Types of Alcohol

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: December 02, 2020 | 4 Sources

Throughout this site, The Alcoholism Guide, you hear the word alcohol a lot. Obviously we all have a fair understanding of what alcohol is, and yet do we know all we should know?

Alcohol is a toxin, a poison, so being aware of what we are putting into our bodies has to be of the utmost importance.

So, what is alcohol exactly? And.....

  • ...how much alcohol is there in the different types of alcoholic drink?
  • ...what are the different alcohol types?
  • ...is the alcohol content of beer the same as that in a shot?
  • ...can you really display alcohol abuse signs if you are only drinking beer?
These are important questions if you are trying to discover if you are drinking too much. Or if you want to cut down your drinking. Or if you want to know whether someone you care about is damaging their health by drinking excessively.

Or perhaps you're just bored and are looking for some trivia to pass the time and impress your friends.........at the bar.


Types of Alcohol

The alcohol you drink has a big, fancy name that clever people in white coats use. They call it ethanol. They also have names for the other types of alcohol that you don't drink (or shouldn't):


Also known as rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is not the same as the alcohol found in beer, wine, and liquor. It is used in skin lotions and cleaning products. When you go for a hike and get a big ulcer on your foot- isopropyl is the stuff you rub on it to help ease your discomfort. Drinking rubbing alcohol can kill, so don't.


Methyl alcohol is a colorless liquid with a rather strong odor. This type of alcohol is also known as methanol or 'wood alcohol'. This is called methylated spirits and is used in all kinds of things like anti-freeze, cleaning solvents, paint remover etc. Methanol is a favorite of some alcoholics because it is inexpensive to produce and thus cheap to buy........... the downside however is when drunk it turns into formaldehyde in your system. Formaldehyde is the stuff they use to preserve dead bodies. Obviously it is unwise to drink anything containing methanol. It causes alcohol poisoning and can blind you..... or worse.

Types of Alcohol
Knowing how much Alcohol is in your Drink

Whatever alcoholic (ethanol) drink you like it is important to know just how much alcohol is in what you are drinking. Drinking more than moderate drinking guidelines can seriously damage your health.

It is the law, in both the U.S. and the U.K. that on all bottles and cans the alcohol content must be shown.

This is expressed in terms of PROOF (U.S) and VOL. (U.K.).

The number that you see before these terms e.g. 18 vol. or 80 proof is the measurement of alcohol in the drink.

-In the U.K. 18 vol.(ABV) means the drink is 18% alcohol.

-However, in the U.S. 80 proof means the drink contains 40% alcohol. So proof is double the percentage of alcohol in the drink

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Types of Alcohol
Types of Alcoholic Drink and Their Alcohol Content

All alcoholic drinks are made with plant material that is fermented and then either.......

  • malted or
  • brewed or
  • aged or
  • distilled or
  • flavored or
  • filtered.

Popular alcoholic drinks include:

Wine/port/sherry - made from fruits, predominantly from grapes. The quality and taste of the drink is governed by the soil and the weather. When ripe, the fruit is crushed and then allowed to ferment. This is sieved and allowed to age in vats. Alcohol content: 10-22% vol/20-44 proof.

Beer - Yeast and a cereal are mixed (usually rye, corn, wheat or barley) and then fermented. Fermentation is stopped so the alcohol content of beer is not too high. Beers begin as a lager or an ale, and their particular flavors and styles keep evolving from there. Alcohol content in beer: 4-8% vol/8-16 proof.

Whiskey - The fermented juice of cereals such as corn, rye and barley is fermented and then distilled. It is then aged in casks. Alcohol content of whiskey:40-55% vol/80-110 proof.

Vodka - Grain or potatoes are fermented and then distilled until the liquid is 100% ethanol. The ethanol is then diluted with water and filtered through charcoal to get rid of any flavor. Alcohol content of vodka: 40-55% vol./80-110 proof.

Rum - is distilled from fermented molasses or sugarcane juice. It is then aged for at least three years. Sometimes caramel is added for color. Alcohol content of rum: 40-55% vol/80-110 proof.

Tequila - Made from a fermented mixture that contains at least 50% agave juice. The mixture is filtered through charcoal and then aged. Alcohol content of tequila: 45-60% vol./ 90-120 proof.

Brandy - distilled from fermented fruit juices. It is then aged in oak casks. Caramel is added sometimes for flavor. Alcohol content of brandy:40-50% vol./80-100 proof.

Gin - alcohol is mixed with water and flavor added, most commonly juniper berries. Gin does not improve with aging so it is not stored in casks. Alcohol content of Gin: 40-50% vol./80-100 proof.

Liqueurs - is made from adding sugar and flavoring (fruit/herbs and flowers) to brandy. Alcohol content of liqueur: 20-65% vol./40-130 proof.

Types of Alcohol
Beer Contains Alcohol so can Cause Alcoholism too

Just because a drink such as beer contains far less alcohol than let's say Vodka, it doesn't mean that you can drink lots without any problems. It is a common misconception that you can't possibly be an alcoholic if you only drink beer.

If you want to know how much beer it is safe to drink take a look at moderate drinking guidelines.

In the U.S. a 12 ounce bottle of beer contains roughly the same amount of alcohol as 1.5 ounces of spirits.

In the U.K. 1/2 a pint of beer contains the same amount of alcohol as a small pub measure of spirits or a small glass of wine.

Keep in mind that it’s the amount of alcohol ingested that affects an individual the most, not the kind of alcoholic beverage.

Do You Need Help?

Alcohol consumption in moderation is fine, but if you think that you need help controlling your urge to drink alcohol, it’s okay to ask for help. There are treatment providers who can help you with the right alcoholism treatment options for you.

Discover more about how drinking beer is more likely to make you dependent on alcohol than drinking the 'hard stuff', read Beer Drinkers Become Alcoholics Too for more.

Do you live in the U.K. and find the alcohol unit measuring system confusing? Read Units Of Alcohol Explained for a simple explanation.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

Time. How to Talk About Beer Like a Pro. May 14, 2018. https://time.com/5218581/types-of-beer-guide/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Methyl Alcohol (Methanol). June 24, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/methyl-alcohol/default.html

Return from Types of Alcohol to What is Alcoholism?

Return from Types of Alcohol to Alcoholism Help Homepage

Alcoholism Help Homepage | What is Alcoholism | Signs of Alcoholism | Alcoholism Tests | Alcohol Abuse Effects | Living with an Addict | Alcoholism Recovery | The AA Way| Alcoholism Cure| Alcoholism Medication | My Story | Alcoholism Guide Blog | Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.