Liquor is any drink that’s made by fermenting grain, fruit, vegetables or other plants and distilling it into alcohol. They range from clear spirits like vodka, soju and gin to brown spirits such as bourbon and scotch whisky to sweet liqueurs like schnapps and Kahlua.
While this list is subject to debate, there are seven broad categories of spirits or types of liquor made today. The list of seven spirits of alcohol are:
These spirit families are grouped according to the raw plant materials used to make them. Some people might argue that there are only six spirits, because tequila is a particular type of mezcal; the spirit’s full original name is mezcal de Tequila.
Spirits can be made of virtually anything that has starch or sugar. Most commonly, spirits are made of grains, fruits, sugar, or starchy plants. Those starchy or sugar foods are fermented and then that fermented liquid is distilled into a spirit with a higher alcohol content. For instance, Tuzemak is a little known spirit from Czechoslovakia made from sugary beets.
Some of the specific crops commonly used to make spirits are:
• Brandy - Apples, pears, grapes, plums, cherries, apricots, peaches
• Gin - Wheat, barley, grapes
• Mezcal - Agave succulent
• Rum - Sugarcane juice or sugarcane molasses
• Soju / Shochu - rice, sweet potato
• Tequila - Blue agave succulent
• Vodka - Wheat, potatoes, corn, sorghum, rice, rye
• Whiskey - Corn, wheat, barley, rye
Spirits are a very versatile type of alcoholic drink, so the proper way to serve them is really up to you. They can be served neat (straight up), on the rocks (over ice), or in a cocktail.
Spirits glassware can be important as some people prefer spirits straight in a rocks or old fashioned glass.
When it comes to the most popular mixed drinks in the world, the M’s have it. Five of the most popular drinks ordered in bars start with the letter M, starting with the eternally beloved Margarita. The nice thing about these 10classic drinks is that once you learn them, you can make them with different types of spirits to broaden your entertaining repertoire.
Here are the 9 most popular mixed cocktails with links to the recipes from our Cocktail corner:
4. Old Fashioned
5. Whiskey Sour
7. Moscow Mule
10. Long Island Iced Tea
The history behind the name cocktail is pretty murky, since people making the first ones were drinking and didn’t bother to write down their thought process. But cocktail historians say that the first reference to a cocktail dates to 1806 and it was talking about a mix of strong spirits, water, sugar, and bitters.
In colonial times, shop keepers kept different spirits in wood casks. When the casks were almost empty, they would pour them all into one cask, and serve them through a tap called a “cock.” People who wanted to drink cheaply would ask for these mixed dregs, which came to be called the “cock tailings.”
Another story from New Orleans says that the Peychaud pharmacy, which was famous for their bitters, would serve medicinal alcoholic drinks in a French egg cup. This cup was called a coquetier in French; over time the name was Americanized into cocktail.
The list of white or clear spirits is headlined by vodka, gin, grappa brandy, schnapps, and mezcal. But any type of liquor can be made in a clear version as long as it’s not aged in wood to give it color. So you can find white rum, silver tequila, and even white unaged whiskey, which is called white dog. So the list of white spirits is pretty extensive.
Alcohol is a spirit. Spirits can be made from grain, fruit, vegetables, or other starchy foods. Most common alcohols, such as vodka, gin, and whiskey, are all grain spirits.
There’s no difference between liquor and spirits. Both words refer to distilled alcoholic beverages. Even though they mean the same thing, you’ll hear the more popular version used in typical conversation and at bars or distilleries depending on which part of the country you are in.
No one really knows exactly why spirits are called spirits, but historians like to speculate. What’s bottled is the evaporated essence or spirit from the distillation of alcohol. Like a ghost, it disappears into thin air and then reappears in liquid form inside a still. Early people who saw this process unfold may have thought there was some invisible spirit being controlling this process, hence the name.
We carry some of the most popular brands on the planet. We have whiskey brands from Jack Daniel’s to Angel’s Envy to Johnnie Walker. We have brands of vodka like Tito’s Vodka, Ketel One and Grey Goose. You can also find tequila brands like Patron, Don Julio and Jose Cuervo – we’ve got the best selection of popular spirits brands online!
No, unfortunately due to state restrictions we are unable to ship spirits anywhere in the United States. Learn more about what we can ship over at our Shipping FAQ page.
There’s so much more to learn about all the different kinds of whiskies and other spirits out there. Head to our Guide to Spirits to learn practically everything you’ll need to know about all the different spirits in the world!