been previously used for making bourbon or sherry.
Bourbon Whiskey, an American style of whiskey, must contain at least 51% corn, and must be aged in charred oak barrels for at least 2 years. Similar to Scotch in that it needs to be made in Scotland all Bourbon Whiskey must be made in the United States.
Irish Whiskey is made in Ireland. There are two types of Irish whiskey: Single Malt and Blended. Single malts are made of pure barley, while blends are a combination of single malts and grain whiskeys that have been produced using other grains such as corn and wheat. Generally speaking, blended whiskey has a lighter taste that many consumers prefer. Single malts, however, are considered the more pure form and are usually much more expensive.
Canadian Whiskey is very similar to the blended styles of American and Irish Whiskies. It must be made in Canada, and aged for at least 3 years in wooden barrels. Canadian whiskies are known for being very smooth and drinkable.
Tequila origins and how Tequila is made.
All tequila is made from the agave plant and all tequila is made in Mexico. Agave plants are harvested with large thick trunks. The spiny leaves are removed before being processed for fermentation. The plants are then cut up and the juices are fermented to become Tequila.
Modern day Tequila has it’s origins placed sometime during the 16th century at or near the Mexican town of Tequila. Previous to the 16th century Aztec indians had fermented a beverage they called Octli from the same agave plant that tequila is made. The spanish conquistadors began producing an agave beverage when they ran out of brandy. This new beverage, known now as Tequila, was the first North American distilled spirit.
Tequila is made as clear or colored depending upon how long it is aged in oak barrels. The clear type is bottled immediately after distillation while the much darker type is normally aged a minimum of 3 years.
Rum origins and how Rum is made.
The modern day distilled rum got it’s beginnings in the Caribbean when slaves discovered that molasses, a sugar processing by-product, could be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic byproducts concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Rum was also discovered to be present in Brazil in the 16th century.
Rum is made, like other liquors, by fermentation and distillation processing. The clear liquid is then aged in barrels to obtain it’s darker color and variations in taste. Rum can also be flavored with spices, caramel, coconut, and citrus.
Gin origins and how Gin is made.
Gin was originally invented by the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius as a treatment for medical problems such as kidney desease, lumbago, gallstones, and gout. It was also found by English troops who were fighting against the Spanish in the Eighty Years’ War who noticed its calming effects before battle.
Gin is processed in much the same manner as vodka accept with the infusion of juniper berries to produce a dry and clean flavor. Gin is often flavored with orange peel, anise, licorice, cinnamon, and coriander.
Check out our other Origins and Types Pages…read more.