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Spirits

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Spirits

The term liquor and spirits refer to a distilled beverage. Distillation differs in many ways as compared to fermentation. Fermentation occurs naturally where yeasts convert the sugars in grape juice into alcohol and refers mostly to products like beer and wine. Distillation is a fermented liquid heated which in turn changes to a gas and channeled through a tube to cool off and return to a liquid state of pure alcohol. Spirit actually refers to liquor that contains no added sugars and liqueurs refer to a liquor flavored with fruits, herbs, nuts, spices and flowers with added sugar. The name spirit can actually be dated back to early alchemists who considered the distilled liquid a spirit of the original content. Liqueurs actually first started out as medicinal remedies for upset stomachs and ailments. Often prepared by monks and dating back to the 13th century, liqueurs are now popular for their sweetness and mixed with many teas, coffees, and juices. Distillation can date back to the 1st century AD to early Greek alchemists, but there is also evidence to suggest that they weren’t the only ones with the knowledge of distillation. Evidence of a Mongolian stills, in Germany where burned water was mentioned in many historical texts have suggested that many cultures were distilling liquor.
Some of the most popular liquor on the market today are:
Rum- Rum is made from sugarcane and aged in oak barrels. There are two types which are light (white) rums and dark (gold) rums. Rum can be consumed neat (straight) or in a cocktail. Another variation of style is spiced rum which is darker and contains added spices. Over proofed rum is another style where the alcohol level is much higher then normal standards. There are also the increasingly popular flavored rums which have infused fruit flavors.
Vodka- Vodka is generally made from grains, potatoes and sometimes fruit. The name comes from the Polish word “wodka”. There are a few different types of vodka which are clear vodka and flavored vodka. The traditional regions prefer to drink their vodka unflavored.
Whisky- Whisky is also made from different grains which can create different styles of this popular liquor. Some of these ingredients include barley, rye, wheat and maize. After the distillation, the liquid is usually stored in wooden barrels and aged which allow it to develop its color and different flavors absorbed from the wood. Many countries compete with different characteristics and classes of whisky to the point where it is even spelled differently depending on where it’s produced (whiskey). There are also many styles of whisky available which are: Single malt, Whiskey, Bourbon, etc. There are slight differences in production between these that create a different style of whisky.
Tequila- Tequila is made from the agave plant and originated in Mexico. First produced in the 16th century near the city that bears the same name Tequila, the creation of this lovely liquor is credited to both the Aztec and the Spanish. The Aztec people fermented the agave plant but the first distillation was done by the Spanish. When they ran out of brandy they decided to use the local agave plant to distill, which was native to the area. There are many styles of tequila which are: Silver (blanco), Reposado and Anejo. They do also produce an extra Anejo and a Joven which is a blend of silver and Anejo.
Gin- Gin is distilled from juniper berries and dates back to the 11th century. Some gins also posses a combination of botanicals, spices, roots, herbs which can give it medicinal properties. Gin is used in many mixed cocktails and became popular in England around the 1740’s because of the low price as compared to the heavily taxed spirits imported.
Brandy- Brandy is distilled and aged in barrels. The name comes from the Dutch word brandywine and is made from fermented fruits. Some suggest to serve brandy cooled which produces a fuller smoother mouth feel and brings out the aromas. There are many terms given to clarify the age of the brandy which includes: VS, V.S.O.P, XO, Vintaged, and Hors d’age. Did you know that there is little or no difference between cognac and brandy? The basic difference is the region where they are produced which allows them to be named cognac or brandy.
Cognac- Cognac is named after the town of Cognac in France. Made from fruit brandy, it is double distilled and aged. Cognac also has terms added to it to distinguish the age.. Similar to Brandy, the terms are: VS, VSOP, and XO.
These are a few of the main liquors produced but there are many more categories and styles of liquors available. Some of these liquors are: Cream liquors, Aperitifs, Digestifs, Cordials, Mixed Cocktails, and Schnapps.

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