Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds, thus had Albert Einstein said once. We may perhaps not fully understand what that meant, but still we all love to be spirited and when its weekend, our spirits are generally quite high.
Let us try to understand how they get these spirits inside those bottles for us to find them as Jinns and as we have them, we get the feeling of having our wishes fulfilled.
Making a good spirit involves four major steps
The first and foremost step is sourcing the initial ingredient.
The second step is fermenting the sourced material which means adding yeast which breaks down the sourced material to create alcohol. The end product after this process will have an alcohol content of 4-15%.
The third step is distilling the fermented product, which involves boiling the liquid to separate out the alcohol and increase the alcohol content to > 40%. This process is required for making spirits and hence wine and beer, which are not distilled, are not called spirits having lower alcoholic content than spirits.
The fourth and final step is aging the distilled spirit. An optional step though, but storing the spirit in oak barrels adds flavour and colour. To explain simply, Tequila is white/silver if not stored in oak barrels or gold if stored in oak barrels.
An additional step is flavouring at different stages which makes different spirits, like Gin which is vodka that has been flavoured with juniper berries during distillation.
Another step is mixing different drinks which results in creating new drinks, like Vermouth which is a combination of wine and brandy.
Having understood the process of making, it’s time we understand the different types of drinks that we have.
Let’s give some time to the non-spirits first:
Beer: it is made of Grains (barley, wheat, corn) which just passes through the process of fermentation. Flowers of the plant Humulus Lupulus, known as Hops are added for the bitter flavouring.
Wine: Grapes are sourced, then fermented and finally aged. The presence of grape skin during fermentation makes it red wine and its absence makes it white wine.
Carbonated wine is called sparkling wine. If it is specifically from the Champagne region of France, it is called Champagne.
Finally, may the Spirits be with you:
Whiskey: it is made of Grains (malted barley, wheat, corn) passing through the steps of fermentation, distillation and finally aging. In simpler terms, whiskey is basically made by distilling beer.
Prior to storage, the distilled liquid being clear, it is the aging in oak barrels that gives whiskey the distinct colour. The smoky/peaty flavour in some whiskeys is due to the drying of grain in peat powered kiln prior to being fermented; and the smoke from the peat imparting flavour.
Scotch is usually made malted barley, though some may also use wheat and rye, and is actually any whiskey made in Scotland.
Bourbon is an American whiskey made specifically from corn.
Brandy: it is made from Grapes passing through the steps of fermentation, distillation and finally aging. In simpler terms, whiskey is basically made by distilling wine.
Cognac is a variety of brandy which originates from the Cognac region in France.
Rum: it is made from Sugarcane or Molasses passing through the steps of fermentation and distillation. As expected of something made from sugarcane or molasses, rum tends to be on the sweeter side.
Vodka: it can actually be made from pretty much anything (grapes, grains, potatoes) passing through the steps of fermentation and distillation.
While making vodka, the liquid is distilled to 90%+ alcohol concentrate to remove most of the taste and aroma of the source material. It is then diluted with water to reduce the concentration to around 40% alcohol.
Tequila: it is made from the Blue Agave plant passing through the steps of fermentation, distillation and finally aging.
Gin: As mentioned earlier, it is made from Vodka flavoured with juniper berries added during distillation.
Liqueur or cordials is actually a generic term for a spirit with added sugar or some other sweetener and flavoured with fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts.
Go ahead and save some spirits trapped in bottles since ages!