Picture this: you’ve just turned 21, you’re at a bar for the first time, and you have no idea what to order. Even though there’s a huge selection of drinks, you’re not sure what makes them all different.
Bars can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with the different types of alcohol, but learning the basics can make things easier. We’ve put together this handy guide to introduce what makes drinks special from one another.
Alcohol: The Basics
Before we get into the fancy stuff, we’ve got to start at the beginning.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol, sometimes called ethyl alcohol or ethanol, is the ingredient in beers, wines, spirits, and other hard beverages that provides a buzz. Ethyl alcohol is made by a process called fermentation, in which yeasts break down sugars by consuming and transforming them into alcohol.
What Makes the Different Types of Alcohol Taste Unique?
A few factors are responsible for creating the different tastes and textures that make certain alcoholic beverages distinct from one another.
One of the biggest flavor distinguishers is the type of sugar used during fermentation. Sugars can come from a variety of sources, but most of them are derived from plants, such as fruits. Some brewers like to use honey, but since it comes from bees, it nixes any chance of the drink being vegan-friendly.
We like to use organic cane sugar to keep our drinks vegan and achieve the best, cleanest brew possible.
Another flavor factor is the amount of time a drink is fermented for. Drinks fermented for less time tend to have a lower alcohol by volume content. Fermenting a brew for longer will give yeasts more time to convert sugars into alcohol, upping the ABV content. Be careful not to ferment for too long, though — yeasts can only tolerate a certain level of alcohol before it kills them in return.
Our sweet spot for fermentation is between 18 and 30 days. Since we make both lower and higher ABV drinks, we’ll adjust our fermentation time based on the alcohol content of each drink.
Another time-related factor is aging. Aging is the process of storing drinks in a wooden container (usually a barrel) and waiting for the drink to further develop its flavor. Not all drinks need to be aged, but some drinks that are commonly aged include wine, whiskey, and sometimes even cocktails.
Fancy techniques aside, one of the easiest ways to create delicious beverage flavors is by adding ingredients specifically for flavoring purposes. Spices, hops, and fruits are all common flavoring ingredients. Some brewers might also add in extra sugar for flavoring, especially for sweet or fruity flavors — but not us.
We use plant-based ingredients including superfruits and botanicals to create flavors you love, without the sugar you don’t. We ferment our drinks to a sweet spot where there’s no remaining sugar after fermentation, so we’re proud to proclaim zero sugar in our drinks.
Alcohol Nutrition Facts: Is All Alcohol the Same?
When choosing which alcohol to buy, keep an eye on the nutrition labels. Not all drinks are made the same, and you might see some less-than-desirable ingredients, like heaps of added sugar or mystery chemicals that sound like something you’d see in a science class.
So, no — not all alcohol is the same in terms of nutrition facts.
The Many Types of Alcohol
With the basics out of the way, let’s get into what makes alcoholic drinks unique.
Whiskey, Brandy, Gin, and Other Spirits Explained
Spirits like whiskey, brandy, and gin differ from other drinks because they’re distilled rather than fermented. Distillation is the process of boiling liquids to different temperatures to separate them.
The alcohol is separated from water during distillation, and just the hard stuff remains. This is why spirits have much higher ABV levels than other types of alcohol — and why they are often known as hard liquor.
The main differences between distilled spirits are the ingredients used in their distillation process. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Gin uses grains and juniper berries
- Whiskey uses malted grains
- Brandy uses fermented fruit juice
- Vodka uses potatoes, or sometimes grains or beets
- Tequila and mezcal both use the blue agave and other agave varieties
- Rum uses sugarcane juice or molasses
- Absinthe uses medicinal herbs and plants, including anise and fennel
Certain distilled drinks tend to be more culturally significant in regions where those ingredients naturally grow. For example, tequila is popular in Mexico, where the agave plant grows natively.
What Is Wine?
Wine is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting water, yeast, and grapes. Wine can come in a ton of varieties, but the main three categories are white, red, or rosè.
Wine is also the basis for fortified wines, which are aged in casks and have a higher alcohol concentration. They are typically used in cocktails or sipped before or after meals. Common fortified wines include:
- Madeira, a Portuguese white wine
- Sherry, a Spanish white wine that is often used in cooking
- Vermouth, a white or red wine flavored with aromatic herbs and typically used in martinis
If the heaviness of wine isn’t for you, our natural Wine Spritzers bring on the classic, old-world flavors of wine with a touch of carbonation — all designed so they won’t weigh you down.
What Is Beer?
Beer is made from fermented grains, usually wheat, barley, or rye. Because of this, beers usually contain gluten. Beer has a bubbly, carbonated texture and can come in a variety of flavors, from malty to sour, although most beers have an underlying bitterness.
If you’re a big fan of the taste of beer, especially IPAs, but you’re not interested in the high calorie count that’s associated with the drink, take a peek at Tropical Hops. We combine the earthy flavor of hops with the tang of kombucha and the juicy sweetness of tropical fruits like guava to bring you a beer alternative that’s perfect for vacation. Plus, it’s organic and zero carb, so you don’t have to worry about all the downsides of beer.
What Is Hard Cider?
Hard cider has a unique base of fermented apple juice. It has a sweet, familiar taste, so those new to alcohol might prefer it to beer. However, these sweeter drinks often have higher sugar contents. While apples might be the star of the show, ciders can also be made from other fermented fruit juices, such as peaches or pears.
What Are Liqueurs?
Technically a spirit, liqueurs are sweetened with various flavors and extracts to form distinctive syrupy tastes for cocktails and sipping. The base spirits in liqueurs can be brandy, rum, whiskey, vodka, or other types of liquor. Here are a few common options:
- coffee liqueurs
- herbal liqueurs
- crème de cacao
Hard Kombucha: For the Modern Drinker
Hard kombucha is a fermented beverage that shares the tangy taste and fizzy texture of classic kombucha. This drink is unique because it’s fermented for longer than regular kombucha to increase the alcohol content.
Kombucha has a rich history, dating back to 220 BCE, and hard kombucha offers a modern take on an ancient recipe. To take things a step further, our hard kombucha expands on the original drink with our inspired, innovative flavors and botanical buzz.
What Are Hard Seltzers?
Hard seltzers take classic seltzer water to the next level. These carbonated drinks offer a bubbly buzz with fun flavors. Seltzers usually come in a can, making them easy to transport and ready to drink for any occasion.
Our superfruit flavors shine in our hard seltzers. One of our favorite seltzer flavors is our Watermelon Chili hard seltzer. This drink starts with the slightly delicate taste of watermelon, which perfectly harmonizes with the natural tangy flavor of kombucha. Then the summery heat of chili hits your tongue, resulting in a refreshingly balanced drink that brings just the right amount of heat.
If spicy flavors are more your vibe, look no further than our Guava Jalapeño hard seltzer. This zesty yet juicy drink features a fruity burst of pink guava, followed by the heat of jalapeños for a bold and earthy taste.
Why We’re Obsessed With Hard Kombucha
Out of all the varieties of alcohol, hard kombucha is our favorite. Here are a few of the many reasons why.
Real Ingredients = Better Taste
Our hard kombucha starts with three ingredients: organic black tea steeped with adaptogens, organic cane sugar, and champagne yeast. It might sound like a simple recipe, but every ingredient is carefully chosen. We ferment with all-organic ingredients, and the liquid goes through two rounds of fermentation.
The ‘organic’ part is another reason we choose the ingredients we do. All of our ingredients are USDA-certified organic for crafty, quality drinks without compromise.
Hard Kombucha Is Low-Carb, Zero-Sugar, and Vegan-Friendly
Better just got a lot less boring. We brew thoughtfully crafted flavors you love without ingredients you don’t. We’re proud to admit that our drinks don’t have any sugar or excess carb. Our flavors like Watermelon Basil and Orange Passion Mimosa are made for those in search of a lighter, brighter buzz.
Not all kombuchas are vegan; some use honey as their sugar source. We choose to keep ours vegan-friendly by excluding honey from the recipe and sticking with organic cane sugar instead. Our booch is also gluten-free and keto-friendly, so there’s no hassle in finding a drink everyone can enjoy together.
When it comes to alcohol, there’s no shortage of options. Some will have better ingredients than others, so remember to keep an eye on the labels when trying new drinks. In no time, you’ll be able to walk up to a bar with confidence and find your go-to drink.