Beverages: Ales to Zombies

  1. The total alcohol content of a typical can of beer, glass of wine, or spirits drink are virtually identical. To a breathalyzer, a drink is a drink is a drink. 1 For more, visit Standard Drinks.
  2. Alcohol is a flavor enhancer. 2
  3. The trick to setting liquor aflame in drinks or food dishes is to prewarm the glass, cooking vessel, and liquor. Preheat a spoonful of liquor, light it, then pour it into the remaining liquor to be set aflame. 3
  4. Proof expresses the proportion of alcohol in a beverage as twice the percent. For example, a 100-proof beverage is 50% alcohol. It derives from early days when "proof" of a whiskey used in barter was to mix it with gunpowder to see if it contained enough alcohol to burn. 4
  5. Whiskey and whisky both refer to alcohol distilled from grain. Whiskey is the usual American spelling, especially for beverages distilled in the U.S. and Ireland. Whisky is the spelling for Canadian and Scotch distilled beverages. 5
  6. Unlike beer and wine, all spirits are originally completely clear and colorless; their golden browns and other hues are the result of the aging process. 6
  7. There is no worm in tequila. It's in mezcal, a spirit beverage distilled from a different plant. And it's not actually a worm, but a butterfly caterpillar (Hipopta Agavis) called a gusano. 7
  8. Bourbon takes its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky, where it was first produced in 1789 by a Baptist minister. 8
  9. Bourbon county no longer produces bourbon. 9
  10. Rye was the first distinctly American whiskey. It is distilled from a combination of corn, barley malt, and at least 51% rye. 10
  11. Gin is spirit alcohol flavored from juniper berries. First made by the Dutch, it was called junever, the Dutch word for "juniper." The French called it genievre, which the English changed to "geneva" and then modified to gin. 11
  12. Sloe gin is not gin at all but a liqueur made with sloe berries (blackthorn bush berries).12
  13. Vodka ("little water") is the Russian name for grain spirits without flavor added. 13
  14. "Brandy" is from the Dutch brandewijn, meaning burnt (or distilled) wine. 14
  15. The words "cordial" and "liqueur" are synonymous and refer to liquors made of sweetened spirits flavored with fruits, flowers, roots, or other organic materials. 15
  16. Vermouth is a white appetizer wine flavored with up to 40 to 50 different berries, herbs, roots, seeds, and flowers and takes about a year to make. 16
  17. A whiskey, rum, or brandy can be aged either not long enough or too long. 17
  18. Alcohol is derived for the arabic al kohl, meaning the essence. 18
  19. Scotch whisky's distinctive smoky flavor comes from drying malted barley over peat fires. 19
  20. According to the famous writer H. L. Mencken, 17,864,392,788 different cocktails could be make from the ingredients in a well-stocked bar. 20
  21. Although the origins of the martini are obscure, it actually began as a sweet drink. 21
  22. Colonial New Englanders often put barrels of cider outdoors in cold weather, then removed the ice to increase the alcohol content of the remaining beverage. 22
  23. The mint julep was once a very popular everyday drink, the "Coca-Cola of its time." 23
  24. Most European grapevines are planted on American grape rootstock. 24
  25. Mai Tai means "out of this world" in Tahitian. 25
  26. "Cocktails for Hitler" weren't drinks at all. During World War II, distillers shifted all production to industrial alcohol for the war effort. Hence, they were making "cocktails for Hitler." 26
  27. Tip:

    To make colorful cordials or brandy float in a layered pattern in a glass, pour each ingredient slowly over a spoon held bottom side up over the glass, being careful to pour all ingredients in the order given in the recipe.

  28. Poor soil tends to produce better wines ("the worse it is, the better it is"). 27
  29. White wine can is usually produced from red grapes. 28
  30. Most wines do not improve with age. 29
  31. Mead is a beverage made of a fermented honey and water mixture. 30
  32. The United States is unique in distinguishing between "hard cider" and nonalcoholic "cider." "Cider" is derived from the Hebrew shekar, meaning "strong drink." In referring to unfermented apple juice, the proper term is "apple juice" rather than cider. 31
  33. No government health warning is permitted on wine imported into any country in the European Union (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). 32
  34. One of every five glasses of wine consumed in the world is sake. 33
  35. "Muscatel" means "wine with flies in it" in Italian. 34
  36. In Welsh, the word for beer is "cwrw." Incidentally, it's pronounced "koo-roo." 35
  37. Rum was issued daily to every sailor in the British Navy from 1651 until 1970. 36
  38. In a martini competition in Chicago, the winner was a martini made with an anchovie-stuffed olive that was served in a glass that had been rinsed with Cointeau liqueur. 37
  39. In Europe and North America, lower-status people tend to prefer beer whereas upper-status people tend to prefer wine and distilled spirits. In Latin American and Africa, lower class people tend to drink homebrew, middle class people tend to drink bottled beer, and upper class people tned to prefer distilled spirits. 38
  40. There are an estimated forty-nine million (49,000,000) bubbles in a bottle of Champagne. 39
  41. Vodka has been the largest selling distilled spirit in the US for over 25 years and one of every four alcohol drinks consumed in the world is vodka or vodka-based. 40
  42. The strongest that any alcohol beverage can be is 190% proof (or 95% alcohol). At higher proof, the beverage draws moisture from the air and self-dilutes. 41
  43. Foot treading of grapes is still used in producing a small quantity of the best port wines. 42
  44. A trokenbeerenauslese is a type of German wine made from vine-dried grapes so rare that it can take a skilled picker a day to gather enough for just one bottle. 43
  45. A popular drink during the Middle Ages to soothe those who were sick and heal them was called a caudle. It was an alcohol drink containing eggs, bread, sugar and spices. 44
  46. Vintage Port can take forty years to reach maturity. 45
  47. Mead, a drink made from fermented honey, is the national drink of Poland. 46
  48. Champagne Bottle Sizes 53

    Name Capacity (liters) Bottles
    Bottle .75 1
    Magnum 1.50 2
    Jeroboam 3.00 4
    Rehoboam 4.50 6
    Methuselah 6.00 8
    Salmanazar 9.00 12
    Balthazar 12.00 16
    Nebuchadnezzar 15.00 20
  49. The most popular gift in Eastern Europe is a bottle of vodka. 47
  50. The Asian cordial "kumiss" is made of fermented cow's milk. 48
  51. In Medieval England, beverage alcohol was often served with breakfast. 49
  52. British wine isn't the same as English wine. British wine is made from imported grapes; English wine is not. 50
  53. Drinking chocolate mixed with beverage alcohol was fashionable at European social events in the 17th century. 51
  54. L'Esprit de Courvoisier, a cognac made from brandies distilled between 1802 (yes, during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte!) and 1931, sells for $350 per shot (1 and 1/2 ounces). Cognac is a brandy made from white wine grapes grown in the small region of Cognac in southwestern France. 52
  55. To show that their moonshine has high alcohol content and is also free of potentially deadly contaminants commonly found in the illegal product, moonshiners sometimes pour some of theirs on a stump and light it. A clear blue flame indicates high proof. Any other colors within the flame indicates that it is contaminated. Why do people buy unpleasant tasting and potentially deadly moonshine? Because legally produced distilled spirits products are very heavily taxed, thus dramatically increasing their cost to the consumer. 53


  • 1. Ford, Gene. The French Paradox and Drinking for Health. San Francisco, California: Wine Appreciation Guild, 1993, p. 108.
  • 2. Gastineau, Clifford F., Darby, William J., and Turner, Thomas B. (Eds.) Fermented Foods in Nutrition. New York, Academic Press, 1979.
  • 3. Royce, James E. Alcohol Problems and Alcoholism. New York: Free Press, 1981, p. 49.
  • 4. Morris, William (Ed.) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, p. 1,460.
  • 5. Roueche, Burton. The Neutral Spirit: A Portrait of Alcohol. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960, p. 84.
  • 6. Limon, E. M. Tequila: The Spirit of Mexico. New York: Abbeville Press, 1009, p. 34;
  • 7. Grimes, William. Straight Up or on the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 52-53. However, this commonly-accepted explanation is challenged by Charles K. Cowdery in How Bourbon Whiskey Really Got Its Famous Name. The Bourbon Reader, 1996, 3 (1).
  • 8. Erdoes, Richard. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze. New York: The Rutledge Press, 1981, p. 88.
  • 9. Lender, Mark E. and Martin, James K. Drinking in America. New York: Free Press, 1982, p. 33.
  • 10. Roueche, Berton. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, Salvatore P. (Ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Pp. 167-182.
  • 11. Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartenders Guide. New York: Warner Books, 1979, pp. 186- 187.
  • 12. Roueche, Berton. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, Salvatore P. (ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Pp. 167-182.
  • 13. Ibid, pp. 172-173; Seward, Desmond. Monks and Wine. London, England: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1979, p. 151.
  • 14. Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartenders Guide. New York: Warner Books, 1981, p. 185.
  • 15. Ibid, p. 181; Conrad, Barnaby. The Martini. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1995, p. 126.
  • 16. Ibid, p. 182.
  • 17. Hyams, Edward. Dionysus: A Social History of the Wine Vine. New York: Macmillan, 1965, p. 198; Avis, Harry. Drugs & Life. Boston: WCB McGraw-Hill, 1999, p. 74.
  • 18. Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartenders Guide. New York: Warner Books, 1981, p. 192.
  • 19. Grimes, William. Straight Up or on the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993, p. 16.
  • 20. Ibid, p. 28.
  • 21. Ibid, p. 41.
  • 22. Ibid, p. 54
  • 23. Zraly, Kevin. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. New York: Dell, 1987, p. 20.
  • 24. Ibid, p. 116.
  • 25. Ibid, p. 113.
  • 26. Lyman, Harvard. "The Science and Art of Wine Making." Course at State University of New York at Binghamton, 1996.
  • 27. McCarthy, Ed, and Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Wine for Dummies. Foster City, CA:IDG Books, 1995, p. 10.
  • 28. Johnson, Hugh. Wine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966, p. 19: McCarthy, Ed and Ewing- Mulligan, Mary. Wine for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1995, p. 359.
  • 29. Morris, William. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, p. 810.
  • 30. Barr, Andrew. Drink: A Social History of America. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999, p. 87.
  • 31. McCarthy, Ed, and Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Wine for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1995, p. 106.
  • 32. Frost, G., and Gauntner, J. Sake. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 1999, p. 10.
  • 33. Bryson, B. The Mother Tongue. New York: William Morrow,1990, p. 15.
  • 34. Bryson, pp. 16-17.
  • 35., January 24, 2000.
  • 36. Martini heresy. Life (December 10, 1951), pp. 81-82.
  • 37. Hilton, M. E. The Demographic Distribution of Drinking Patters in 1984. In: Clark, W. B., and Hilton, M. E. (Eds.). Alcohol in America: Drinking Practices and Problems. Albany, NY: State Universityh of New York Press,1991, 73-86; Heath, D. B. Drinking Occasions: Comparative Perspectives on Alcohol and Culture. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Brunner/Mazel, 2000.
  • 38. McCarthy, Ed. Champagne for Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG, 1999, p. 35.
  • 39. Reidel, H. Sweet Spot. Buffalo News, July 1, 2001; Prial, F. J. A Flavorless and Clear Favorite: Vodka Surpasses Gin, Other Spirits in Popularity. Chicago Tribune, August 8, 2001, W6.
  • 40.
  • 41. Mingo, J., and Barrett, E. Just Curious, Jeeves. Emeryville, California: Ask Jeeves, 2000, p. 269.
  • 42.
  • 43.
  • 44.
  • 45.
  • 46.
  • 47.
  • 48.
  • 49. Rovin, J. In Search of Trivia. New York: Penguin, 1984, pp. 371-372.
  • 50.
  • 51. Bachman, J. (Associagted Press). Liquid Gold. News-Sun (Waukegan, Illinois) March 28, 2001.
  • 52. John Upham, personal communication.
  • 53. New York Public Library Desk Reference. New York, Macmillan, 1988, p. 553; 3rd ed.; McCarthy, E. Champagne For Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG Books, 1999, p. 188.

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