1 distilled rather than fermented [syn: spirits, booze, hard drink, hard liquor, John Barleycorn, strong drink]
2 a liquid substance that is a solution (or emulsion or suspension) used or obtained in an industrial process; "waste liquors"
Homophones(in some dialects) licker
strong alcoholic drink derived from fermentation and distillation
- To drink liquor, usually to excess.
- To cause someone to drink liquor, usually to excess.
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is a drinkable liquid containing ethanol that is produced by means of distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetables—excluding fermented beverages such as beer and wine.
The term spirit generally refers to a distilled beverage that contains no added sugar and has at least 35% alcohol by volume. Popular spirits include absinthe, baijiu, brandy, gin, grappa, rum, tequila, vodka, whisky, and traditional German schnapps. Distilled beverages that are bottled with added sugar and added flavorings, such as Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and American style schnapps, are liqueurs. Fortified wines are created by adding a distilled beverage to a wine.
Distillation historySince 1438 burned water is mentioned in the high noble german County of Katzenelnbogen. It was served in a long, tall glass called goderulffe. Beer and wine were historically limited to a maximum alcohol content of about 15% by volume, beyond which yeast is adversely affected and cannot ferment. Alcohol levels higher than 15 percent have been obtained in a number of ways.
Wine heated in an animal bladder draws out water and leaves alcohol behind (the bladder has a natural property which removes water), but there is no evidence this method was used before modern times.
The first evidence of distillation comes from Babylonia and dates from the 2nd millennium BC. Specially shaped clay pots were used to extract small amounts of distilled alcohol through natural cooling for use in perfumes. By the 3rd century AD, alchemists in Alexandria, Egypt, may have used an early form of distillation to produce alcohol for sublimation or for colouring metal.
Middle EastAlcohol was fully purified for the first time by Muslim chemists in the 8th and 9th centuries. The development of the still with cooled collector—necessary for the efficient distillation of spirits without freezing—was an invention of Muslim alchemists during this time. In particular, Geber (Jabir Ibn Hayyan, 721–815) invented the alembic still; he observed that heated wine from this still released a flammable vapor, which he described as "of little use, but of great importance to science". Not much later Al-Razi (864–930) described the distillation of alcohol and its use in medicine. By that time, distilled spirits had become fairly popular beverages: the poet Abu Nuwas (d. 813) describes a wine that "has the colour of rain-water but is as hot inside the ribs as a burning firebrand". The terms "alembic" and "alcohol", and possibly the metaphors "spirit" and aqua vitæ ("life-water") for the distilled product, can be traced to Arabic alchemy.
Names like "life water" have continued to be the inspiration for the names of several types of beverages, like Gaelic whisky, Italian grappa 'acquavite', French eaux-de-vie and possibly vodka. Also, the Scandinavian akvavit.
Central AsiaFreeze distillation, the "Mongolian still", is known to have been in use in Central Asia sometime in the early Middle Ages. The first method involves freezing the alcoholic beverage and removing water crystals. The freezing method had limitations in geography and implementation and thus did not have widespread use, but remained in limited use, for example during the American colonial period applejack was made from cider using this method.
Medieval EuropeDistilled alcohol beverages first appeared in Europe in the mid-12th century among alchemists, who were more interested in medical "elixirs" than making gold from lead. It first appears under the name aqua ardens (burning water) in the Compendium Salerni from the medical school at Salerno. The recipe was written in code, suggesting it was kept a secret. Taddeo Alderotti in his Consilia medicinalis referred to the "serpente" which is believed to have been the coiled tube of a still.
Paracelsus gave alcohol its modern name, taking it from the Arabic word which means "finely divided", in reference to what is done to wine. His test was to burn a spoonful without leaving any residue. Other ways of testing were to burn a cloth soaked in it without actually harming the cloth. In both cases, to achieve this effect the alcohol had to have been at least 95 percent, close to the maximum concentration attainable through fractional distillation (see purification of ethanol).
Claims on the origins of specific beverages are controversial, often invoking national pride, but they are plausible after the 12th century when Irish whiskey, German Hausbrand and German brandy can all be safely said to have arrived. These beverages would have had much lower alcohol content than the alchemists' pure distillations (around 40 percent by volume), and were likely first thought of as medicinal elixirs. Consumption of distilled beverages rose dramatically in Europe in and after the mid 14th century, when distilled liquors were commonly used as remedies for the Black Death. Around 1400 it was discovered how to distill spirits from wheat, barley, and rye beers; even sawdust was used to make alcohol, a much cheaper option than grapes. Thus began the "national" drinks of Europe: jenever (Belgium and the Netherlands), gin (England), schnapps (Germany), grappa (Italy), akvavit (Scandinavia), vodka (Russia and Poland), rakia (the Balkans), poitín (Ireland). The actual names only emerged in the 16th century but the drinks were well known prior to that date.
The actual process of distillation itself has not changed since the 8th century. There have, however, been many changes in both the methods by which organic material is prepared for the still and in the ways the distilled beverage is finished and marketed. Knowledge of the principles of sanitation and access to standardised yeast strains have improved the quality of the base ingredient; larger, more efficient stills produce more product per square foot and reduce waste; ingredients such as corn, rice, and potatoes have been called into service as inexpensive replacements for traditional grains and fruit. Chemists have discovered the scientific principles behind aging, and have devised ways in which aging can be accelerated without introducing harsh flavours. Modern filters have allowed distillers to remove unwanted residue and produce smoother finished products. Most of all, marketing has developed a worldwide market for distilled beverages among populations which in earlier times did not drink spirits.
Microdistilling is a trend that began to develop in the United States following the emergence and immense popularity of microbrewing and craft beer in the last decades of the 20th century. It is specifically differentiated from megadistilleries in the quantity, and arguably quality, of output.
In most jurisdictions, including those which allow unlicensed individuals to make their own beer and wine, it is illegal to distill beverage alcohol without a license - with the notable exception of New Zealand where personal alcohol distillation is legal (although selling still requires an appropriate license).
Chemical profileA distilled beverage is typically manufactured by distillation, aging if applicable and dilution to the set percentage of ethanol.
Distillation is done at least twice, due to the chemistry involved. Copper is typically used as a chemically near-inert metal for the equipment. However, it is still very much a transition metal catalyst, and catalyzes the formation of poisonous and harmful by-products, such as urethane. Removal of these is necessary and warrants a second distillation step. Most "colored" alcohols are distilled in a batch process, but continuous processes are found in the production of flavorless vodka and similar drinks.
After distillation, the alcohol may be aged in traditional oak casks. Whiskey, for example, is aged at 77%. Dilution is done to attain the standard percentage, from 30 to 80%. The (arbitrary) percentage of 40% is the most common "standard". However, a lower percentages such as 38% may make the drink more palatable. Also people often mix water into the drink to suit their tastes.
The final drink contains water, ethanol, fusel oils, and flavoring compounds. In some cases, sugar is added. Fusel alcohols are higher alcohols than ethanol, are mildly toxic, and have a strong, disagreeable smell and taste. Fusels in moderate quantities are considered to be essential parts of the taste profile of flavored drinks such as whiskey and cognac. In drinks intended to be relatively flavorless (such as vodka), they are defects. Incompetently distilled drinks also contain distillation heads, which are poisonous in large amounts and consist mostly of methanol and foul-smelling byproducts of fermentation.
EtymologyThe source for "liquor" and its close relative, liquid, come from the Latin verb liquere, meaning "to be fluid." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an early use of the word in the English language, meaning simply "a liquid", can be dated to at least 1225. The first use OED mentions in reference to a "liquid for drinking" comes from the early to mid 1300s, while its reference to an intoxicating alcoholic drink appears by at least the 16th century.
ServingSpirits may be served in a variety of ways, some of which include:
- On the rocks — spirits are to be served and drunk over ice.
- Straight up — the spirit is to be shaken or stirred with ice, but drunk by itself, with the ice filtered out.
- Neat — the spirit is served and consumed by itself, with nothing added.
- With a simple mixer such as tonic water, cola, etc.
- With water
- With water poured over sugar, e.g. absinthe.
- As ingredients in cocktails
- Needham, Joseph; Science and Civilization in China; Cambridge University Press; ISBN 0-521-08732-5; hardcover, 2004
- Forbes, Robert; Short History of the Art of Distillation from the Beginnings Up to the Death of Cellier Blumenthal; Brill Academic Publishers; ISBN 90-04-00617-6; hardcover, 1997
- Multhauf, Robert; The Origins of Chemistry; Gordon & Breach Science Pub; ISBN 2-88124-594-3; paperback, 1993
- The Word Origin Calendar,2006, word of the day May 23, 2006
- BoozeBasher liquor review site
- Mezcal TV—The internet channel dedicated to mezcal, a traditional Mexican spirit
- History and Taxonomy of Distilled Spirits
- Home Distillation of Alcohol— A comprehensive guide.
- Burning Still— Dedicated to the craft distilling community.
- Hit your limit? Check this blood alcohol content calculator.
liquor in Czech: Pálenka
liquor in German: Spirituosen
liquor in Spanish: Bebida destilada
liquor in French: Spiritueux
liquor in Italian: Acquavite
liquor in Latin: Distillatio alcoholis
liquor in Dutch: Sterke drank
liquor in Japanese: 蒸留酒
liquor in Norwegian: Brennevin
liquor in Norwegian Nynorsk: Brennevin
liquor in Portuguese: Bebida destilada
liquor in Kölsch: Schabau (Üvversich)
liquor in Quechua: Hayaq yaku
liquor in Russian: Крепкие спиртные напитки
liquor in Finnish: Viina
liquor in Swedish: Spritdryck
liquor in Chinese: 烈酒
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