“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor,” said George Carlin, a comedian, once upon a time. Tequila, vodka, and whiskey fall into the category of alcohols called spirits and liquors with the highest alcohol concentrations. Tequila, for example, has a concentration of around 50% to 51% ABV. Vodka’s alcohol concentration starts at 40% ABV but can go as high as 95% ABV. Whiskey is more in the range of 36% to 50%. So, if you want to get drunk fast, turn to spirits and liquors!
Liquors and Spirits with the highest ABV
Vodka tops the list because while its ABV starts at around 40%, it can go all the way up to 95%. Pure vodka contains distilled ethanol and is diluted with water to make it drinkable. Some of the grains, fruits, and vegetables used to make this drink are barley, rice, corn, potatoes, wheat, rye, apples, and grapes. The strongest liquor in the world is a vodka called Polmos Spirytus Rectyfikowany Vodka, having a 96% ABV.
It isn’t clear whether vodka was invented in Russia or Poland, but it originated somewhere in the 8th or the 9th century and was initially used as a medicine. But, back in those days, vodka wasn’t what we come to associate the drink with now. It was different in taste, smell, and color and used as an antibacterial liquid to disinfect wounds and cure diseases like cancer, flu, and cold. It was only in the 1940s that vodka became popular as a drink, mostly because it could be produced in bulk at a cheap cost.
Tequila uses the blue agave plant or agave tequilana grown in Tequila, Mexico, as the main ingredient in its manufacture and is typically 50%-51% ABV. Tequila with the highest ABV is Sierra Silver Tequila, with an ABV of 75%.
The history of tequila goes back as far as 1000 BC when the Aztecs fermented the sap of the agave plant. It was only in the 1700s and 1800s that tequila, as we know it today, started being distilled. Mexico has full rights over the manufacture and sale of tequila, which means that it is illegal for other countries to do so.
Absinthe is a very strong alcohol with a 45% to 74% alcohol content; absinthe has been a popular drink ever since 1797. While popular, it was once believed that the drink caused hallucinations and mental destruction, which is why in 1915, it was banned in France. But also, alcohol use was on the rise in France, and certain groups wanted to curb this upward trend. However, after a century, the country removed the ban.
The Hapsburg Gold Label Premium Reserve Absinthe is quite strong, with an alcohol content of 89.9%, and is made in the Czech Republic.
Absinthe’s base ingredients are wormwood, fennel, and anise, to which other ingredients such as melissa, lemon balm, star anise, and hyssop can be added. The characteristic green color of the drink comes from the infusion of these botanicals.
Before distillation, early absinthe was made using wine and wormwood which was used to treat illnesses like jaundice, bad breath, menstrual pain, and anemia. This early form of absinthe is so old that we find references to this drink in ancient Egyptian texts as well as the Bible.
When whiskey is produced, it is a colorless liquid, like vodka. The golden color that we have grown to love and accept as the real deal comes later when it is stored in oak or wood casks or barrels for at least three years. Then, whiskey is sometimes colored artificially using caramel coloring to darken it further. Scotch whisky is a famous example where caramel coloring is added.
Whiskey contains alcohol with an ABV ranging from 36% to 50%, water, and flavor. Adding a bit of water to it not only dilutes the whiskey but also changes its flavor, with certain flavors being more enhanced than others. However, you should be careful with the water that you add. It shouldn’t contain too many minerals, nor should it be contaminated.
With a 92% alcohol content, Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whiskey is strong and certainly not recommended for people intolerant to alcohol.
Rum, with an ABV of 36% to 50%, uses a mixture of sugarcane juice and molasses as raw materials for its manufacture, which are fermented and distilled to make the final product. Once made, it is stored in barrels made of oak or wood, like whiskey. Since alcohol acts as a solvent, the pigments and flavor from the wood are dissolved into the rum giving it a darker hue. To make rum more flavorful, you can infuse it with herbs, vegetables, fruits, and spices, and as alcohol is a preservative, the taste from this infusion can last till the drink lasts. A strong and clear rum, River Antoine Royale Grenadian Rum has a 90% alcohol content.
Rum was pretty popular back in the day with pirates and sailors under the Royal British Navy, who gave it to them as daily rations. This kept the crew hydrated, especially because water stored in barrels on ships would go bad in a few days. The sailors sometimes mixed rum with water as well as sugar and nutmeg.
Gin, having an ABV range of 36% to 50%, is a flavorful spirit, and the most prominent of these flavors comes from juniper berries, which give it its distinctive pine flavor. Most gins are clear except genever which is often kept in oak barrels to age. Some gins have a herbal flavor that comes from certain botanicals used, such as spices and citrus.
The world’s strongest gin is the Anno Extreme 95 Gin, released by Anno Distillers in the UK with a 95% ABV.
Originating in Holland, Franciscus Sylvius, who was a Dutch physician, is credited as its first creator, making genever in the 16th century to be used as medicine. The Royal Navy then used gin mixed with lime juice to give their crew lots of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
With an average alcohol content of 40% to 50%, brandy is made by distilling wine or fermented fruit like grapes, apples, apricots, peaches, and pears. Due to all the fruits, it tastes kind of sweet or fruity. A famous type of brandy is cognac which is produced in France. A good example of brandy with a high ABV is Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy which has a 45% ABV.
Distillation – the secret behind liquor manufacture
Distillation is a process of separating out different liquids in a mixture on the basis of different boiling points. Ethanol, the scientific word for alcohol that gets us tipsy, can easily be separated from a fermented beverage like beer or wine because it has a lower boiling point, of about 78 degrees Celcius, than water, with a boiling point of 100 degrees Celcius. The difference in these boiling points is due to the stronger hydrogen bonding between the water molecules that keep them from evaporating easily. Once the ethanol boils and vaporizes, it is collected and cooled into a separate container.
Methanol, a poisonous product, can also be collected initially because it has a slightly lower boiling point than ethanol. To separate that, the first few gallons of the cooled and condensed liquid are usually discarded. Other compounds, like fusel alcohols, contaminate the liquid towards the end, but they are not toxic. All they do is add a bit of flavor to the liquor. If this extra flavor is not desired, they are removed.
Fermented drinks have a low alcohol percentage of about 13%. This is because yeasts produce chemicals during the process of converting fruit or grain sugars to ethanol that are toxic to them and eventually die off as a result. Their death stops fermentation and the production of alcohol. Distillation takes this liquid and produces concentrated alcohol with a much higher ABV.
The first distilled alcohol
While alcohol fermentation came much earlier in human history, distillation came later and was an addition to the process of fermentation. It is thought that Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, an 8th-century Arabic alchemist invented the process of distillation by making the alembic pot still. People first used these concentrated alcohols for medicinal purposes but later on, they were increasingly used in trade because, with a much higher alcohol content than wine or beer, they could be stored for longer periods of time without being spoiled. With increased trade, their consumption increased sharply. For longer voyages, the ship crew started adding spirits such as brandy to the water to keep it fresh since alcohol acts as a preservative.
Drunkenness, the side effect of alcohol
Oscar Wilde once said, “Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness.”. Ethanol, the molecule responsible for getting us tipsy and drunk, is rather a small molecule, which makes it easy for it to enter the bloodstream and organs once inside the body. It is particularly absorbed into the liver and the brain, where the blood flow is high.
In the liver, enzymes break ethanol down, first into acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical, and then into acetate, which is not toxic to the body. With this breakdown, the liver slowly eliminates ethanol from the body, and with the gradual elimination, the effects of alcohol wear off.
The brain is where the effects of alcohol, which we know as drunkenness, are exhibited. Alcohol plays around with the neurotransmitters in the brain, such as GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine, and Endorphins, to give a feeling of looseness, relaxation, sleepiness, pleasure, euphoria, and even blackout at higher doses, where you don’t remember anything.
Tips to getting drunk even faster
If you’ve eaten a heavy meal, ethanol will have a tougher time getting into the small intestine because the pyloric sphincter, a muscle separating the contents of the stomach from the small intestine, shuts down while digestion in the stomach takes place. This means that alcohol absorbed on a full stomach is only a quarter that of when you drink on an empty stomach.
fizzy, non-sugary, carbonated alcoholic beverages get you drunk faster for two reasons. Firstly, carbonation opens the pyloric sphincter muscle between the stomach and the small intestine, causing more alcohol to enter the bloodstream at a faster rate. Secondly, glucose slows down alcohol absorption.
Lastly, this is a no-brainer. If you want to get drunk fast, you should just chug down more of the hard stuff i.e. liquors and spirits. Long Island Iced Tea, with five different liquors, is a popular drink ideal for those who want to experience the effects of drunkenness fast.
Effects of alcohol on different individuals
Blood alcohol concentrations in males and females will be different if we keep other things, such as the amount of alcohol consumed and food intake, constant. Women will have a higher blood alcohol concentration because they have a lower amount of blood and a higher fat percentage.
Genes also vary among individuals, and that has an effect on the amount of alcohol that is found in the bloodstream. Another factor is how regularly an individual drinks, with regular drinkers having an increased tolerance to alcohol because regular drinking increases the production of enzymes that break down alcohol in the liver. However, excessive drinking for long periods of time is bad for your health because the liver can get damaged in the process.
Genetic differences in the level of neurotransmitters can lead to variations in drinking habits, with some people at a higher risk of developing addictions than others. Once you start drinking regularly, the levels of Glutamate secretion can increase while that of other neurotransmitters decreases. This will make you more irritated, and you will have to drink more to get the same pleasure that you crave.
Getting drunk is fun, and some people like drinking for its effects rather than the taste of alcohol itself. However, experiences with alcohol can turn bitter real quick if we aren’t careful or aware of our tolerances and body’s limits. Plus, the hangover the next morning can be a real pain to deal with.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.