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What is alcohol?

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As Britons, we like to drink. Britain has one of the biggest drinking cultures in the world. We spend inordinate amounts of money and time on drinking. Having a family party – wouldn’t be complete without a few drinks. Got a promotion – let’s celebrate at the pub. It’s your birthday – great lets go clubbing. It’s a great way to let loose and have fun. But have you ever asked yourself what exactly is in alcohol. A lot of people have an idea but do we really know? Sure, cider has apples, but what else? Yes, wine is made from grapes, but then what? Ah, you are in need of educating in the ways of one of our favourite vices: the ancient and noble pastime of drinking.
The ‘technical’ stuff
Well alcohol is essentially flavoured ethanol. Ethanol is a strong chemical that is mixed with flavourings, generally, to make your favourite alcoholic beverages. It’s only ever small amounts of ethanol as the chemical is poisonous to humans. Just by smelling it you can get drunk off of the fumes.

How is ethanol produced?
Ethanol is produced when certain food stuffs such as grains and fruit are fermented, this is where yeast and or bacteria react with the naturally occurring sugars in the grain and fruit (and sometimes vegetables), when this happens there are two main by-products: ethanol and CO2 (carbon dioxide).

As mentioned before, ciders and wines are made by fermenting fruit – as any drinker is aware, these tend to be sweeter in flavour due to the amount of natural sugars in the drinks. The other very popular drink in Britain is beer which along with spirits (vodka, gin etc), is made from fermenting barley and rye (along with other cereals). The longer a drink’s ingredients are fermented the higher the alcohol content. For instance cider isn’t fermented for as long as spirits. Popular ciders have an average alcohol percentage of 4/5% whereas spirits are on average around the 40% mark. You can taste the difference as well. Spirits have a lot stronger flavour when compared with cider which leads them to be mixed with other drinks, such as coke and fruit juice. This high level of alcohol and flavour in spirits is also partly due to the fact that they are distilled which means that the naturally occurring water is removed.

Remember, however, whenever enjoying alcoholic beverages you must drink them responsibly. Drunken antics put a strain on the country, due to the increased cost to cover the NHS, police force, and fire service. Not to mention the embarrassments caused to yourself. For example a recent study carried out by giffgaff.com showed that drunk texts cost the UK £640m a year. So drinking responsibly will not only save your liver from potential illness, but also your wallet and bank balance.

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