Wine is made from grapes, beer is made from hops and barley. But what on earth are our favourite spirits made from?
For more than 6000 years, alcoholic drinks have been made by fermenting carbohydrate ingredients such as sugar with yeast, resulting in the creation of carbon dioxide and ethanol. Throughout the Middle Ages, historic records show the first instances of steam distillation being used to further concentrate this alcoholic content, leading to the creation of spirits.
Ever since, people across the globe have experimented with ageing spirits and adding different herbs, fruits, grains and vegetables to them, to create their own unique flavours of alcoholic drinks.
Thought to have originated in 13th century Eastern Europe, vodka is traditionally made by distilling fermented starches such as potato, wheat, rye or other grains. The name “vodka” is derived from the Russian suffix meaning “water”. Pay homage to vodka’s Eastern European roots by mixing into a Stoli Moscow Mule or Vampire’s Kiss.
Originating in Ireland and Scotland during the 14th century, whisky is made from the fermentation and then distillation of grains such as barley, wheat, rye and sometimes corn, which are often malted and aged in oak casks, commonly for a minimum period of three years. Enjoy the complex flavours of this spirit in an Old Fashioned.
Although it can contain a blend of up to 20 botanicals (often coriander, angelica and lemon peel) and be flavoured during or post distillation, the definitive ingredient of gin is juniper berry, hence the name, which originates from the Dutch word “jenever”, or French word “genever”, both meaning “juniper”. Make the most of juniper’s punchy taste with a Gin Hot Toddy.
Originating in the Americas in the 1500s, rum is made from the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane or molasses, which is traditionally aged in oak barrels. The name is commonly thought to originate from the Latin word for sugar, “saccharum”. It’s no wonder some of the best rum-based cocktails play against the liquor’s sugar origins with sharp flavours of lime and mint, such as the ever-popular Mojito, twisted here with the Lemongrass Mojito.
This iconic Mexican spirit is made from the juice of blue agave plants that have been steam baked, extracted, fermented and distilled. By law, in Mexico true tequila is 100 per cent agave, with different qualities of the spirit aged between zero to four years. Revel in the flavours of Mexico by creating an Amante Picante, a tequila cocktail with hits of jalapeño, coriander and lime.