For tens of thousands of years, alcohol has been an important aspect of different cultures all over the world. Alcohol has been used for many purposes during its long and important history including medicinal, antiseptic, cultural, religious, recreational and so on. These wines, beers, liquors, fermented beverages and distilled spirits are made using a wide variety of different processes and because different regions are historically limited to the natural resources that are locally available, they vary widely in ingredients, flavor and alcohol content. Wine bags.com is proud to share this infographic of a visual tour of the fermented delights and distilled wonders that are consumed around the globe.
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Originating in Switzerland, Absinthe has a 60% average alcohol content. The production process of absinthe begins when the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”) are crushed, water is added, then boiled and fermented. The mixture is distilled after adding yeast. Next, green anise, green wormwood and sweet fennel and added. It’s distilled again and resoaked with herbs.
Originating in Scandinavia, Akavit has a 40% average alcohol content. The process starts when grain is added to water and then boiled and fermented. You then distill the mixture after you add yeast. Add in some caraway and you have Akavit, which can also be flavored with a number of herbs.
Originating in Colonial America, Applejack has a 35% average alcohol content. As its name implies, it’s a strong apple-flavored alcoholic beverage made from apples. You start the process by crushing apples and then adding in yeast and water where you then ferment the mixture in a container. The mixture is then distilled to create Applejack.
Originating in Eastern Mediterranean, Arak ,has a 50% average alcohol content. It belongs in the anise drinks family, and is a white, translucent anise-flavored beverage. Arak For the production process, grapes are crushed, fermented in the open air and then distilled twice before adding in anise and water.
Originating in Southeast Asia, Arrack has a 40% average alcohol content. It’s made from fermented sugarcane or the sap of coconut flowers, and also with fruit or grain (i.e. red rice), depending on the country of origin. The general process involves mixing water and coconut flower sap, after which is then fermented in a container before it’s distilled twice.
Originating in China, Baiju, also referred to as shaojiu, has a 50% alcohol content. Baiju is a clear (white) liquor and a category of many Chinese spirits made from grain. For the production process, you crush up sorghum and add water. You then boil and ferment the mixture before adding in Jiuqu and distilling.
Originating in the Philippines, Basi has a 13% average alcohol content. People have been consuming this beverage since before the Spanish conquest. The production process involves boiling crushed sugarcane and then fermenting it in an Earthen container. Once cooled, flavorings made of duhat (java plum) bark, ground glutinous rice or other barks or fruits are often added.
Originating in Egypt, beer, a favored beverage by many, has a 5% average alcohol content, but can vary widely. The process involves boiling and then fermenting malted barley, hops and water after which you add in some yeast to concoct this refreshing brew.
Originating in Slovakia, borovicka has a 40% average alcohol content. It’s characterized by a golden or white color and tastes similar to dry gin. Borovička is made by crushing juniper berries, adding water, boiling the mixture and then fermenting it in a container. You then add yeast. The mixture is then distilled to create Borovička.
Originating in the Netherlands, brandy has a 45% average alcohol content. The production process of brandy is a little more lengthy. First, you crush, boil and ferment grapes. Then the mixture is distilled after adding in yeast. Brandy then sits in oak barrels where it ages before being consumed.
Originating in Brazil, cachaça has a 42% average alcohol content. Cachaça is a rum-like Brazilian spirit making its mark today. It also goes by other names like pinga, aguardente, Marvade and caninna. It. It’s made by adding water to crushed sugarcane, then boiling and fermenting the mix. Add in some yeast and distill to finalize cachaça .
Originating in Brazil, cauim has a 4% average alcohol content. It is made by fermenting maize or manioc (a starchy, large root). It can be flavored with fruit juices. Cauim has a rather odd production process. You slice up cassava root, add water and then boil. You then chew, cook and ferment the material so your saliva breaks down the starch into fermentable sugars.
Originating in South America, Chicha has a 4% average alcohol content. It is a fermented (sometimes non-fermented) drink derived from maize, grains or fruit. The production process involves crushing germinated maize (corn) and then boiling the mixture. The mixture is then fermented in an earthen container.
Originating in the United Kingdom, but also favored in Ireland, cider has a 5% average alcohol content. It’s an alcoholic drink made from apples’ fermented juice. It’s made by crushing apples and adding water and yeast. Then it’s fermented in a container to become cider.
Originating in China, dark tea, which is shrouded in mystery, has 0% alcohol content. The basic stages in the production of dark tea are withering, rolling, oxidation (fermentation) and firing (drying). The leaves’ moisture content is reduced and the leaves are softened. They then go through the oxidation process (fermented in open air).
Originating in Medieval Europe, gin has a 45% average alcohol content. It gets its predominant flavor from juniper berries. The production process involves boiling grain and water. The mixture is then fermented before adding yeast, distilling it and then adding juniper berries.
Originating in China, huangjiu translated as “yellow wine,” has a 15% average alcohol content. It’s a type of Chinese alcoholic drink made from cereal grains, usually rice, but also sorghum, wheat or millet, water and a qū starter culture. The production process of huangjiu begins when rice is added to water and jinqu and fermented. Huangjiu is typically not distilled.
Originating in Ukraine, horilka has a 40% average alcohol content. Horilka is typically distilled from grain (often rye or wheat), though it can also be distilled from honey, potatoes and sugar beets. It’s made by adding grain to water and boiling it. Then the materials are fermented before yeast is added and the mixture is distilled. After you distil the mixture, you add honey to produce Horilka.
Originating in Russia, kefir has a 1% alcohol content. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that’s similar to a thin yogurt. It’s production process involves combining kefir grains with cow’s milk and then letting it ferment.
Originating in Finland, kilju, also known as “sugar wine” in English, has a 16% average alcohol content. You make it by adding together sugar, yeast and water and then allow the mix to ferment to arrive at Kilju.
Originating in Taiwan, Kaoliang, Kaoliang has a 55% average alcohol content. Kaoliang is also called sorghum liquor or gaoliang liquor, and is a strong distilled liquor of Chinese origin produced from fermented sorghum. The process of making it involves boiling water and sorghum. The mixture is then fermented. After that, you add in yeast and it’s distilled.
Originating in Central Asia, Kumis has a 3% average alcohol content. It’s made similar to kefir, but made from a liquid starter culture instead of the solid kefir “grains.” It’s made from mare milk and yeast added together and then fermented. Since mare’s milk has more sugars than goat’s or cow’s milk, when it’s fermented, Kumis has a mild, but higher alcohol content than does kefir.
Originating in Eastern Europe, Kvass has a 1% average alcohol content. It’s production process involves add yeast and rye bread croutons to water and then letting the mixture ferment. Kvass can be flavored with fruits like raisins, strawberries or with herbs like mint.
Originating in Belgium, Lambic has a 5% average alcohol content. The process of making it involves boiling wheat and malted barley and then fermenting it in open air, usually in open vats where wild bacteria and yeast can take up residence.
Originating in South Korea, Makgeolli has a 7% average alcohol content. It is a Korean alcoholic beverage that’s sometimes anglicized to makkoli. Making makgeolli is a rather simple process where you add rice to nuruk and allow it to ferment.
Originating in China, Mead has a 15% average alcohol content. The production process of mead is adding honey to water and then boiling and fermenting. You then add yeast. Mead can sometimes be fermented with various spices, fruits, hops or grains.
Originating in Greece, metaxa has a 40% average alcohol content. The production process involves crushing muscat grapes, adding them to water and then boiling. The mix is fermented. Yeast is added and the mix is distilled. After than its aged in oak barrels. Finally, muscat wine is added to arrive at Metaxa.
Originating in Mexico, mezcal has a 55% average alcohol content. The process of making mezcal is a little more complex. You slice up a maguey plant and then you cook and crush it. Then water is added, the mix is fermented and then yeast is added. It’s then distilled twice.
Originating in West Africa, ogogoro has a 50% average alcohol content. It’s a distilled spirit that originates from raffia or oil palm tree. It’s made by boiling raffia palm tree sap and then letting it ferment in a container. Add in some yeast and the mix is distilled to generate Ogogoro.
Originating in Greece, ouzo has a 45% average alcohol content. The production process of ouzo starts by adding grain to water and boiling. It’s then fermented in a container. Yeast is added and then its distilled. Anise is then added to give Ouzo its distinct licorice flavor.
Originating in Hungary, Pálinka has a 55% average alcohol content. This traditional fruit brandy is made by crushing plums and boiling in water. It’s then fermented before you add yeast and distill it twice. While Pálinka can be produced from any locally grown fruit, some common fruits are apricots, plums, pears, apples and cherries.
Originating in Peru, pisco has a 35% average alcohol content. It’s a yellowish-to-amber colored or colorless brandy. It’s produced by crushing quebranta grapes and adding to water and boiling. It’s then fermented. Yeast is added and it’s distilled twice to create Pisco.
Originating in England, plum jerkum, has a 5% average alcohol content. Plum Jerkum is often described in the same way as a fruit wine or cider. It’s produced by crushing plums, adding yeast and water and then fermenting the mix in a container.
Originating in Ireland, Poitín, often anglicized as poteen, potcheen or pothee, has a 65% average alcohol content. It can only be made from grain, cereals, molasses, sugar beet and potatoes. It’s production process involves adding malted barley to water, boiling and fermenting. Then yeast is added and the mix is distilled three times.
Originating in Mexico, pulque, also called octli, has a 5% average alcohol content. It’s milky-white in color and has a sour yeast-like flavor. The production process of pulque begins by adding pulque seed to maguey sap. The materials are then fermented to produce Pulque.
Originating in Turkey, Raki has 45% average alcohol content. The process is somewhat complex beginning with grain crushed then added to water then boiled and fermented in container before adding yeast and distilled. Then, grape pomace and water are added, and it is distilled again.
Originating in the Caribbean, Rum has an average 50% average alcohol content. Rum is made from sugarcane molasses that is added to water, boiled, and fermented (working with fermented sugar cane allows production to occur year-round and not just during harvest) in a container before adding yeast and distilling.
Originating in Japan, Sake contains 12% average alcohol content. It is made from rice, which you steamed with water before adding yeast, twice, and then adding water again to create the brew that catches so many unaware.
Originating in Japan, Shōchū contains 25% average alcohol content. Shōchū is made by crushing sweet potatoes before adding water and boiling then fermenting in a container. Then yeast starter is added, and it is distilled. Afterward, water is added to create Shochu.
Originating in South Korea, Soju contains 20% average alcohol content. To make the Korean liquor soju, rice is added to water and boiled before being fermented in a container. Then yeast is added, and the liquid is distilled. Then, water is added to create Soju.
Originating in Mexico, Tepache contains 1% average alcohol content. It is made with pineapple rinds and brown sugar that are added to water then fermented in a container. Because the alcohol content is so low in Tepache, some add a small amount of beer to the brew to raise the alcohol.
Originating in Mexico, Tequila contains 40% average alcohol content. Tequila is made from the blue agave pina (pineapple) that is crushed and cooked, then fermented in a container. Afterward, yeast is added to the brew and it is distilled to create the finished product. Today, there’s a wide assortment of types of tequilas.
Originating in North America, Tiswin contains 5% average alcohol content. It is made by boiling saguaro cactus fruit then boiling it before fermenting it in an earthen container. It can also be made from corn in a similar process. Many equate the flavor and alcohol content to that of beer.
Originating in India, Toddy contains 4% average alcohol content. Toddy is made by fermenting palm tree sap in a container. Toddy has a very short shelf-life of about 24 hours, which may be extended by refrigerating.
Originating in Uganda, Tonto contains 9% average alcohol content. It is made with overripe bananas (usually from green bananas that have been ripened in a pit over the course of several days) and roasted sorghum that are fermented in a container for a few days.
Made in Romania, Țuică contains 45% average alcohol content. This strong brew is called “white lightning” by Romanians. Țuică is made of plums that have been crushed and then boiled in water and fermented in a container. Afterward, yeast is added, and the liquid is distilled.
Originating in Poland, Vodka contains 40% average alcohol content. Vodka is made of potatoes that are crushed, then added to water where they are boiled then fermented in a container. Next, yeast is added, and the liquid is distilled. While potatoes are commonly used to make vodka, other fermented grains, like rice, corn, wheat, and sorghum may be used as well.
Originating in the Middle East, Whisky contains 45% average alcohol content. Whisky is made from grain that is boiled in water and then fermented in the container. After that, yeast is added, and it is distilled. Then, it is aged in oak barrels for the full flavor many people know and love.
Originating in China, Wine contains 13% average alcohol content. Grapes, a primary ingredient of wine, are crushed, boiled, and fermented in containers before adding yeast to create the wonderful beverage beloved by so many around the world today. Red wine is fermented with the grape skins intact and white is fermented without them.