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    Spirits

    Basically they’re the biggest, brawniest older brother of the alcohol family. All alcoholic beverages are made by fermenting some form of sugary brew into ethanol and CO2. Because yeast can only ferment so much before alcohol levels become toxic to them, we have to distill (or physically separate out the water) to get higher alcohol concentratio...

    Basically they’re the biggest, brawniest older brother of the alcohol family. All alcoholic beverages are made by fermenting some form of sugary brew into ethanol and CO2. Because yeast can only ferment so much before alcohol levels become toxic to them, we have to distill (or physically separate out the water) to get higher alcohol concentrations. And that’s why “spirits” are differentiated in two ways: they’re distilled, and they have higher average ABVs, from around 20% to as high as 80 or 90% ABV (most spirits fall somewhere much closer to the middle).

    There’s a lot more that differentiates one spirit from another, but this generally—plus centuries of distilling history—is what differentiate spirits in the alcohol world.

    Spirits are the highest ABV products of the yeast-based fermentation of a liquid brewed to have fermentable sugars. Unlike beer or wine, however, spirits are the product of a second step called “distillation” that further fortifies them.

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    Subcategories

    • Anis

      Anis, is an anise-flavored liqueur that is consumed in most Mediterranean countries, mainly in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, and France. It is colorless, and because it contains sugar, is sweeter than dry anise flavoured spirits. The most traditional style of anisette is that produced by means of distilling aniseed, and is differentiated from those produced by simple maceration by the inclusion of the word distilled on the label.

      The liqueur is not commonly taken straight on account of its strong flavour. When included in mixed drinks however, it produces a sweet agreeable flavour. It is often mixed simply with water, where it produces a milky white consistency. That mixture is called in Spanish speaking countries "palomita". All the liqueur has to be dropped into very cold water at the same moment. Pouring it from a bottle even quickly does not produce the same result. A very white liquid denotes that a good anisette has been used. A "palomita" with just a drop of anisette can be drunk as a refreshing drink.

    • Brandy

      Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% Alcohol and is typically drunk as an after-dinner digestif. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, others are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring. Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the winemaking world.

    • Gin

      Gin is liquor which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries. Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.

    • Patxaran

      Patxaran is a sloe-flavoured liqueur commonly drunk in Navarre and the Basque Country, the Pyrenees and in Spain. It is usually served as a digestif either chilled or on ice.

      Patxaran is made by soaking sloe fruits, collected from the blackthorn shrub, along with a few coffee beans and a cinnamon pod in anisette, for one to eight months. The process produces a light sweet reddish-brown liquid around 25-30% in alcohol content by volume. In addition to dictating the amount of sloes to be used, the regulating body for Pacharán Navarro insists that no colourings or flavourings be added and that the maceration last between one and eight months.

    • Vodka

      Vodka is a distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol, sometimes with traces of impurities and flavorings. Traditionally, vodka is made by the distillation of cereal grains or potatoes that have been fermented, though some modern brands use other substances, such as fruits or sugar.

    • Whisky

      Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn, rye and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

      Whisky is a strictly regulated spirit worldwide with many classes and types. The typical unifying characteristics of the different classes and types are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.