Liquor or spirit is an alcoholic drink produced by distillation of grains, fruits, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation.
As liquors contain significantly more alcohol than other alcoholic drinks, they are considered “harder” – in North America, the term hard liquor is sometimes used to distinguish distilled alcoholic drinks from non-distilled ones, whereas the term spirits is used in the UK. Examples of liquors include brandy, vodka, absinthe, gin, rum, tequila, and whisky.
The origin of the word “liquor” and its close relative “liquid” was the Latin verb liquere, meaning “to be fluid”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an early use of the word in the English language, meaning simply “a liquid”, can be dated to 1225. The first use the OED mentions of its meaning “a liquid for drinking” occurred in the 14th century. Its use as a term for “an intoxicating alcoholic drink” appeared in the 16th century.
Early evidence of distillation comes from Akkadian tablets dated c. 1200 BC describing perfumery operations, providing textual evidence that an early, primitive form of distillation was known to the Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia. Early evidence of distillation also comes from alchemists working in Alexandria, Roman Egypt, in the 1st century. Distilled water was described in the 2nd century AD by Alexander of Aphrodisias. Alchemists in Roman Egypt were using a distillation alembic or still device in the 3rd century.
The first distilled spirits were made from sugar-based materials, primarily grapes and honey to make grape brandy and distilled mead, respectively. The earliest use of starchy grains to produce distilled spirits is not known, but their use certainly dates from the Middle Ages. Some government control dates from the 17th century. As production methods improved and volume increased, the distilled spirits industry became an important source of revenue. Rigid controls were often imposed on both production and sale of the liquor.
In the United States, it is illegal to distill beverage alcohol without a license. In some parts of the US, it is also illegal to sell a still without a license. However, all states allow unlicensed individuals to make their own beer, and some also allow unlicensed individuals to make their own wine (although making beer and wine is also prohibited in some local jurisdictions).
Liquor can be served:
• Neat — at room temperature without any additional ingredient(s)
• Up — shaken or stirred with ice, strained, and served in a stemmed glass
• Down — shaken or stirred with ice, strained, and served in a rocks glass
• On the rocks — over ice cubes
• Blended or frozen — blended with ice
• With a simple mixer, such as club soda, tonic water, juice, or cola
• As an ingredient of a cocktail
• As an ingredient of a shooter
• With water
• With water poured over sugar (as with absinthe)
Liquor that contains 40% ABV (80 US proof) will catch fire if heated to about 26 °C (79 °F) and if an ignition source is applied to it. This temperature is called its flash point. The flash point of pure alcohol is 16.6 °C (61.9 °F), less than average room temperature.
The words “liquor” and “liqueur” are so similar that it is easy to confuse the two. Although both are distilled spirits that contain alcohol and are crucial ingredients when mixing cocktails, the liquids are not the same and the terms are not interchangeable.
Generally speaking, liquor is not sweet, while liqueurs are. However, many liquors are available in flavored forms, which just adds to the confusion. Liquors are the basis of a drink while liqueurs are mainly used as flavoring agents in mixed drinks (but many can also be enjoyed on their own).
Absinthe is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur, but is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is, therefore, classified as a liquor. Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a high level of alcohol by
volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.
The largest jar of liquor was filled with 368 liters (80.95 UK gal; 97.22 US gal) of liquor and was unveiled by Golden Tourism Group (China) at Shangrao City, Jiangxi Province, China, on 11 April 2012. This jar is named San Qing Sheng Jing Qian Kun Ping. It was designed by BaiDu( China). It measures 2.06 M high, and had a diameter of 1.49 M at its widest point. It took more than 116 craftsmen nearly two years to finish the fracture and a group of painters to accomplish the pattern of the Sanqing Mountains on the profile.
The largest collection of liquor and liqueur bottles belongs to Alfredo Gonçalves (Portugal) and consists of 10,500 unique whisky bottles, as of 21 November 2005, in Lisbon, Portugal.