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21 Types of Liquor: Exploring the World’s Distilled Alcohols

Varieties of Liquor from All Over the Globe

Distilled spirits are the celebratory drinks of choice for millions worldwide. Liquor may come in different colors, tastes, and brands, but one common result of drinking is that you’ll get intoxicated.

different liquor bottles lined up

Distilled alcohols differ because they get made using different ingredients, fermentation, and distillation techniques that make each distilled product different from another.

Liquor isn’t like wine or beer. Wine and beer are often drunk pure and often don’t get mixed with other ingredients.

Liquor, on the other hand, can be mixed with other ingredients to make a cocktail or to make it less potent. Below, we explore 21 types of liquor famous in countries across the globe.


Gin

Gin is a distinctively tasting liquor from Europe and The UK. It’s an excellent choice for making dry martinis and other non-sweet cocktails.

gin cocktail surrounded by lemons and green springs with a bottle of blue gin

Gin essentially gets made using juniper berries. Gin’s other main ingredients include neutral grains such as corn, wheat, rye, and barley.

Different brands flavor their gin using botanicals to make a unique blend unlike other gins already in the market.

Famous gins like the London dry gin have an Alcohol by Volume-ABV percentage between 40 and 47. You can take Gin neat, but the best way to enjoy gin is with plain water or tonic water to avoid diluting the flavor of the juniper berries.


Whiskey

There’s nothing like a shot of whiskey to perk up your senses after a long day. Whisky gets produced in countries all over the world.

Famous blends include Irish Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey, and Japanese Whisky.

Whiskey gets made from a mixture of fermented grains like barley, wheat, rye, and corn. To impart this rye whiskey with a unique color and taste, it gets poured into wooden casks or barrels made from charred white oak to undergo the process of aging.

Fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging is the basic process of making whiskey. Canadian whiskey has between 40 and 50% ABV.

Whiskey can be taken neat or mixed with other beverages to create delicious cocktails.


Brandy

Famous brandy varieties include Grappa, Cognac, American Brandy, Eau-de-vie, Armagnac, Spanish Brandy, Pisco, and more.

Arguably, the best classic cocktails get made using brandy as the base.

Brandy gets made from fruits like grapes, apples, cherries, apricots, and peaches.

Brandy has a caramel shade and a fruity taste that reminds you of wine but has that oak smell because brandy usually gets aged in oak barrels. Brandy has 40% ABV and above.


Tequila

If they give you salt and lemon when taking shots at the bar, it must be tequila in the shot glasses.

Tequila is a distilled liquor with an excellent flavor that blends incredibly well with a wide range of ingredients.

It explains why tequila is one of the best bases for making cocktails like margaritas and other frozen cocktails, fruits, and spicy cocktails.

Tequila gets derived from juice extracts of the agave plant. Tequila tastes different depending on whether it has been aged or unaged.

Due to high restrictions, tequila is mainly only made in Mexico and has between 40 and 50% ABV.


Rum

South America and the Caribbean countries are the pioneers in producing dark rum. Rum gets made from pure sugarcane as the main ingredient.

two rum drinks on the beach at sunset

In some cases, molasses can be the main ingredient. Rum generally has a sweeter flavor.

However, different rum brands distinguish their products by using a specific style of distillation or choosing a specific aging process.

Light rums aren’t aged, and they make the best bases for cocktails. However, aged spiced rum is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks and can also get used in cooking. Rum boasts between 40 and 75% ABV.


Vodka

Russia, Sweden, and Poland are the leading producers of Vodka, which is also massively produced across Europe.

This distilled alcohol has a neutral taste which is why many prefer to take it neat, either chilled or at room temperature.

It’s one of the many alcoholic beverages that can also get mixed with water or other ingredients to make cocktail drinks like Vodka Tonic, White Russian, Vodka Martini, Greyhound, Cosmopolitan, or Screwdriver.

Potatoes are the main ingredient used to make vodka. However, some countries use grains like corn, wheat, and rye as bases. Beets and grapes may also suffice.


Mezcal

The Agave plant is the base ingredient for many distilled alcohols. In Mexico, the distilled agave juice is called Mezcal. Different varieties of Mezcal get produced in several regions of Mexico.

Tequila is a type of Mezcal because it gets made from the blue agave plant. With tequila, the heart of the blue agave plant is extracted and cooked inside an oven.

The original Mezcal, on the other hand, is processed through non-industrial methods by slow-roasting the agave plant in a fire pit dug underground.

It explains why Mezcal has a smoky flavor. Mezcal is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Mexico that crosses borders and makes it outside into popular bars, where it’s often mixed with other ingredients to make cocktails.


Absinthe

Absinthe is a distilled alcohol with one of the highest ABVs. It has an average alcohol content of 75%.

Absinthe is derived from squeezed fermented juices of herbaceous plants like Wormwood, angelica root, hyssop, fennel, and anise seeds, giving the drink that distinct licorice taste.

It has a yellowish-green color that turns cloudy or white when mixed with water. Absinthe has a dry bitter taste.

If taken in large amounts, Absinthe is said to have effects like hallucinations, convulsions, Psychosis, and mental deterioration.

Countries like France and Switzerland have banned this drink. However, Absinthe gets commercially produced without wormwood as an ingredient in Spain. Wormwood is supposedly the main culprit behind most of the life-threatening effects of taking Absinthe.


Soju

Many South Koreans enjoy drinking socially, so it’s no wonder Soju, a world-renowned distilled alcohol, comes from South Korea!

Soju is a medium-range alcoholic drink with an average of 24% ABV. Soju has no smell and no flavor making it excellent for cocktails.

Soju gets made from rice and other starch sources like tapioca, barley, or sweet potatoes. Soju is often confused with vodka because both liquors look and almost taste the same.

Soju blends easily with other ingredients and beverages to make mouthwatering cocktails. 


Arrack

Prominently consumed and produced in India, Southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka, Arrack is a distilled alcoholic beverage whose taste resembles that of scotch whisky or rum.

Arrack gets made from ingredients like fruit, grain, and fermented juice from sugar cane or coconut flowers. In Sri Lanka, arrack gets made only from water and fermented sap from the coconut flowers that are yet to open.

Arrack has an alcohol content of between 33 and 50% ABV.


Everclear

Everclear is one of the purest, most potent bottled alcoholic drinks available for consumers in the U.S. This drink has a whopping 95% alcohol content.

Everclear is designed as an unfinished product. Therefore, consumers should avoid taking it right from the bottle and, instead, mix it with one or two of their other favorite drinks before gobbling it down.

This drink is favored highly by younger people because it doesn’t have the bitter taste most of the liquors in this list possess. Plus, a little goes a long way.  


Shōchū

Shōchū is a distilled alcohol from Japan that looks and tastes similar to brandy and vodka.

The main base ingredients are rice, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, barley, and buckwheat, and has an average alcohol content of between 25 and 37% ABV. 

Shōchū often gets compared to Nihonshu, another famous Japanese drink. The two are not the same because to make Nihonshu, rice is fermented, while to make Shōchū, rice gets distilled along with other ingredients.

Also, Nihonshu has a lower alcohol content of between 13 and 16% ABV.

Shochu is best consumed by adding varying amounts of water depending on how much alcohol your body can handle.


Rượu đế

Also known as Rượu, which is Vietnamese for rice wine. This alcoholic drink originated from the Mekong, Delta area in southwest Vietnam, where people refer to it as Rượu đế.

The main ingredients used to make this liquor include rice, herbs, and fruits like apples, plums, and apricots.

In some cases, animals like snakes, monkeys, and lizards are added as ingredients to make them more potent.

Rượu đế has a 40% ABV. Rượu đế is believed to cure different health issues as well as restore male libido.


Poitín

In the 1660s Poitín was one of the highest traditionally-processed liquors consumed in Ireland.

Poitín translates to little pot in Irish. It’s probably because the drink often gets distilled in pots. The main ingredients used to make Poitín include barley, potatoes, beets, whey, and molasses.

Poitín is unaged and has between 40 and 90% ABV. It has a sweet earthy taste and mixes well in cocktails.

The legalization of Poitín in 1997 has helped expand the production of this drink across Europe as more people embrace different alcohol varieties.


Rakı

Raki is Turkey’s national rink also dubbed Lion’ milk. The main ingredients used to make Raki are aniseed and grapes or raisins.

Pine gum, figs, clovers, and plums can be added to Raki to give it different flavors. Raki is clear or colorless but turns milky white when mixed with ice cubes or plain water.

Raki has between 40 to 50% alcohol content. The Turkish unwritten rules about drinking Raki are always to take Raki with friends and take small sips to avoid getting too drunk too soon.


Cachaça

Brazil’s pride and joy is cachaça, the country’s national spirit, which is often easily mistaken for rum. Cachaça is a distilled alcoholic drink made from sugar cane juice produced only in Brazil.

Cachaça’s number one consumers are Brazilian, but thanks to commercial production, countries like the US and Portugal also import it.

In Brazil, Cachaça sells more than tequila and gin. This aged distilled spirit has a 38 to 40% ABV and is ideal for cocktails like the caipirinha in all the bars and liquor stores.


Akvavit

It’s a clear or faint yellow liquor with a dry flavor that most people know as akvavit. However, it boasts other names like snaps, aquavite, or aquavit. Akvavit has a 42 to 45% ABV and hails from Germany and Finland.

The main ingredients used to make akvavit include grain mash or potatoes. Flavoring agents like charcoal, lemon and orange peel, cumin seeds, caraway, cardamom, fennel, or aniseed get added to give it a nice smell and unique taste.


Feni

Feni is originally brewed in Goa, India, and gets made from ripe cashew apple or coconut juice.

This alcoholic drink is produced only in Goa using traditional methods like stomping on the ripe cashew apples to extract the juice.

The end product is a juice the locals call Neero, one of the revered fermented beverages that’s super refreshing to drink.

The Neero has to be poured into drums and allowed to ferment for about three days before finally undergoing distillation to become Feni. Feni has a 43 to 45% ABV and is best consumed neat.


Baijiu

Baiju is Chinese for ‘white alcohol.’ Most westerners confess that Baiju takes a bit of getting used to before you can start enjoying it. Call it an acquired taste.

Chinese and other easterners, however, have no problem drinking down Baiju any day, any time.

This drink is made from sorghum and fermented in mud pits, and ultimately aged in earthen vessels, hence its unmistakable earthen flavor. Baiju can also get made from rice.

Baiju has a 50% ABV and should get taken neat.


Moonshine

Moonshine was, for the longest time, produced illegally and only at night to avoid capture by law enforcement.

This clear, unaged whisky originated from different areas across the world and was quite popular in the 18th century.

Moonshine is made from different types of grain and fruit but mainly corn because it has plenty of fermentable sugar.

This drink has a 40 to 80% ABV and can be consumed neat or as mixed drinks.


Viche

Viche is pretty much the Columbian moonshine that was manufactured and enjoyed by enslaved people.

Today, Viche is no longer banned and was declared part of the country’s cultural and ancestral heritage. It continues to enjoy favor among the Afro-Columbian community.

Viche gets made from distilled sugar cane juice, which then gets mixed with herbs and fruits for flavor. It has a 35% ABV and can be consumed neat, with water, or as part of a cocktail.


Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that distilled spirits are a global indulgence that most are eager to try.

If you love collecting and trying different types of alcoholic drinks, above is a detailed look into 21 types of liquor collected from different countries across the globe.

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

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Paul Kushner

Written by Paul Kushner

Founder and CEO of MyBartender. Graduated from Penn State University. He always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. His restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time he turned 17 he was serving tables, and by 19 he was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, Paul opened his first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Follow them on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Google Guide and MuckRack.

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