Vodka is a distilled spirit with a high
alcohol content that can be produced from a number of different
materials and possess different characteristics depending on the
creator. Most vodka produced these days is made from a grain, though
some is still made from potatoes.The exact history of vodka is unknown, though it most likely originated
somewhere in the region of Poland or Russia between the 14th and 16th
centuries. The word is thought to derive from Russian, meaning roughly “little water”.
Gin is distilled from grain and receives its unique flavor
and aroma from juniper berries and other botanicals. Every gin producer
has his own special recipe, which is under strict quality control.
The flavor of gin will vary with the distiller. Gin was first
produced in Holland by Dr. Sylvius, a Dutch physician, during the
17th century. He named it Genievre, the French word for the juniper
berry. It was the English who shortened the name to gin. Brought
from Holland into England by English soldiers, who called it "Dutch
Courage", gin soon became the national drink of England and
has so remained.
Gin can be made two ways, by either being distilled
or compounded. All leading popular brands sold in the United States
are distilled. Compounded simply means a mixture of neutral spirits
with juniper berries. Distilled gin is distilled completely.
Virtually all gins in the United States use the
word "dry." You will see it on brand labels that may read,
"Dry Gin," "Extra Dry Gin," "London Dry
Gin," or "English Dry Gin," but they all mean the
same thing‑‑lacking in sweetness. Originally, "London
Dry" meant gin produced in London, but the name "London"
is considered to be generic, and therefore it is often used to describe
gins produced in the United States.
The first Rum is first said to have been
used in Barbados in the 1620s to describe intoxicating, rough and
unpleasant liquor made from sugarcane juice. Although the exact origin
of rum is not known, it is commonly believed to come from the English
word 'rumbullion' which means 'great tumult'. Today rum is made of
sugarcane and by-products such as molasses and sugarcane juice. Rum is
a product of a process of fermentation and distillation. The
distillate, a clear liquid is usually aged in oak and other casks.
Majority of rum production occurs in Caribbean and along the Demerara
River in South America, but rum is produced also elsewhere in the world
such as Australia and India. Many of the finest rums were produced in
New England prior to Alcohol prohibition. Rum is produced in a variety
of styles. Light rums are often used in mixed drinks, while golden rums
are appropriate for cooking as well as cocktails. Premium brands of rum
are also available that are made to be consumed neat or on the rocks.
Rum plays a part in the culture of most islands of the West Indies, and
has a famous association with the British Royal Navy and piracy. Rum
has also served as a popular medium of exchange that helped to promote
slavery along with providing economic instigation for Australia's Rum
Rebellion and the American Revolution.
Tequila, the primary spirit of Mexico, has its own special
flavor that is almost tart and leaves the tongue clean and tingling.
In the 1970s, tequila became the fastest growing spirit in sales,
as vodka did in the 1960s. Tequila is obtained from the distillation
of the fermented juice (sap) of the mescal plant, called pulque.
The only source for Tequila is the mescal plant, which is a species
of the agave plant. It is a cactus that takes between twelve and
thirteen years to mature. Its long leaves, or spikes, are cut off
at harvest time, leaving only the bulbous central core, called the
pina, meaning pineapple. The pinas, which weigh from 80 pounds to
175 pounds each, are taken to the distillery where they are cooked
in pressure cookers for several hours. They are then cooled and
shredded, and the juice is pressed out. The fermentation process
is completed in huge wooden vats. The fermented juice is then
twice distilled in traditional copper-pot stills.
This type of whiskey must be made in the U.S., and be composed of at least 51% corn mash, but no more than 80%. Though originally it had to come from Bourbon County, Kentucky; today it's not necessarily the case. It must also be stored in charred oak barrels at least two years. Like vodka, bourbon is clear after distilling, the color coming from the wood of the barrels. Most people think Jack Daniels is bourbon, but is actually Tennesee Whiskey, filtered through sugar maple charcoal.
This distilled spirit must be less than 80% alcohol by volume(abv), usually 62.5-70%,thus ensuring more flavor remains in the whiskey. Be aged in charred new oak barrels a minimum of 2 years. If matured less than 4 years, the age must appear on the label, hence most straight whiskey is at least 4 years old. It also can't have any added coloring or flavoring. Impurities, known as cogeners react with the interior of the wood--the so called "red layers" which imparts its' color.
Scotch is the proper name for whisky produced in Scotland, although other countries do produce similar
grain-based liquors. In Ireland, the same basic product can be called
Irish whiskey, while American whiskey is often called bourbon.
Most Scotch whiskey is considered blended, which means the end product
is a carefully mixed combination of up to 50 separate single malt
whiskeys created specifically for blending. Some single malt Scotch
whiskeys are sold directly to the public, but most are used as separate
ingredients in a skilled blender's palette.
Scotch whiskey is usually made from cereal grains, primarily barley.
To make a malted Scotch whiskey, barley grains are first cleaned and
soaked in tubs for several days. This soaking causes the barley seeds
to germinate, and an enzyme
called diatase turns the barley's germ into a soluble starch. A
mechanical drying and turning process removes the starchy pulp from the
unusable husks. The barley grain is now considered to be malted.
This dried malted grain is then mixed with hot water to form a sugary liquid called wort.
This wort is the essential ingredient of a malted Scotch whiskey. The
wort is carefully drawn away from the mashing tank, called a mash tun
in Scotland. Once the wort has cooled down sufficiently, it is stored
in another tank for fermentation.
Live yeast is added to the sugary wort, which causes the sugar to be
converted into a basic alcohol. After a few days of fermentation, the
result is a rather pungent combination of unrefined alcohol and solids
called wash. This would be the equivalent of corn mash in American bourbon making.
Scotch whiskeys are actually distilled twice. The wash is heated until
the alcohol turns into a vapor. The vapor is led through a series of
coiled tubes into a cooling vat, where it becomes a liquid again. This
liquid is distilled a second time and the results are collected in oak
casks for long-term storage. A true Scotch whiskey must be allowed to
age for at least three years from the time of distillation. Some Scotch
whiskeys are aged for 15 years or more, which may explain their mellow
flavors and significant price tags.
Once the single malt or grain whiskeys have been properly aged, a
skilled whiskey blender uses his native understanding of each single
malt Scotch whiskey to create a blended Scotch. This process can
involve up to 50 separate whiskeys, since individual whiskey sources
may or may not complement each other.
95% of all Scotch whiskeys sold in the world are blended, although some
say certain single malt Scotch whiskeys are just as worthy of
consideration as their blended counterparts.
What is beer?
According to Josh Rosenthal of "The Beer Lover's Companion":
"Malted grains, water and yeast have been used since as far back as the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia to create brewed beverages that form a direct line to the beers that we know today, and although a wide variety of spices, herbs and fruits were used for centuries as flavorings for beer, hops,has been the standard for the last several hundred years. The sixteenth century German beer purity law may no longer dictate what brewers can put in their beer, the majority of brewers the world over remain faithful to the basic ingredients of barley, hops, water and yeast in creating the successful brew. From these few components, a tremendous variety of beer styles can be made, with each style itself encompassing a range of distinct flavors".
- Begin with barley, which is a tall yellowish brown grass similar to wheat in appearance.
- Barley is then steeped in water several days to germinate, the sprouts are referred to as malt.
- Malt is then kiln dried to stop fermentation, while the starches are converted to sugars.
- The malt is then mashed in water and cooked to produce the "wort".
- Wort is then boiled with hops.
- Fermentation is induced after a yeast culture is added.
- The resulting beer is then cold stored(lagered),filtered, then kegged, canned or bottled.
There are two primary species of yeast used in beer brewing, top fermenting for ales, and bottom fermenting for lagers.