Chapter 1: Alcohol and alcoholic drinks
All living things, men and animals alike, need to drink in order to live. Water is necessary for life. Water constitutes 60 % of an adult's total body weight and 80 % of a child's total body weight. The water in our bodies is constantly being replaced; it is continually being eliminated through urination and perspiration, and it must be replaced. To remain healthy we must drink enough water to replace that which is lost. Water is the only natural drink that is necessary. It can suffice for all our drinking needs. Water is the only drink of fully grown animals,
But water has no taste, it does not have an especially good flavour. To make water better to drink, man looked for a way to change it and added many different things to it. This is how a wide range of drinks were born: coffee, tea, fruit juices, sodus, and, finally, alcoholic drinks, which will be the subject of this study.
Alcohol and alcoholic drinks
Alcoholic drinks are those drinks which contain variable amounts of alcohol.
What is alcohol ? Actually' chemists distinguish many kinds of alcohols: alcohols are a family of chemical substances which have common characteristics. Everyone for example knows methyl alcohol' or methylated spirits' which is used in medecine to sterilise instruments and run small alcohol lamps in the laboratory.
The alcohol that we are interested in this book is ethyl alcohol. Its chemical formula is: CH3CH2OH.
In this book' when we speak about alcohol' we will always be referring to ethyl alcohol. For the majority of people the term ''alcohol'' means
1. Fermented Alcoholic Drinks
Alcohol results from the transformation of the sugar in certain plan juices by microscopic yeasts. This transformation is called fermentation.
For example' if we cut into a palm tree, a sweet liquid palm juice, will flow from the gash. If we leave this juice exposed to the air, it will start to ferment. That's to say, airborne yeast cells will land in the liquid and turn the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (bubbles of this gas rising to the surface are clearly visible). The palm juice becomes palm wine. The more time goes by, the higher the alcohol content of the palm wine. It becomes a fermented drink, an alcoholic drink
All plant-derived liquids that contain sugar (Juice from palms, oranges' sugar cane' grapefruit' grapes' bananas' etc) may be fermented and also become alcoholic drinks. Wine is produced by fermenting grape juice.
All these drinks contain alcohol in larger or smaller amounts. This quantity is measured in proof of alcohol. The proof indicates the percent by volume of pure alcohol in the alcoholic drink One proof (1) of an alcoholic drink means that there is 1/2 milliliter of alcohol in 100 milliliters of this drink. Two proof (2) of an alcoholic drink means that there is one milliliter (1 ml) of alcohol in 100 milliliters (100 ml) (= 1/10 liter) of this drink. In other words, it contains 10 ml of alcohol per liter. A 10 proof alcoholic drink contains 5 ml of alcohol per 100 ml or 50 ml per liter .(1)
(1) it should be pointed out that 1 1iter of alcohol weighs 790 grammes;
Let us look at a few of these fermented drinks:
- palm wines (about 8-proof): wine from oil palms, date palms, bear and raffia;
Wine (imported from Europe, North Africa and South Africa): 12 to 36 proof.
1 proof = about 1/2 % percent alcohol (European Metric System)
2. Distilled Alcoholic drinks
A Sugary liquid from a plant cannot be fermented to yield more than 36 proof alcohol. Beyond 36 proof, the alcohol destroys the yeast that originally created it. Alcohol is a poison, as we shall see later in greater detail.
Man wanted to make drinks containing even more alcohol. He even added alcohol artificially to certain drinks. These drinks are called liqueurs. They contain a large amount of alcohol. For example, there are wines with more than 36 proof alcohol; more alcohol is simply added to the alcohol which is formed naturally.
How can one obtain the concentrated alcohol that is necessary for this operation ? Through distillation What is distillation ? To boil water and evaporate it quickly, we must heat it to 100 C. Alcohol already boils at 78°C. If we heat a fermented drink containing alcohol (wine, beer), the steam that escapes first will consist of only alcohol, for the water does not boil yet. If a dome with a hose attached is put on top of the boiler to collect the escaping alcohol vapours and the steam is cooled down by going through a coil which is immersed in cold water, the resulting liquid will contain a large amount of alcohol as well as the other substances that escaped with it. This distillation apparatus is called a still
The liquid which is obtained (also called a liqueur) can be drunk like that, flavoured, or added to other drinks. Distilled drinks contain more alcohol than fermented drinks. The amount varies from 60-proof to
We will cite some of these drinks palm alcohol obtained by distilling palm wine; corn alcohol obtained by distilling corn beer; banana alcohol; pineapple alcohol; arki alcohol obtained by distilling manioc; mint alcohol; imported spirits (or aqua vitas whose alcohol contents are 80 to 120-proof; whisky: obtained by distilling oats, barley, corn and rye; cognac: obtained by distilling certain wines; rum: obtained by distilling sugar cane; gin obtained by distilling juniper; vodka: obtained by distilling rye or barley. imported aperitifs made from wine (like Martini, Cinzamo, Port) containing between 16 and 20 % alcohol.
It is impossible to list all the drinks that exist since they are so varied and numerous. Each region often has its own specialties.
The important thing to know is their alcohol content. There is as much alcohol in one liter of 100- proof whisky as in 5 liters of 20-proofwine or in 10 liters of 10-proof beer or pahn wine. But all these drinks contain the same alcohol: ehyl alcohol. It is wrong to say that the alcohol in beer is less dangerous than the alcohol in whisky, because it is exactly the same alcohol!
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