Have fun with these fun facts! We cover the waterfront from ales to zombies. Enjoy these alcoholic beverages trivia. Then share your favorites with your friends, family, and co-workers!
The total alcohol content of a standard can of beer, glass of dinner wine, or spirits drink are the same. Each has six-tenths of an ounce of pure alcohol. To a breathalyzer, a drink is a drink is a drink.1 Discover more at Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence. Why Knowing them is Important.
Alcohol is a flavor enhancer. 2
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
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Show Me the Proof!
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
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
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
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 gusano or butterfly caterpillar. 7
Bourbon takes its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky, where it was first produced in 1789 by a Baptist minister. 8
Bourbon county no longer makes bourbon. 9
Rye was the first distinctly US whiskey. It is distilled from a combination of corn, barley malt, and at least 51% rye. 10
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
Sloe gin is not gin at all but a liqueur made with sloe berries (blackthorn bush berries).12
Vodka (“little water”) is the Russian name for grain spirits without flavor added. 13
“Brandy” is from the Dutch brandewijn, meaning burnt (or distilled) wine. 14
The words “cordial” and “liqueur” are synonymous and refer to liquors made of sweetened spirits flavored with fruits, flowers, roots, or other organic matter. 15
Vermouth is a white appetizer wine flavored with up to 40 to 50 different berries, herbs, roots, seeds, and flowers. It takes about a year to make. 16
Much more trivia! Visit Alcohol Trivia Resources (& Links to Alcohol Trivia).
A whiskey, rum, or brandy can be aged either not long enough or too long. 17
Alcohol is derived for the arabic al kohl, meaning the essence. 18
Scotch whisky’s distinctive smoky flavor comes from drying malted barley over peat fires. 19
That’s a Lot of Cocktails!
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
Although the origins of the martini are obscure, it actually began as a sweet drink. 21
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
The mint julep was once a very popular everyday drink, the “Coca-Cola of its time.” 23
Most European grapevines are planted on American grape rootstock. 24
Mai Tai means “out of this world” in Tahitian. 25
“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
Worse is Better?
Poor soil tends to produce better wines (“the worse it is, the better it is”). 27
White wine can is usually produced from red grapes. 28
Most wines do not improve with age. 29
Mead is a beverage made of a fermented honey and water mixture. 30
The U.S. 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
No government health warning is permitted on wine imported into any country in the European Union. 32
One of every five glasses of wine consumed in the world is sake. 33
“Muscatel” means “wine with flies in it” in Italian. 34
Make colorful cordials or brandy float in a layered pattern in a glass. It’s easy. Pour each ingredient slowly over a spoon held bottom side up over the glass. Also, pour all ingredients in the order the recipe indicates.
Like a cwrw?
In Welsh, the word for beer is “cwrw.” It’s pronounced “koo-roo.” 35
Rum was issued daily to every sailor in the British Navy from 1651 until 1970. 36
Chicago hosted a martini competition. The winner was made with an anchovie-stuffed olive. It was served in a glass that had been rinsed with Cointeau liqueur. 37
In Europe and North America, lower-status people tend to prefer beer. On the other hand, 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 tend to prefer spirits. 38
There are an estimated forty-nine million (49,000,000) bubbles in a bottle of Champagne. 39
Vodka has been the largest selling distilled spirit in the US for decades. In fact, one of every four alcohol drinks consumed in the world is vodka or vodka-based. 40
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
Are Your Feet Really Clean?
Foot treading of grapes is still used in producing a small quantity of the best port wines. 42
A trokenbeerenauslese is a type of German wine. It’s made from vine-dried grapes. They’re so rare that it can take a skilled picker a day to gather enough for just one bottle. 43
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
Vintage Port can take forty years to reach maturity. 45
Mead, a drink made from fermented honey, is the national drink of Poland. 46
Champagne Bottle Sizes 53
The most popular gift in Eastern Europe is a bottle of vodka. 47
The Asian cordial “kumiss” is made of fermented cow’s milk. 48
In Medieval England, alcohol was often served with breakfast. 49
British Isn’t English?
British wine is not the same as English wine. That may seem strange. But British wine is made from imported grapes but English wine is not. 50
Drinking chocolate mixed with alcohol was fashionable at European social events in the 17th century. 51
L’Esprit de Courvoisier is a cognac made from brandies distilled between 1802 and 1931. (Yes, the earlier period was during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte!) It 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 France. 52
Moonshiners may want to show that their product has high proof and is free of potentially deadly contaminants. So they 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 dangerous moonshine? Because legally produced distilled spirits products are very heavily taxed. This increases their cost to the consumer by about 100%. 53
References: Alcoholic Beverages Trivia
1. Ford, G. The French Paradox and Drinking for Health. San Francisco: WAG, 1993, p. 108.
2. Gastineau, C., et al. (Eds.) Fermented Foods. NY: Academic, 1979.
3. Royce, J. Alcohol Problems. NY: Free Press, 1981, p. 49.
4. Morris, W. (Ed.) Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, p. 1,460.
5. Roueche, B. The Neutral Spirit. A Portrait of Alcohol. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960, p. 84.
6. Limon, E. Tequila. NY: Abbeville, 1009, p. 34. http://www.georgian.net/rally/tequila/ http://weber.u.washington.edu/~schell/tequilla.html
7. Grimes, W. Straight Up or on the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 52-53. However, this commonly-accepted explanation is challenged by C. Cowdery in How Bourbon Whiskey Really Got Its Famous Name. The Bourbon Reader,1996, 3 (1).
8. Erdoes, R. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze. NY: Rutledge, 1981, p. 88. Good source of alcoholic beverages trivia.
9. Lender, M. and Martin, J. Drinking in America. NY: Free Press, 1982, p. 33.
10. Roueche, B. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, S. (Ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Pp. 167-182.
11. Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide. NY: Warner, 1979, pp. 186- 187.
12. Roueche, op cit.
13. Ibid, pp. 172-173. Seward, D. Monks and Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley, 1979, p. 151.
14. Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide. NY: Warner, 1981, p. 185
15. Ibid, p. 181; Conrad, B. The Martini. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1995, p. 126.
16. Ibid, p. 182.
17. Hyams, E. Dionysus: A Social History of the Wine Vine. NY: Macmillan, 1965, p. 198. Good for alcoholic beverages trivia. Avis, H. Drugs & Life. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999, p. 74.
18. Mr. Boston, 1981, p. 192.
19. Grimes, W. Straight Up or on the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993, p. 16.
20. Ibid, p. 28.
21. Ibid, p. 41.
22. Ibid, p. 54
23. Zraly, K. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. NY: Dell, 1987, p. 20.
24. Ibid, p. 116.
25. Ibid, p. 113.
26. Lyman, H. “The Science and Art of Wine Making.” Course at SUNY Binghamton, 1996.
27. McCarthy, E., and Ewing, M. Wine for Dummies. Foster City, CA:IDG, 1995, p. 10.
28. Johnson, H. Wine. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1966, p. 19. McCarthy, E. and Ewing, M., p. 359.
29. Morris, W. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978, p. 810.
30. Barr, A. Drink: A Social History of America. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1999, p. 87. Source of alcoholic beverages trivia.
31. McCarthy, E, and Ewing, M., p. 106.
32. Frost, G., and Gauntner, J. Sake. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 1999, p. 10.
33. Bryson, B. The Mother Tongue. NY: Morrow,1990, p. 15.
34. Bryson, pp. 16-17.
35. www.cocktail.com/quiz/rumage.htm, Jan 24, 2000.
36. Martini heresy. Life (Dec 10, 1951), pp. 81-82.
37. Hilton, M. The Demographic Distribution of Drinking Patters in 1984. In: Clark, W., and Hilton, M. (Eds.). Alcohol in America. Albany: SUNY Press, 1991, 73-86; Heath, D. B. Drinking Occasions. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel, 2000.
38. McCarthy, E. Champagne for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG, 1999, p. 35.
39. Reidel, H. Sweet Spot. Buffalo News, July 1, 2001. Prial, F. A Flavorless and Clear Favorite: Vodka Surpasses Gin, Other Spirits in Popularity. Chicago Trib, Aug 8, 2001, W6.
41. Mingo, J., and Barrett, E. Just Curious, Jeeves. Emeryville, CA: Ask Jeeves, 2000, p. 269.
42. www.uselessknowledge.com Good for alcoholic beverages trivia.
49. Rovin, J. In Search of Trivia. New York: Penguin, 1984, pp. 371-372.
51. Bachman, J. (AP). Liquid Gold. News-Sun (Waukegan, IL) March 28, 2001.
52. John Upham, personal communication.
53. New York Public Library Desk Reference. NY: Macmillan, 1988, p. 553. McCarthy, p. 188.