Difference between spirits, beers, wine & champagne.

Difference between spirits, beers, wine & champagne.

Difference between spirits

What is the difference between beer, whisky, rum, brandy, vodka, wine, tequila, a cocktail, a mock-tail, alcohol, a spirit, champagne, soda, and liquor?

When I first started drinking (I'm not an alcoholic by any means, but not a teetotaller either), I didn't have an iota of information on any of these and it made me curious, just like you are right now. My curiosity got the better of me and I researched a bit on the subject, and it ultimately led me to answering this question. So, I'm answering this question with my limited knowledge on the subject complemented by copious amounts of data from Wikipedia (may God bless Jimmy Wales :)). So here goes-

Alcoholic beverages commonly referred to as 'Alcohol' is a drink which contains a substantial amount of the psychoactive drug ethanol (informally called alcohol).
In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group (-O H) is bound to a saturated carbon atom.The term alcohol originally referred to the primary alcohol ethyl alcohol (ethanol), the predominant alcohol in alcoholic beverages.

Alcoholic beverages are typically divided into three classes—beers, wines, and spirits—and typically contain between 3% and 40% Alcohol by volume (ABV).

Beer (Alcohol content: 4%-6% ABV generally) and Wine (Alcohol content: 9%-16% ABV) are alcoholic beverages produced by fermentation.
Beer is usually made of malted barley and/or wheat and wine is made using fermented grapes.
The above two have low alcohol content. So, while being alcoholic drinks they aren't included in the general definition of 'Liquor'.
Difference between spirits

Now what is Fermentation?

Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar/glucose to ethanol , gases or heat.It happens in yeast and bacteria, but also in oxygen-starved muscle cells, as within the case of lactic acid fermentation. Fermentation is additionally used a lot of broadly to see the majority growth of microorganisms on a growth medium, typically with the goal of manufacturing a specific chemical product.
Difference between spirits


Champagne is just a specific variant of wine.
To be more specific, a sparkling(carbonated) wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation.

Whisky, Rum, Brandy, Vodka, Tequila all  are 'Spirits'.

Spirits (aka Liquor or Distilled beverage) are beverages prepared using distillation.
Distillation is just further processing of fermented beverage to purify and remove any diluting components like water. This increases the proportion of their alcohol content and that's why they are also commonly known as 'Hard Liquor', to distinguish distilled beverages from undistilled ones (implicitly weaker). Distilled beverages like whisky can have up to 40% ABV.

In simpler words, you can think of distilled spirits as a more "refined" counterpart of the more "crude" fermented beverages.

They being 'Hard Liquor' are not usually meant to be consumed 'neat'.
Soda is nothing but carbonated water.
Carbonated water (also known as club soda, soda water, sparkling water, seltzer water, or fizzy water) is water into which CO2 gas has been dissolved under pressure.


A cocktail is a mixed alcoholic drink/beverage that contains two or more ingredients (like a distilled spirit, soda, fruit juice, honey, herbs etc.) if at least one of them contains alcohol.
For example,
The Old Fashioned is a cocktail made by muddling sugar and bitters then adding  whiskey or brandy, and a twist of citrus rind.


A mocktail as the word 'mock' suggests is not a real cocktail. It is a non-alcoholic drink consisting of a mixture of fruit juices or other soft drinks.

All alcoholic beverages are prepared by fermentation of  grains, grain mash (grain mixture), fruits, sugar, molasses and similar products. Those alcoholic beverages which are made by distillation of the fermented product are refer as liquor or spirits or distilled beverages. Alcoholic beverages are typically classified as Wine, Beer and Distilled Beverages.

Coming to each different type of alcohol named in the question, the basic difference is the raw product which is fermented to get the alcohol.


is made by fermentation of starch sugars which obtained from malted barley and malted wheat grains.
Stout is a style of beer which is dark in colour, made from roasted barley fermentation. Usually hops is added to beers to achieve the sharp bitter taste.


is prepared by fermentation of grapes juice primarily and sometimes fruits (for fruit wine)


 is sparkling wine prepared  by secondary fermentation of wine that gives the fizz to it (and hence 'sparkling'). It comes from a region in France called Champagne and hence the name.


is typically prepared by distilling wine. (Distillation means separating the constituents of a liquid mixture by eveporation and condensation).

Difference between spirits :


is made by distilling the fermented  grain mash or grain mixture (typically can contain barley, wheat, rye).


is an American whiskey which is prepared by distillation of corn grain and aged in barrels (Source: Bourbon whiskey). Jim Beam is an e.g of bourbon whiskey. Most of the producers of bourbon whiskey being located in Tennessee in America, some of the bourbon varieties have come to be known as Tennessee whiseky. Jack Daniels is a Tennessee whiskey.


is a whisky made in Scotland from which it gets the name scotch whisky. Scotch whiskey may be malt whiskey (raw product: malted barley) and grain whiskey (raw product: grains like wheat, rye, corn apart from malted barley, if any). Scotch whiskey may be single malt (Glenmorangie), blended (Chivas Regal), single grain and blended grain.


 is a distilled beverage prepared by distilling byproducts from sugarcane plant like sugarcane molasses or sometimes sugarcane juice itself.


 is traditionally prepared by distilling starch or sugars from grains (rye, wheat, corn) and also potatoes. But some varieties of vodka are made from fruits, molasses and even plain crystallised sugar which fermented by yeast.


is a distilled spirit which flavoured  by juniper berries. Gin is distilled from grain mash and then again distilled with botanicals and juniper berries. Sometimes flavouring is added to the distillate to get the gin flavour.


is a local liquor made in the state of Goa, India from cashews and coconuts. The raw product decides whether it is a cashew feni or a coconut feni.

Last but hardly the least..Tequila!


 is distilled beverage originating from Mexico. It is made from the fermented blue agave plant which is grown exclusively in Mexico. It generally has a alcohol content between 33% and 51% (Source: Tequila). Popularly Tequila shots are taken with a slice of lime and a pinch of salt. It's also the base of many cocktails like Tequila sunrise and Margarita.
Hope this clears all the confusion and find you in happy spirits!

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