Liquor is a type of alcoholic drink produced by the distillation of grains, fruit or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. This type of alcohol is much stronger than beer and wine.
Under the banner of liquor, distilled spirits such as brandy, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey and vodka are included. For easy reference, if it is the primary cocktail ingredient, then it is a type of liquor.
This type of drink, in essence, is differentiated from other types of liquor as it is distilled and not fermented. Every spirit starts with a base ingredient’s fermentation. Similar to the process of making beer and wine, yeast is added to a mixture of water and mash containing a fermentable organic substance. This mixture is called a wort. The sugar in the base ingredient is converted into alcohol.
As for the types of liquor that is produced, the primary ingredient is the determining factor. Neutral grain spirits that form the base of many liquor are from a single grain or a combination of different grains such as corn, wheat or rye. These are used for whiskey, vodka and gin.
The primary ingredient for rum is molasses and for cachaca is sugar cane juice. Tequila and mezcal is made with juices of the agave plant and brandy is from fermented fruit juices like grapes, apples, apricots and cherries. A select few vodkas are distilled from potatoes.
There are six base liquors which are used to form most of the mixed drinks and cocktails available in the market. When you walk into a liquor store, the first thing you’ll see is a whole range of base liquors like brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey. Although each of these has their own unique characteristics and comes in several styles, they are still categorized as liquor in general.
Standard bottling strength of liquor is 40 percent Alcohol by Volume (ABV) (80 proof) although some wine and spirits are much stronger and can reach as high as 151 proof.
To classify distilled spirits, it is not a matter of putting them into a liquor vs liqueur category. Usually, they are just grouped together. Liqueurs are sweetened, flavoured distilled spirits and are typically made from one or more of the 6 base liquors or a neutral grain spirit. It is then blended with a sweeter and natural or artificial flavouring. Typically, liqueurs are bottled around 15 to 30 percent ABV (30 to 60 proof) but some are as strong as base liquors.
Cocktails love liqueurs more as they add a certain sweet flavour to it. It livens up the taste, adding an extra zing to it. The liqueur adds texture to the drink, which ultimately makes or breaks the cocktail.
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Enjoy your liquor with good company. Invite friends over and taste a bottle or two of liquor to see which is your favorite base and expand your tasting profiles from there!