Types of Alcohol – List of Drinks by Alcohol Content

Questions about treatment?
  • Access to licensed treatment centers
  • Information on treatment plans
  • Financial assistance options
We're available 24/7
Solutions Recovery - help information

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world and has been consumed for thousands of years. It can be found in many different forms, from beer and wine to cocktails, hard liquor, and more. Not only does it come in a variety of forms, but it also comes in many different flavors and strengths.1

In addition to its taste and strength profiles, different types of alcohol also affect the human body differently. For instance, some drinks like beer contain fewer calories than others such as cocktails which can pack a lot more sugar into each sip.1

Some types of alcohol may cause more severe side effects including nausea and hangovers while others have a lighter effect on the human body. Knowing which type of alcohol will affect a struggling individual most severely is key when trying to manage an addiction. If a person struggling with addiction understands what they’re drinking, it may be easier to make informed decisions about how much is too much for their body.1

Furthermore, when someone is struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s important for them to educate themselves on proper ways to reduce their consumption or quit altogether. Many treatment programs offer help with quitting drinking completely, while others focus on teaching individuals coping mechanisms for reducing intake over time so sobriety can be achieved safely and sustainably. If you think that quitting may be right for you or your loved one who is struggling, professional help is available.2

What are the Different Types of Alcohol?

There are three main types of alcohol:

Isopropyl Alcohol

Also known as rubbing alcohol, this is a clear, colorless substance that has a strong odor and is highly flammable. It’s produced from the combination of propene and sulfuric acid with an additional hydrogenation step. Isopropyl alcohol has many practical uses in households and industry, including cleaning and sterilizing surfaces, dissolving grease and glues, disinfecting wounds, making perfumes and fragrances, removing nail polish and paint stains, drying inkjet printer ink cartridges, and many more. In some countries, it’s also used as an antiseptic treatment for minor cuts or abrasions.3

Methyl Alcohol 

This is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3OH. It’s commonly known as wood alcohol because it was once produced by the destructive distillation of wood. Methyl alcohol is used in antifreeze solutions, as a fuel-oxygenate additive to gasoline, and in many industrial applications such as solvents for coatings and paint removers. It’s also used to manufacture methyl esters which are useful in food flavoring, fragrances, and cosmetics products. On its own, this type of alcohol can be toxic if inhaled or consumed in high concentrations so must be handled carefully.4

Ethyl Alcohol 

Also known as ethanol, this is a volatile flammable liquid made from corn grain or other plant matter through fermentation processes. Ethanol is the main ingredient of alcoholic drinks, but it’s also found in many everyday products like mouthwash cosmetics, window cleaners, medical products, hand sanitizers, etc.5

Ethanol can be used both industrially or medically due to its antiseptic properties. However, consumption of too much ethanol can have serious health risks such as liver damage, addiction, coma, stroke, heart problems and more, so it should always be handled responsibly with proper precautionary measures taken at all times.5

What is Distilled Alcohol?

Distilled alcohol, also known as spirits or hard liquor, is an alcoholic beverage made by distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetable mash. The fermentation process breaks down the sugars in the mash and turns them into ethanol. Distillation concentrates the ethanol in the liquid, giving it a higher alcohol content than other types of alcoholic beverages like beer and wine. Typically distilled spirits include:6

  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Absinthe
  • Whiskey
  • Brandy
  • Tequila

Distilled alcohols are typically between 35-50% ABV (alcohol by volume). However, some specialty liquors can be even higher. Drinking distilled alcohol can lead to more severe intoxication due to its high alcohol content, making it important to drink in moderation and be aware of personal limits.7


Gin is a spirit flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals such as coriander, licorice root, angelica root, orange peel, cassia bark and more. It usually contains 30-40% ABV, although some premium brands can reach up to 47%.8


Brandy is made by distilling wine or other fruit musts until they reach their desired strength before aging them in wooden casks.  This spirit is usually found at 36-50% ABV.9


Rum typically has an ABV of about 40%, with light and dark varieties having average ABVs of around 37% and 43% respectively. It’s a fermented and distilled beverage made primarily from molasses or sugarcane juice. It’s then aged in oak barrels for varying amounts of time depending on the type of rum being produced.10


This type of alcoholic drink is distilled from a mash composed mostly of cereal grains like barley, rye, or wheat that have been malted. Whiskey tends to have an average of 40-46% ABV.11


Vodka is made by distilling fermented grains or potatoes, creating a clear spirit with no discernible flavor or aroma. It usually has an ABV between 35 to 50%, with most brands ranging from 40 to 42%.12


Absinthe is a highly alcoholic spirit flavored with herbs including grand wormwood, green aniseed and sweet fennel amongst others. Absinthe has the highest ABV, reaching up to 89-93%.13


Tequila is made by fermenting sugarcane juice (most often blue agave) before being distilled twice in copper stills which helps impart its distinctive flavor profile. Tequila has an alcohol content that ranges from 35-55%, with most bottles containing 38-40%.14

What are the Other Distilled Drinks?    

There are several other types of distilled spirits. One of the most popular is a spirit called Pisco. It’s a clear brandy made from grapes that have long been produced in Peru and Chile. This spirit has become so popular that UNESCO even declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity due to its unique production process.9

Another type of spirit is Baijiu, which is made from sorghum or rice and is very popular in China. The fermentation process differs greatly from most Western liquors since it requires a special yeast that only grows in certain parts of the country.15 In Greece, the traditional drink Ouzo has been consumed for centuries as an aperitif or cocktail ingredient. Its flavor comes from aniseed and other spices used during distillation.16

What is Undistilled (Fermented) Alcohol?

Undistilled alcohol is a type of beverage that has been created through the process of fermentation. This process involves converting sugar into alcohol using yeast and can be used to produce a variety of different types of alcohol such as beer, wine, mead and sake. Fermentation is one of the oldest methods used in the production of alcohol, dating back thousands of years.17

Undistilled fermented alcohols are usually produced from grains such as barley, wheat, or rice, but can also be made from other sources such as honey, fruits, and vegetables. The fermentation process causes the sugars in these materials to be converted into ethyl alcohol, which is the primary ingredient in most alcoholic beverages.17

During fermentation, the yeast will also release other compounds known as congeners which give beverages their flavor and aroma. The amount of time it takes for the fermentation to occur depends on the type and amount of yeast used as well as environmental factors such as temperature and oxygen level. After fermentation is complete, undistilled alcoholic beverages may need additional processing such as filtration or aging before they can be consumed.17


This popular type of alcoholic beverage is made using a process called brewing that involves boiling malted barley grains in water with hops. This mix is then filtered and fermented before it’s put into bottles or cans. There are many different types of beer available today, including pale ales, porters, lagers, IPAs and stouts. Beer typically contains anywhere from 2 to 10 percent ABV.18


Wine is produced through fermentation processes that use yeast or bacteria to transform grape juice into an alcoholic beverage. Different grapes offer different flavors which make up the unique qualities of various wines. Wine usually contains 11 to 13 percent ABV.19


Mead is created through fermentation processes using honey as its primary sugar source for ethanol production instead of grapes like in wine or grain like in beer. The flavor profile of mead can vary greatly depending on the type of honey used during production. Mead generally has 12 to 14 percent ABV.20

Hard Cider

Hard cider is a type of fermented alcohol made from pressed apples, pears, and other fruit. The crushed fruit is placed into a fermentation vessel where yeast is added to turn the natural sugars in the must into alcohol. The fermentation takes anywhere from six weeks to several months depending on the desired flavor and alcohol content. The average alcohol percentage of hard cider varies between 4% – 8% ABV.21


Sake is a Japanese rice wine made from fermenting specially prepared rice that has been milled down so that only the center portion called shintaishu remains, with koji-kin (a special type of fungus) added after being steamed and cooled down. Depending on the amount of milling done on the rice prior to fermentation will determine whether it’s classified as honjozo (70 percent milled), ginjo (60-50 percent) or daiginjo (50 percent). Sake often has 15 to 18 percent ABV, making it the strongest of all four drinks.22

What are the Other Undistilled Drinks?

There are numerous other types of undistilled alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. For example, traditional Kvass in Russia and Ukraine is a non-alcoholic beverage. It’s typically made with rye bread, yeast and sugar.23 Another example is Tepache, popular in Mexico. This alcoholic drink is made from fermented pineapple and spiced with cinnamon and cloves.24

How to Find Help for Alcohol Addiction?

For individuals struggling with AUD, help is available. Struggling individuals can find an appropriate treatment center with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator or by reaching out to their helpline. For struggling individuals looking for reliable private treatment, American Addiction Centers (AAC) may be an appropriate solution. AAC facilities offer a variety of services and resources to assist struggling individuals in their recovery journey.

AAC provides individualized treatment plans designed to meet each treatment-seeking individual’s unique needs and provide ongoing guidance throughout the recovery process. The staff works to ensure a safe and comfortable environment where struggling individuals can find the necessary support they need in order to achieve successful long-term sobriety.

AAC provides treatment-seeking individuals with a comprehensive range of services, including medical care during detoxification, psychotherapy, help with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, education on the effects of alcohol, family therapy and other specialty programs tailored to the struggling individual’s unique situation.

After careful assessment, a medical doctor can provide the struggling individual with an appropriate diagnosis. This is the basis for further treatment at the facility. Later on, the struggling individual may have the opportunity to work on their recovery by learning more about the causes of alcoholism, recognizing the signs and symptoms of AUD in themselves and learning how to cope with them and overcome them.

There’s a variety of payment options, which treatment-seeking individuals can discuss with a rehab navigator through AAC’s hotline. The navigator may help the struggling individual find a solution that’s right for them.