Is Alcohol Made From Sugar?

Alcohol is a popular beverage that has been consumed by humans for centuries.

shot glass of cachaça, a Brazilian drink made from sugar cane, a Brazilian rum popularly called pinga

It is made through a process called fermentation, which involves the conversion of sugar into alcohol by yeast. This process has been used to make various types of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and spirits.

Many people wonder if alcohol is made from sugar, and the answer is yes. The sugar used in the fermentation process can come from a variety of sources, including fruits, grains, and vegetables. The type of sugar used can affect the flavor and alcohol content of the final product.

For example, wine is typically made from grapes, while beer is made from grains like barley or wheat. Spirits like vodka or rum can be made from a variety of sources, including sugar cane.

It is important to note that while alcohol is made from sugar, the sugar content in the final product can vary. Some alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine, contain residual sugars from the fermentation process. Others, like spirits, are typically distilled to remove most of the sugar content. Additionally, some alcoholic beverages may have added sugars, such as in the case of sweet wines or flavored spirits.

The Basics of Alcohol and Sugar

Alcohol is a chemical compound that is produced by the fermentation of sugars, which are carbohydrates. The most commonly used sugar in the production of alcohol is glucose, which is found in various plants and fruits. Other sugars such as fructose and sucrose can also be used in the fermentation process.

During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars and produces ethanol, the type of alcohol that is consumed by humans. The chemical equation for this process is: C6H12O6 → 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2

garapa fermentation of sugarcane for rum production - Is Alcohol Made From Sugar?

This equation shows that one molecule of glucose (C6H12O6) is converted into two molecules of ethanol (C2H5OH) and two molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The amount of ethanol produced depends on the amount of sugar that is present in the fermentation mixture. The more sugar there is, the more ethanol will be produced. However, there is a limit to how much ethanol can be produced, as the yeast will eventually die off when the concentration of ethanol becomes too high.

Alcohol contains calories, which are a measure of energy. Ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, contains 7 calories per gram. This is more than the 4 calories per gram found in carbohydrates and protein, but less than the 9 calories per gram found in fat.

Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, are a type of carbohydrate that are commonly used as sweeteners in sugar-free products such as gum and candy. They are not produced through fermentation, but rather through a chemical process that involves the reduction of sugars. Examples of sugar alcohols include xylitol, erythritol, and sorbitol.

Types of Sugars in Alcohol Production

Alcohol production involves the conversion of sugar into ethanol through fermentation. The type of sugar used in the production of alcohol can vary depending on the source material.

Fruit Sugars

Fruit sugars, such as fructose, are commonly used in the production of wine and cider. These sugars are naturally present in fruits and are extracted by crushing the fruit and allowing the juice to ferment.

Fructose or fruit sugar in glass jar with different fruits


Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose. Sucrose can be derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, or other sources. In alcohol production, sucrose is often used in the production of rum, vodka, and other distilled spirits.


Glucose, a monosaccharide, is a simple sugar that is commonly used in the production of beer. It is typically derived from malted barley, which is a type of grain that has been allowed to germinate and then dried. During the germination process, enzymes break down the starches in the barley into simpler sugars, including glucose.


Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refining process and is rich in sucrose, glucose, and fructose. It is commonly used in the production of rum and other distilled spirits.

Alcoholic Beverages and Sugar Content

Alcoholic beverages are often associated with high sugar content, but the actual sugar content varies depending on the type of drink.

Cosmopolitan cocktail - Is Alcohol Made From Sugar?

According to Drinkaware, beer, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whiskey have zero grams of sugar per serving, which makes them a better choice for those who want to watch their sugar intake.

However, the mixers used in cocktails and other mixed drinks can contain a significant amount of sugar. For example, a Margarita can contain up to 12 grams of sugar per serving, while a Cosmopolitan can contain up to 20 grams of sugar per serving. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the mixers used in alcoholic drinks.

Wine and beer also contain carbohydrates, but the amount varies depending on the type of drink. For example, regular beer has 12 grams of carbohydrate per serving, but zero grams of sugar. Light beer has less carbohydrates, with approximately 6 grams of carbohydrate per serving and less than half a gram of sugar, so may be a better choice for a healthier beer.

Spirits such as rum, gin, and vodka do not contain sugar, but they are often mixed with sugary drinks such as soda or juice. It is important to be aware of the sugar content of mixers and to choose low-sugar options such as club soda or sugar-free tonic water.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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