Alcoholic beverage

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Bottles of cachaça, a Brazilian alcoholic beverage.

An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol.

Ethanol is a psychoactive drug, a depressant, and many societies regulate or restrict its sale and consumption. Although sometimes called "adult" beverages, that term is misleading because they are socially and legally available throughout much of the world to those who are not yet adults and conversely, in other locations, not legally available to legal adults.<ref>Legal Drinking Age</ref> The manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages is notably found (to some degree) in most cultures and societies around the world, from hunter-gatherer tribes to organized nation-states. The consumption of alcohol is often important at social events in such societies and may be an important aspect of a society's culture.


[edit] Chemistry

Main article: ethanol

Ethanol (CH3CH2OH), the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, is almost always produced by fermentation - the metabolism of carbohydrates by certain species of yeast in the absence of oxygen. The process of culturing yeast under alcohol-producing conditions is referred to as brewing.

It has been suggested that alcoholic impurities (congeners) are the cause of hangovers. However, it is more likely that they are caused by ethanal, a toxic breakdown intermediate naturally produced by the liver as the alcohol is metabolized.

Alcoholic beverages with a concentration of more than 40% ethanol by volume (80 proof) are flammable liquids and easily ignited. Some exotic beverages gain their distinctive flavors through intentional ignition of the drink, such as the Flaming Dr Pepper or the Fiery Blue Mustang.

It should be noted that in chemistry, alcohol is a general term for any organic compound in which a hydroxyl group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom, which in turn is bound to other carbon atoms and further hydrogens. Other alcohols such as propylene glycol and the sugar alcohols may appear in food or beverages regularly, but these alcohols do not make them "alcoholic".

[edit] Alcoholic content

The concentration of alcohol in an alcoholic beverage may be specified in percent alcohol by volume (ABV), in percentage by weight (sometimes abbreviated w/w for weight for weight), or in proof. The 'proof' measurement roughly corresponds in a 2:1 ratio to percent alcoholic content by volume (80 proof ≈ 40% ABV). Common distillation cannot exceed 191.2 proof because at that point ethanol is an azeotrope with water. Alcohols of this purity are commonly referred to as grain alcohol and are not meant for human consumption, with the notable exception of neutral grain spirits.

Most yeasts cannot grow when the concentration of alcohol is higher than about 18% by volume, so that is a practical limit for the strength of fermented beverages such as wine, beer, and sake. Strains of yeast have been developed that can survive in solutions of up to 25% alcohol by volume, but these were bred for ethanol fuel production, not beverage production. Spirits are produced by distillation of a fermented product, concentrating the alcohol and eliminating some of the by-products. Fortified wines are produced by adding brandy or other distilled spirits to achieve higher ABV than is easily reached using fermentation alone.

[edit] Flavouring

Ethanol is a moderately good solvent for many fatty substances and essential oils, and thus facilitates the inclusion of several colouring, flavouring, and aromatic compounds to alcoholic beverages, especially to distilled ones. These flavouring ingredients may be naturally present in the starting material, or may be added before fermentation, before distillation, or before bottling the distilled product. Sometimes the flavour is obtained by allowing the beverage to stand for months or years in barrels made of special wood, or in bottles where scented twigs or fruits — or even insects (as in Campari) — have been inserted.

[edit] History

Main article: History of alcohol

Alcoholic beverages have been widely consumed since prehistoric times by people around the world, seeing use as a component of the standard diet, for hygienic or medical reasons, for their relaxant and euphoric effects, for recreational purposes, for artistic inspiration, as aphrodisiacs, and for other reasons. Some have been invested with symbolic or religious significance suggesting the mystical use of alcohol, e.g. by Greco-Roman religion in the ecstatic rituals of Dionysus (also called Bacchus), god of drink and revelry; in the Christian Eucharist; and on the Jewish Shabbat and festivals (particularly Passover).

[edit] Fermented beverages

Chemical analysis of organics absorbed and preserved in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago. This is approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East. Recipes have been found on clay tablets and art in Mesopotamia that show individuals using straws to drink beer from large vats and pots.

Wine was consumed in Classical Greece at breakfast or at symposia, and in the 1st century BC it was part of the diet of most Roman citizens. However, both Greeks and Romans generally consumed their wine watered (from 1 part of wine to 1 part of water, to 1 part of wine to 4 parts of water). The transformation of water into wine at a wedding feast is the first of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, and his use of wine in the Last Supper led to it becoming an essential part of the Eucharist rite in most Christian traditions.

In Europe during the Middle Ages, beer was consumed by the whole family, thanks to a triple fermentation process — the men had the strongest, then women, then children. A document of the times mentions nuns having an allowance of six pints of ale a day. Cider and pomace wine were also widely available, while grape wine was the prerogative of the higher classes. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, wine production in Europe appears to have been sustained chiefly by monasteries.[citation needed]

By the time the Europeans reached the Americas in the 15th century, several native civilizations had developed alcoholic beverages. According to a post-Conquest Aztec document, consumption of the local "wine" (pulque) was generally restricted to religious ceremonies, but freely allowed to those over 70 years old (possibly the all-time record for legal drinking age). The natives of South America manufactured a beer-like product from cassava or maize (cauim, chicha), which had to be chewed before fermentation in order to turn the starch into sugars. (Curiously, the same technique was used in ancient Japan to make sake from rice and other starchy crops.)

The medicinal use of alcoholic beverages was mentioned in Sumerian and Egyptian texts dated from 2100 BC or earlier. The Hebrew Bible recommends giving alcoholic drinks to those who are dying or depressed, so that they can forget their misery.

[edit] Distilled beverages

Main article: Distilled beverages

The still was invented by Islamic alchemists in the 8th or 9th centuries. Distilled alcohol appeared first in Europe in the mid 12th century and by the early 14th century it had spread throughout Europe. It also spread eastward, mainly by the Mongols, and was practiced in China by the 14th century. However, recent archaeological evidence has supported the idea that China has had wines and distilled beverages dating back to 5000 BC. Paracelsus gave alcohol its modern name, taking it from the Arabic word which means "finely divided", a reference to distillation.

[edit] Uses

In many countries, alcoholic beverages are commonly consumed at the major daily meals (lunch and dinner). Most early beers were in fact highly nutritional and served as a means of calorie distribution [citation needed]. Beer can be stored longer than grain or bread without fear of pest infestation or rotting, and drinking beer avoided the tooth-destroying grit that was present in hand-ground or early mill-ground flours[citation needed].

In places and eras with poor public sanitation, such as Medieval Europe, consumption of alcoholic beverages (particularly weak or "small" beer) was one method of avoiding water-borne diseases such as the cholera. Though strong alcohol kills bacteria, the low concentration in beer or even wine will have only a limited effect. Probably the boiling of water, which is required for the brewing of beer, and the growth of yeast, which would tend to crowd out other micro-organisms, were more important than the alcohol itself. In any case, the ethanol (and possibly other ingredients) of alcoholic beverages allows them to be stored for months or years in simple wood or clay containers without spoiling, which was certainly a major factor in their popularity.

In colder climates, strong alcoholic beverages such as vodka are popularly seen as a way to "warm up" the body, possibly because ethanol is a quickly absorbed source of food energy and dilates peripheral blood vessels (Peripherovascular dilation). This however is a dangerous myth, and people experiencing hypothermia should avoid alcohol. Although a drunk may feel warmer, the body loses heat and body temperature decreases, which may cause hypothermia, and eventually death. This is because of the dilation of blood vessels not in the core of the body; because of this increased bloodflow, the body loses its heat out of its less protected outer extremities.

In many cultures, both contemporary and historical, alcoholic beverages — mostly because of their neurological effects — have also played an important role in various kinds of social interaction, providing a form of "liquid courage" (those who consume it "gain" confidence and lose discretion). While other psychoactive drugs (such as opium, coca, khat, cannabis, kava-kava, etc.) also have millennial traditions of social use, only coffee, tea, and tobacco are currently as universally used and accepted as ethanol.

[edit] Alcohol consumption and health

[edit] Moderate consumption

Moderate consumption of alcohol is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day. It is defined by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as four drinks per day, not to exceed 14 per week for a man and three per day, not to exceed 14 per week for a woman. The UK equivalent is 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units for women. See the main article Alcoholic beverages — recommended maximum intake for a list of governments' guidances on alcohol intake which, for a man, range from two to six drinks per day.

An exhaustive review of all major heart disease studies has found that "alcohol consumption is related to total mortality in a J-shaped manner, where moderate consumers have a reduced total mortality compared with total non-consumers and heavy consumers."<ref name = LaPorte>La Porte, R., et al. Coronary heart disease and total mortality. Recent developments in Alcoholism, 1985, 3, 157-163.</ref> An intuitive explanation is that many of the alcohol abstainers in research studies previously drank excessively and had undermined their health, thus explaining their high levels of risk. To test this hypothesis, some studies have excluded all but those who had avoided alcohol for their entire lives. However, the conclusion remained the same: moderate drinkers are less likely to suffer heart disease.<ref name = Rimm1996>Rimm, E. B., Klatsky, A., Grobbee, D., and Stampfer, M. J. Review of moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of coronary heart disease: Is the effect due to beer, wine or spirits? British Medical Journal, 1996, 312, 731-736.</ref>

Other possibilities are that moderate drinkers have more healthful lifestyles (making them healthier), higher economic status (giving them greater access to better foods or better healthcare), higher educational levels (causing them to be more aware of disease symptoms), etc. However, when these and other factors are considered, the conclusion again remains the same: moderate drinkers are less likely to suffer cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in Europe and the Americas.<ref name = Pearson>Pearson, Thomas A. (for the American Heart Association). Alcohol and heart disease. Circulation, 1996, 94, 3023-3025.</ref> In addition, research has demonstrated specific mechanisms whereby alcohol significantly reduces cardiovascular disease <ref name = Dairdron>Dairdron, D. M. Cardiovascular effects of alcohol. Western Journal of Medicine, 1989, 151(4), 430-439</ref> <ref name = Ely&Berne>Ely, S. J. and Berne, R. M. Protective effects of adenosine in myocardial ischemia. Circulation, 1992, 85(3), 893-900.</ref> <ref name = Facchini>Facchini, F, Chen, Y., and Reaven, G. Light-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with enhanced insulin sensitivity. Diabetes Care, 1994, 17(2), 89-101.</ref> <ref name = Langer>Langer, R., Criqui, M., and Reed, D. Lipoprotein and blood pressure as biological pathways for effects of moderate alcohol consumption on coronary heart disease. Circulation, 1992, 85(3), 910-915.</ref> <ref name = Mennen>Mennen, L., et al. Fibrinogen may explain in part the protective effect of moderate drinking on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Arteriosclerotic and Thrombodic Vascular Biology, 1999, 19, 887-892.</ref> <ref name = Paassilta>Paassilta. M., et al. Social alcohol consumption and low Lp (a) lipoprotein concentrations in middle aged Finnish men: Population based study. British Medial Journal, 1998, 316, 594-595.</ref> <ref name = Rimm>Rimm, E., et al. Moderate alcohol intake and lower risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of effects on lipids and hemostatic factors. British Medical Journal, 1999, 319, 1523-1528.</ref> <ref name = Thun>Thun, L., et al. Alcohol consumption in middle-aged and early U. S. adults. New England Journal of Medicine, 1997, 336, 1705-1714.</ref> <ref name = WangBarker>Wang, Z., and Barker, T. Alcohol at moderate levels decreases fibrinogen expression in vivo and in vitro. Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, 1999, 23, 1927-1932.</ref> <ref name = Zhang>Zhang, Q., et al. Effects of acute, moderate alcohol consumption on human platelet aggregation in platelet-rich plasma and whole blood. Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2000, 24, 528-534.</ref>, may reduce the risk of dementia, and even indirectly facilitate memory and learning. <ref name = BBCNews></ref>

[edit] Excess consumption

Excess consumption is sometimes detrimental to an alcohol abuser's health. The neurological effects of alcohol use are often a factor in deadly motor vehicle accidents and fights. People under the influence of alcohol sometimes find themselves in dangerous or compromising situations where they would not be had they remained sober. Operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery under the influence of alcohol is a serious crime in almost all developed nations.

Some people are predisposed to developing a chemical dependency to alcohol, alcoholism. The results of alcoholism are considered a major health problem in many nations. The development of alcoholism does not take place in the absence of alcohol, but neither does the presence of alcohol cause it.

[edit] Alcohol and religion

See also: Islam and Alcohol

Several Qur'anic verses prohibit the use of alcohol. In contrast, many Christian denominations use wine in the Eucharist. Some have opted to use grape juice instead.

[edit] Legal considerations

Most countries have rules prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors. European countries typically have a legal drinking age of 16 or 18. For example, in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, one has to be 16 to buy beer or wine and 18 to buy distilled alcoholic beverages. Germany's law is directed toward sellers of alcoholic beverages, not toward minors themselves; German law puts control concerning the consumption of alcoholic beverage in the hands of custodial persons and persons with parental power.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> In the UK, the minimum age for purchasing alcohol is 18, although minors are legally allowed to consume alcohol in the home from the age of five. In Australia the age for the purchase and possession of alcohol is 18. In the U.S., the legal age for purchase or possession (but not necessarily consumption) in every state has been 21 since the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which tied federal highway funds to states' raising their minimum drinking age to 21. Many states specifically permit consumption under the age of 21 for religious or health reasons or with parental approval. In Canada the legal drinking age is 18 in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, and 19 elsewhere. In Iceland one has to be twenty to legally buy or possess alcoholic beverages, although one can drink them from the age of eighteen.

In law, sometimes the term "intoxicating agent" is used for a category of substances which includes alcoholic beverages and some other drugs. Giving any of these substances to a person to create an abnormal condition of the mind (such as drunkenness), in order to facilitate committing a crime, may be an additional crime.

A number of countries forbid the commerce, consumption or advertising of alcoholic beverages, or restrict them in various ways. During the period known as Prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, it was illegal to manufacture, transport, import, export, or sell alcoholic beverages in the United States. Some communities in the United States (known as dry counties) still ban alcohol sales. Many Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, prohibit alcohol for religious reasons. Drinking alcoholic beverages in public places, such as streets and parks, is against the law in most of the United States and in some European countries, but legal in others such as Belgium or Germany.

In the Nordic countries, except for Denmark, there is a government monopoly on the selling of hard alcohol in stores. In Sweden, beers with a lower alcohol content, called folköl (less than 3.5% alcohol), can be sold in regular stores to anyone older than 18, but drinks with a high content of alcohol can only be sold in the official government-run vendors by people older than 20, or in licenced facilities such as restaurants and bars, where the age limit is 18. The state-run vendor is called Systembolaget in Sweden, Vinmonopolet in Norway, Alko in Finland, and Vínbúðín in Iceland. The governments claim that the purpose of this system is to cut down on the consumption of alcohol in these countries where binge drinking is an ancient tradition. The first such monopoly was in Falun in the 19th Century. In the early 20th Century, Sweden had a short prohibition of hard alcohol, followed by strict rationing, and then more lax regulation, including being open on Saturdays. These measures have had success in the past, but since joining the European Union it has been harder to curb importation, legal or illegal, from other EU countries, making these measures less effective. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not to maintain the state-run alcohol monopolies.

Most countries have laws against drunk driving, driving with a certain concentration of ethanol in the blood. The legal threshold of blood alcohol content ranges from 0.0% to 0.05% or 0.08%, according to local law.

In many countries, production of alcoholic beverages requires a license, and alcohol production is taxed. In the U.S., individuals may freely produce wine and beer for personal or family consumption (but not for sale), while all production of distilled beverages is regulated and taxed.<ref></ref> The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (formerly one organization known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) enforce federal laws and regulations related to alcohol, though most regulations regarding serving and selling alcoholic beverages are made by the individual states. There also exist intrastate regulatory differences, as between Montgomery County, Maryland and the rest of the state. In the UK the Customs and Excise department issues distilling licences.

In the United States, all alcoholic product packaging must contain a health warning from the Surgeon General.

Common state regulations in the United States are:

  • Many U.S. states require that distilled liquor be sold only in dedicated liquor stores. For example: In Washington, liquor stores are run by the state. In Oklahoma, liquor stores may not refrigerate any beverages. Often, liquor sales are prohibited on Sunday by a Blue law. Other laws, governing a variety of issues, vary regionally.
  • Most U.S. states follow a Three-tier (alcohol distribution) system where producers cannot sell directly to retailers, but must instead sell to distributors, who in turn sell to retailers.
  • Most U.S. states do not allow open containers of alcohol inside of moving vehicles.
  • Some U.S. states offer relaxed rules for beer at or below 3.2% alcohol. For example, in Colorado beer with 3.2% alcohol or less may be sold in grocery stores while stronger beverages are restricted to liquor stores.
  • Many cities and counties ban drinking alcoholic beverages in public; that is, on the street or sidewalk.
  • Often bars serving distilled liquor are exempted from Smoking bans.

In New Zealand it is legal to produce any form of alcohol for personal use including spirits. This has made the sale and use of home distillation equipment popular.

Some religions—most notably Islam, Sikhism, the Bahá'í Faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Nikaya and most Mahayana schools of Buddhism and some Protestant sects of Fundamentalist Christianity—forbid, discourage, or restrict the consumption of alcoholic beverages for various reasons. See also:Teetotalism, Temperance movement.

[edit] Types of alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages include low-alcohol-content beverages produced by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing products, and high-alcohol-content beverages produced by distillation of the low-alcohol-content beverages. Sometimes, the alcohol content of low-alcohol-content beverages is increased by adding distilled products, particularly in the case of wines. Such fortified wines include Port wine and Sherry.

The process involved (as well as the resulting alcohol content) defines the finished product. Beer involves a relatively short (incomplete) fermentation process and an equally short aging process (a week or two) resulting in an alcohol content generally between 3-8%, as well as natural carbonation. Wine involves a longer (complete) fermentation process, and a relatively long aging process (months or years -- sometimes decades) resulting in an alcohol content between 7-18%. Sparkling wine is generally made by adding a small amount of sugar before bottling, which causes a secondary fermentation to continue in the bottle. Distilled products are generally not made from a "beer" that would normally be palatable as fermentation is normally completed, but no aging is involved until after distillation. Most are 30% or greater alcohol by volume. Liqueurs are characterized by the way in which their flavors are infused and typically have high sugar content. Spirits typically contain 37.5% alcohol or greater and are not infused with flavors during the distilling process, however some modern spirits are infused with flavors after distilling (the Swedish vodka Absolut, for instance).

Standard drinks of alcoholic beverages in the United States all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol, about 0.6 fl. oz. (American) each (17.75ml). A U.S. standard drink is a 12 ounce can or bottle of beer, a five ounce glass of dinner wine, or a 1.5 ounce drink of 40% distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink).

In the UK alcohol content is measured in units. One unit equates to 10ml of pure ethanol (approx. ⅓ fl. oz. American). A typical large glass or pint of beer contains approximately 2 units. A shot (25ml) of 40% spirit contains exactly 1 unit.

The names of some beverages are determined by the source of the material fermented:

Source Name of fermented beverage Name of distilled beverage
barley beer, ale,barley wine Scotch whisky
rye rye beer Rye whisky, Roggenkorn (type of Korn, from Germany)
corn corn beer Bourbon whiskey
wheat wheat beer Wheat whisky, Weizenkorn (type of Korn, from Germany)
rice sake, sonti, makkoli, tuak, thwon shochu and awamori (Japan), soju (Korea), Huangjiu and Baijiu (China)
juice of fruits, other than apples or pears wine (most commonly from grapes) brandy, Cognac (France), Branntwein (Germany), Pisco (Chile)
juice of apples ("hard") cider, apfelwein applejack (or apple brandy), Calvados, cider, lambig
juice of pears perry, or pear cider pear brandy
juice of sugarcane, or molasses basi, betsa-betsa (regional) rum, cachaça, aguardiente, guaro, shochu (Japan)
juice of agave pulque tequila, mezcal
juice of plums plum wine slivovitz, tzuica, palinca
pomace pomace wine tsipouro, raki, tsikoudia (Greece), grappa (Italy), Trester (Germany), marc (France), zivania (Cyprus)
honey mead distilled mead ("mead brandy" or "honey brandy")
potato and/or grain potato beer vodka: potato mostly used in Poland and Germany, otherwise grain or potato. A strong drink called aquavit or brännvin in Sweden, akvavit in Denmark and akevitt in Norway, and brennivín in (Iceland) is made from potato or grain. In Ireland, Poitín (or poteen) is a recently legalised drink made from potatoes. shochu (Japan)
Milk Kumis Araka

Note that in common speech, wine or brandy is made from grapes unless the fruit is specified: "plum wine" or "cherry brandy" for example, although in some cases grape-derived alcohol is added.

In the USA and Canada, cider often means unfermented apple juice (see the article on cider), while fermented cider is called hard cider. Unfermented cider is sometimes called sweet cider. Also, applejack was originally made by a freezing process described in the article on cider which was equivalent to distillation but more easily done in the cold climate of New England. In the UK, cider is always alcoholic, and in Australia it can be either.

Beer is generally made from barley, but can sometimes contain a mix of other grains. Whisky is sometimes made from a blend of different grains, especially Irish whiskey which may contain several different grains. The style of whisky (Scotch, Rye, Bourbon) generally determines the primary grain used, with additional grains usually added to the blend (most often barley, and sometimes oats).

Two common distilled beverages are vodka and gin. Vodka can be distilled from any source (grain and potatoes being the most common) but the main characteristic of vodka is that it is so thoroughly distilled as to exhibit none of the flavors derived from its source material. Gin is a similar distillate which has been flavored by contact with herbs and other plant products, especially juniper berries. The name comes from the Dutch liquor genever, which in turn takes its name from the Dutch word for juniper.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Ethanol | History of alcohol | Brewery | Health | Alcohol advertising | Drugs | Drinking culture | Drunkenness | Breathalyzer | Hangover | Homebrewing | Winemaking
Fermented beverages
Wine | Beer | Ale | Rye beer | Corn beer | Wheat beer | Sake | Sonti | Makkoli | Tuak | Cider | Apfelwein | Perry | Basi | Pulque | Plum wine | Pomace wine | Mead | Kumis | Huangjiu
Distilled beverages
Wheat, corn, & rye Whisky | Corn whiskey | Rye whiskey | Rice: Shochu (Japan) | Soju (Korea) | Baijiu (China) | Fruits: Brandy | Cognac | Gin | Pisco | Rakia | Apples: Cider | Apfelwein | Applejack | Calvados | Sugarcane / Molasses: Rum | Cachaça | Aguardiente | Falernum | Guaro | Agave: Tequila | Mezcal | Plums: Slivovitz | Ţuică | Palinka | Pomace: Grappa (Italy) | Trester (Germany) | Marc (France) | Zivania (Cyprus) | Tsipouro (Greece) | Rakia (Balkans) | Anise: Absinthe | Arak | Ouzo | Pastis | Potato: Vodka | Aquavit | Brennivín | Milk: Araka
Other beverages
Cocktails | Alcopop

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Alcoholic beverage

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