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Types Of Alcohol: Percentage, Beverages, and Names

Alcohol is one of the most commonly consumed drinks in the world. And although mostly used as the primary active ingredient in alcoholic drinks, alcohol also serves other purposes in our day-to-day lives. So what are some of the main types of alcohol? 

There are three main types of alcohol– isopropyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, and ethyl alcohol. Of the three types, only ethyl alcohol is suitable for human consumption. Isopropyl alcohol is mainly used for sterilization, while methyl alcohol is used in manufacturing. 

Looking to learn more about the main types of alcohol? Then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on for an in-depth analysis of alcohol types you should know about! 

The Three Types Of Alcohol 

Now that we’ve established there are three types of alcohol, let’s take a quick look at each.  

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Isopropyl Alcohol

Also referred to as rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol is mainly used for sterilization. This alcohol type is used as the main ingredient in most cleaning products due to its superb sterilization properties. 

And while isopropanol works well in disinfecting surfaces and equipment, it is unsafe for drinking and can prove fatal if consumed in large amounts. 

Methyl Alcohol

Also called wood alcohol or methanol, methyl alcohol is widely used in manufacturing activities. As an industrial-strength solvent, methanol is used to make products like antifreeze, printing ink, and paint removers. 

Impressively, methanol is also used as a base reactant to make compounds like methane, formaldehyde, and acetone. These methanol byproducts are often used to manufacture a wide range of products, from plastics to even explosives. 

And although methanol has a similar odor and appearance to ethanol, this alcohol is extremely toxic and should not be consumed as it can lead to permanent blindness, coma, or even death! 

Ethyl Alcohol 

Ethyl alcohol, also referred to as grain alcohol, drinking alcohol or ethanol, is the only type of alcohol fit for human consumption. Ethanol has been used for recreational purposes for thousands of years due to its mood and behavior-altering ability. 

Despite being the only type of consumable alcohol, the human liver can only metabolize it in limited quantities. Infact, excessive ethanol usage can damage body organs like the brain and liver over time. 

This type of alcohol is beloved for its effect on the central nervous system as it works by reducing anxiety and stress, albeit temporarily. 

However, excessive consumption of ethanol above a certain limit leads to impaired judgment and coordination, which can prove fatal in the short term.

The Main Types of Ethyl Alcohol (Consumable Alcohol)

Ethyl alcohol comes in two main categories: distilled and undistilled. Undistilled alcoholic drinks are made through fermentation, where yeast or bacteria converts sugar into ethanol. 

These alcoholic beverages usually contain less amounts of alcohol than their distilled counterparts.

Beer and wine are great examples of undistilled alcoholic drinks. 

Distilled drinks are made through a similar process to undistilled drinks, the only difference being fermentation is not the final phase. Once fermentation is done, distillation is done to separate water and other fermented substances from alcohol. 

The distillation process leads to a higher alcohol concentration compared to undistilled drinks. 

So how is alcoholic content measured? The amount of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is measured through alcohol by volume (ABV) and alcohol proof. 

ABV is the milliliters of ethanol contained in a 100 milliliters solution of fermented drink, while alcohol proof is double the percentage of ABV. For instance, an alcoholic drink with 40% ABV will be 80% proof. 

Here’s a quick analysis of the two main types of alcohol fit for human consumption.  

Undistilled Drinks

Beer: Beer is arguably the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage in the world and is made through a process called brewing. To make beer, brewers usually ferment barley or cereal grains like rice, wheat, sorghum, corn, or rye. Standard beers often contain alcohol in the range of 4-7% ABV, while others can go as high as 15% ABV. 

Wine: Alcoholic wine is produced when crushed grapes are fermented with yeast. Once added to crushed grapes, yeast converts the sugars to ethanol before being stored as a fermented beverage. In the US, standard alcoholic wine contains less than 14%ABV. 

Hard Cider: Hard cider contains 4-7% ABV and is produced when apple juice is fermented. 

Sake: Sake is a popular Japanese drink made from fermented rice. This drink has a high alcohol concentration of approximately 14-22% ABV. 

Mead: Mead is another type of undistilled drink that can intoxicate faster than wine and most beers, courtesy of its high alcoholic content in the range between 5.5-22%ABV.

Distilled Drinks

Brandy: Brandy is a type of liquor made by distilling wine. Some brandies are aged in carefully crafted wooden casks, while others are caramel-colored to appear well-aged. Some other types of brandy are made by both coloring and aging. Brandy usually contains 35-60% ABV. 

Whiskey: Whiskey is distilled alcohol made from fermented grain like barley, corn, wheat, and rye. Most whiskeys contain a minimum of 40% ABV. 

Gin: Gin is a type of spirit made by distilling fermented grains before redistilling the solution using juniper berries. Most Gins contain ABV between 34-55%. 

Rum: Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented molasses. Some rums can contain high alcohol content of up to 75.5% ABV.

Vodka: Vodka is a type of distilled alcohol made from fermented potatoes and grains and usually has an alcohol concentration between 36-45%. 

Tequila: Mostly used for shots, tequila is a liquor made from the famous Mexican agave plant and has an alcohol concentration of about 40% ABV.

Is It Bad To Consume Alcohol?

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Alcohol isn’t necessarily bad if used in moderation. However, occasional drinking can lead to increased dependency, which can eventually progress to addiction. 

And while some alcoholic beverages have more alcohol content than others, uncontrolled use of any alcoholic beverage can lead to addiction, which often leads to a reduced quality of life financially, emotionally, socially, and physically. 

If you, a friend, or a beloved family member is struggling with alcohol use disorder, then it’s best to contact an addiction treatment provider for assistance before the situation gets out of hand.  

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