Drinks that contain ethanol are commonly termed as alcoholic drinks and there is a long list of them. Anyone who has ever visited a grocery store knows that there are many different types of alcohol. Some kinds of alcohol are distilled, which concentrates their alcohol content making them more dangerous.

What is Alcohol?

Humans have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. Alcohol is both a chemical and a psychoactive drug. In chemistry, an alcohol exists when a hydroxy group, a pair of oxygen and hydrogen atoms, replaces the hydrogen atom in a hydrocarbon. Alcohols bind with other atoms to create secondary alcohols. These secondary alcohols are the three types of alcohol that humans use every day: methanol, isopropanol, and ethanol.

The Three Types of Alcohol

The only type of alcohol that humans can safely drink is ethanol. We use the other two types of alcohol for cleaning and manufacturing, not for making drinks. For example, methanol (or methyl alcohol) is a component in fuel for cars and boats. It’s also used to manufacture antifreeze, paint remover, windshield wiper fluid, and many other products. Isopropanol (or isopropyl alcohol) is the chemical name for rubbing alcohol, which we use for cleaning and disinfecting. Both methanol and isopropanol are poisonous to humans because our bodies metabolize them as toxic substances which cause liver failure. Drinking even a small amount of methanol or rubbing alcohol can be fatal.

Ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) is the type of alcohol that over two billion people drink every day. This type of alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. For centuries, people have consumed ethanol-based drinks, such as beer and wine, to change the way that they feel. However, ethanol also has harmful effects on the body. The human liver can metabolize ethanol, but only in limited quantities.

Ethanol is toxic, so it damages the liver, the brain, and other organs over time. Ethanol also inhibits the central nervous system,  thereby impairing coordination and judgment. Additionally, binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse can cause a person to develop debilitating alcohol addiction.

Distilled and Undistilled Alcohol

There are two categories of alcoholic beverages: distilled and undistilled. Undistilled drinks are also called fermented drinks. Fermentation is the process by which bacteria or yeast chemically converts sugar into ethanol. Wine and beer are both fermented, undistilled alcoholic beverages. Wineries ferment grapes to make wine and breweries ferment barley, wheat, and other grains to make beer.

Distillation is a process which follows fermentation. The process converts a fermented substance into one with an even higher concentration of alcohol. Distillation concentrates alcohol by separating it from the water and other components of a fermented substance. Liquors and spirits are distilled alcoholic beverages. They contain more alcohol by volume than undistilled drinks. In general, a distilled alcoholic beverage will have a higher alcohol proof.

Alcohol by volume (ABV) and alcohol proof are two measures of alcohol content, or the concentration of alcohol in a drink. Alcohol by volume is the number of milliliters of ethanol per 100 milliliters (or 3.4 fl.oz.) in a solution, while alcohol proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. For example, a drink which has 50% ABV will be 100 proof.

 
 

Different Types of Alcoholic Drinks By Alcohol Content

There are many different kinds of alcoholic drinks, and some of them contain more alcohol than others.  The types of alcoholic drinks  with higher concentrations of alcohol are able to cause drunkenness and alcohol poisoning more quickly and in smaller doses.

Undistilled Drinks

Beer

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage worldwide. In fact, after water and tea, beer is the most commonly-consumed drink in the world. Beer is also most likely the oldest alcoholic drink in history. A standard beer, whether it be a lager or an ale, has between 4% to 6% ABV, although some beers have higher or lower concentrations of alcohol. For example, “light beers” only have between 2% to 4% ABV while “malt liquors” have between 6% to 8%.

Wine

Wine is another popular and ancient alcoholic beverage. Standard wine has less than 14% ABV. Champagne, the most well-known sparkling wine, has an alcohol concentration of about 10% to 12%. Some wines are “fortified” with distilled alcohol. Port, Madeira, Marsala, Vermouth, and Sherry are examples of fortified wines. They usually have about 20% ABV.

Hard Cider

Hard cider is fermented apple juice. It usually has about 5% ABV.

Mead

Mead, a blend of water and fermented honey, has between 10% to 14% ABV.

Saké

Sakéa well-known Japanese drink made from fermented rice, has an alcohol concentration of about 16% ABV.

Distilled Drinks (Liquors and Spirits)

Gin

Gin is a spirit made from juniper berries. It can have anywhere from 35% to 55% ABV.

Brandy

Brandy is distilled wine. The concentration of alcohol in brandy ranges from 35% to 60%. For example, one famous brandy, Cognac, has 40% ABV.

Whiskey

Whiskey is a spirit made from  fermented grain. The ABV of whiskey ranges from 40% to 50%.

Rum

Rum, a distilled drink made from fermented sugarcane or molasses, has a typical alcohol concentration of 40% ABV. Some rum is “overproof,” meaning that it has alcohol concentration of at least 57.5% ABV. Most overproof rum exceeds this minimum, usually reaching 75.5% ABV, which is equivalent to 151 proof.

Tequila

Tequila is a type of liquor. The main ingredient of tequila is the Mexican agave plant. The alcohol concentration of tequila is typically about 40% ABV.

Vodka

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States.

Absinthe

Absinthe is a spirit made from a variety of leaves and herbs. There is no evidence for the idea that absinthe is a hallucinogen, but it does have a high alcohol concentration. Some forms of absinthe have about 40% ABV, while others have as much as 90% ABV.

Everclear

Everclear, a grain-based spirit, is another drink with a heavy concentration of alcohol. The minimum ABV of Everclear is 60%, but Everclear can also have 75.5% and 95% ABV.

 

Amount of Alcohol in Alcoholic Beverages: Units

The units for the amount of alcohol in beverages are milliliters of alcohol per 100 milliliters of beverage, or in short:

  • % abv (percent of alcohol bvolume), used in the English speaking world
  • Vol % or % vol (volume percent) used in continental Europe
  • Proof (% abv x 2) used in the U.S. for distilled spirits, for example, 40 % abv whiskey is 80 proof

In some parts of the U.S., the amount of alcohol in beverages can be expressed as grams of alcohol per 100 grams of beverage or % abw (alcohol bweight). Conversion: abw = 0.8 x abv, and abv = 1.25 x abw .

 

 

Types of Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic Beverages: Alcohol and Calorie Content

Alcoholic Beverage (usual serving)

Alcohol Content (% abv, grams)

Calories (kcal)

“Alcohol-free” beverage, such as alcohol-free beer (12 oz, 355 mL) US: 0.0%; EU: <0.05%, <0.15 g 50-100
“Non-alcoholic” beverage or “dealcoholized” beverage (12 oz, 355 mL) US, EU: <0.5%; <1.5 g; Canada: <1.1%; <4.5 g  Varies
“Non-alcoholic,” “NA” (US), “dealcoholized” (EU), “near” or “small beer” (12 oz, 355 mL) US, EU: <0.5%; <1.5 g ; Canada: <1.1%; <4.5 g 50-100
Kombucha; carbonated beverage, produced by fermentation of sweat black/green tea, using Kombucha bacteria/yeasts (16 oz, 475 mL) Usually <0.5%; <2 g (range: 0-3%, 0-11.5 g)  60-120
Boza (in Eastern Europe, Turkey) beverage from fermented maize, wheat, millet or other cereals (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually ~1%; ~3 g (range: 0-7%, 0-18 g)  100-180
“Low-alcohol” drink (12 oz, 355 mL) EU: 1.2%; <3.5 g Varies
Kvass (in Eastern Europe); low-alcohol beverage fro fermented rye bread (12 oz, 359 mL) <1.2%; <3.5 g 200
“Low-alcohol beer” or “reduced alcohol beer” (12 oz, 355 mL) US: <2.5%; <7 g  ~100
Radler (in Europe, Australia) = beer + citrus soda (17 oz, 500 mL) 2.5%; 10 g 100-125
Chicha (in Latin America) = a home-made beverage from corn (12 oz, 355 mL) 1-3%; 3-9 g ~120
Shandy (in UK, US) = beer + citrus soda or ginger ale (12 oz, 355 mL) 0.5-4%; 1.5-11 g ~130
“Light beer” or “lite beer” (in US, Canada); “table beer” or “biere de table” or tafelbier (in Belgium) (12 oz, 355 mL) Canada: 2.6-4% ; Australia: 2.2-3.2%; Belgium 1.5-4%; 4-11 g 100-150 (In US “light” can mean 1/3 less calories)
“Session beer” = drinkable, mildly flavored beer (12 oz, 355 mL) <5%; <14 g 100-170
Beer, regular (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-6%; 11-17 g 160 (140-200)
Sangria = wine/fruit punch (8.5 oz, 250 mL) 6-11.5%; 12-23 g 150 (140-200)
Palm wine (West Africa, South Asia) = fermented palm sap (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-7%; 11-20 g 100-200
Breezers, coolers (12 oz, 355 mL) 4-7%; 11-20 g 120-270
Irish coffee = coffee, brown sugar, cream, 1 oz 40% Irish whiskey (6 oz, 180 mL) 10%; 14 g 160
Malt liquor = strong ale, porter or stout (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually 6-8%; 17-22 g (range:5-14%, 15-41 g) 150-350
Cider (12 oz, 355 mL) Usually 4-6%, 11-17 g (range 1.2-13%, 11-37 g)  100-300
Caffeinated alcoholic beverage; example (23.5 oz, 695 mL) 12%; 67 g 660
Sparkling wine (4.1 oz, 120 mL) Usually 10-12%, 9-11 g (range: 5.5-13.5%, 5-13 g) 80 (50-120)
Ice wine, late harvest wine (5 oz, 150 mL) Usually 9-13%, 11-16 g  170 (160-190)
Wine (grape, table, light wine) (5 oz, 150 mL) EU: 8.5-15%; US: table wine <14%; 8-18 g 125 (70-160)
Fruit table wine (cherry, blueberry, citrus wine, etc.) (5 oz, 150 mL) US: <14%; Canada: 7.1-14.9%; 8.5-18 g 125 (70-160)
Eggnog with alcohol, commercial (3.4 oz, 100 mL) ~15%; ~12 g Varies
Sake = Japanese “rice wine” (5 oz, 150 mL) 15-17%; 18-20 g 195 (160-220)
Mead = “honey wine” (5 oz, 150 mL) Usually 10-14%; 12-17 g (range: 8-18%; 10-23 g) 150-220
Soju = “Korean vodka;” diluted spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually ~20%, 40 proof, ~7 g (range: 15-45%, 30-90 proof, 5.5-16 g) 40-120
Shochu = “Japanese vodka” (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually ~25%, 50 proof, ~9 g (range: 15-45%, 30-90 proof, 5.5-16 g)  65 (40-120)
Pastis = French anise-flavored liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-45%, 80-90 proof, 14-16 g 140-170
Cynar = Italian artichoke-flavored spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 16.5%, 33 proof, 6 g ~100
Vermouth (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 13-18%, 5-6.5 g ~70
Fortified or dessert wine (sherry, port, madeira, marsala) (3.4 oz, 100 mL) 15-22%, 12-18 g 160 (110-170)
Campari, Limoncello (liquers) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 24%, 48 proof, 9 g 130-170
Amaretto (liqueur) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 28%, 56 proof, 10 g 175
Martini = cocktail from gin and vermouth (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 16-30%, 32-60 proof, 6-11 g 70-80
Jägermeister = German herbal liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 35%, 70 proof, 12.6 g 155
Cream or egg liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 11-38%, 22-76 proof, 4-14 g 100-230
Gin, dry (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-55%, 75-110 proof, 13.5-20 g 100-140
Vodka (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 37.5-80%, 75-160 proof; 13.5-29 g) 100 (130-210)
Whiskey (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40-50%, 80-100 proof; 14-18 g (range: 40-75%, 80-150 proof; 14-27 g) 110-130 (up to 200)
Tequila = Mexican spirit (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 38-40%, 76-80 proof, 14 g (range: 35-55%, 70-110 proof, 13-20 g) 100 (up to 140)
Rum (spirit) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 37.5-50%, 75-100 proof, 13.5-18 g) 100-130
Airline miniature spirits (1.7 oz, 50 mL) Usually 40%, 80 proof, 16 g 110
Sambuca = Italian anise-flavored liqueur (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Commonly 42%, 84 proof, 15 g 170
Ouzo = Greek anise-flavored pomace brandy (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-48%, 75-96 proof, 13.5-17 g 100-180
Aquavit = Scandinavian herbal caraway-flavored spirit, “flavored vodka” (1.5 oz, 45 mL) Commonly 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range 37.5-50%, 75-100 proof, 13.5-18 g) 90-110
Schnaps = German spirit (1 oz, 30 mL) Commonly 40%, 80 proof, 14 g (range: 32%-45%, 64-90 proof, 11.5-16 g) 80-110
Grappa = Italian spirit from grape pomace (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 37.5-60%, 75-120 proof, 13.5-22 g 100-160
American schnapps = liqueur from neutral grain spirit + fruit juice (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 15-50%, 30-100 proof, 5-18 g 60-150
Cognac = French grape brandy (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-43%, 80-86 proof, 14.5-15.5 g 110
Baijiu = “Chinese wine”, “white wine” or “white liquor”; clear spirit distilled from sorghum (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-65%, 80-130 proof, 14-23 g 100-160
Arak or arack = clear anise-flavored spirit from the Middle East (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 40-50%, 80-100 proof, 14-18 g 160-200
Overproof rum (spirit) (1 oz, 30 mL) Commonly: 75.5%, 151 proof, 18 g (range: 51-90%, 122-180 proof, 12-22 g) 130 (up to 154)
Absinthe = anise-flavored spirit (to be diluted) (1.5 oz, 45 mL) 38-90%, 76-180 proof, 14-32 g 100-230
Everclear = clear spirit (1 oz, 30 mL) 75.5-95%, 151-190 proof, 18-23 g 130-160
Neutral grain spirit or pure grain alcohol (1 oz, 30 mL) 95%, 190 proof, 23 g 160

Alcohol in Foods

   
Kefir (1 cup, 237 mL) 0.05-3%, 0.1-7 g  
Cheese fondue (1 cup, 215 g) <1%; <1 g  
Vanilla extract (1 tbsp, 13 g) ~30%; 4.5 g  
Tiramisu (1/12 of 7×12″ dish) <1%; <1 g  
Flambe dishes (1 cup) ~2%; ~5 g  
Vinegar (balsamic, cider, distilled, fruit, malt, rice, wine) (2 tbsp, 30 g) Traces; <0.01 g  
Bread, doughnuts, pastries, pizza, hot dog rolls and foods made of dough, without added alcohol Traces (0.04-1.9%)  
Sauces, gravies with added cooking wine (1/2 cup, 237 mL) Less than 1%; < 3 g  
Alcohol-filled candies (1 candy, 15 g) Up to ~10%; up to ~1.5 g  
Rum-kokos balls (1 ball, 10 g) <3%; <0.3g  
Christmas pudding (1 piece, 3.4 oz, 100 g) Up to ~5%; up to ~5 g  
Overripe fruits Up to 5%   
Soy sauce (1 fl.oz, 30 mL) 2% or more; 0.6 g or more