UK flag[ Home | Email | Info | Medical Board ]


Alcohol is ethanol or ethyl alcohol. There are many informal names for alcohol (e.g. booze, bevvy, drink), and there are many different types of alcoholic drink (e.g. beer, lager, wine, spirits and cider). But they all contain ethanol, or what we have come to call ‘alcohol’. Ethanol is made by a natural process, whereby yeast converts the sugar in fruits, cereals and cane sugar for example, into alcohol. Pure alcohol is a colourless, clear liquid. The process used to make it is called fermentation.


Alcohol is formed when yeast feeds on sugar. This tiny organism grows and multiplies by feeding on sugar in foods such as grain and fruits. As the yeast feeds on the sugar, carbon dioxide and alcohol are produced.

Sugar = energy + alcohol + carbon dioxide

Different drinks

In wine making, yeast acts on the sugar in crushed grapes. Different types of grapes give different flavours and colours to wines. In cider making, crushed apples are used. Beer is produced from malted grain - usually barley - to which hops have been added for flavour. fermentation grapes wine, champagne apples cider cereal beer. The amount of alcohol in drinks can be increased by a process called distillation. This produces spirits such as whisky, gin, vodka, cognac, and rum, which usually contain about 40% pure alcohol. In this process, water and alcohol are separated, through boiling which results in higher alcohol concentrations. Fortified wines (such as sherry and port) are wines that have spirit added to them, leading to a higher alcohol level (15% and over for sherry, 20% for port).

© 2000 Alcohol in Moderation. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Disclaimer