Bottles of , a alcoholic beverage.
Alcoholic beverages are containing .
Alcoholic beverages have been widely consumed since prehistoric times by people around the world, seeing use as a component of the standard diet, for hygienic or medical reasons, for their relaxant and euphoric effects, for , for artistic inspiration, as , and for other reasons. Some have been invested with symbolic or religious significance suggesting the mystical use of alcohol, e.g., by in the rituals of (also called ), god of drink and revelry; in the ; and at the .
Moderate consumption of alcohol, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day, is consistently shown as being beneficial for the heart and circulatory system (the equivalent is 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units for women). Moderate consumers statistically have fewer heart attacks and strokes, live longer, have lower blood pressure, and generally report better overall health.
However, some people are prone to developing a to alcohol, . The results of alcoholism are considered a major health problem in many nations.
Frequent excessive consumption can harmfully interfere with the user's well-being. The neurological effects of alcohol use are often a factor in deadly motor vehicle accidents and fights. People under the influence of alcohol sometimes find themselves in dangerous or compromising situations where they would not be had they remained sober. Operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery under the influence of alcohol is a serious crime in almost all developed nations.
Some religions—most notably , , the and most schools of and some sects of —forbid or discourage the consumption of alcoholic beverages for these and other reasons.
Most governments regulate or restrict the sale and use of alcohol.
The ethanol (CH3CH2OH) in alcoholic beverages is almost always produced by , which is the of (usually ) by certain species of in the absence of . The process of culturing yeast under conditions that produce alcohol is referred to as .
It should be noted that in , is a general term for any in which a (-) is bound to a atom, which in turn is bound to other and/or carbon atoms. Other alcohols such as and the may appear in food or beverages regularly, but these alcohols do not make them alcoholic.
It has been suggested that alcoholic impurities, , are the cause of hangovers.
Alcoholic beverages with a concentration of about 50% ethanol or greater (100 proof) are liquids and easily ignited.
The of alcohol in an alcoholic beverage may be specified in percent (ABV), in percentage by weight (sometimes abbreviated w/w for weight for weight), or in . The 'proof' measurement roughly corresponds in a 2:1 ratio to percent alcoholic content by volume (e.g. 80 proof = 40% ABV). Common cannot exceed 192 proof because at that point ethanol is an with water. Alcohols of this purity are commonly referred to as and are not meant for human consumption, with the notable exception of .
Most yeasts cannot grow when the concentration of alcohol is higher than about 18% by volume, so that is a practical limit for the strength of fermented beverages such as , , and . Strains of yeast have been developed that can survive in solutions of up to 25% alcohol by volume, but these were bred for ethanol fuel production, not beverage production. Liquors are produced by of a fermented product, concentrating the alcohol and eliminating some of the by-products. Many wines are with additional grain alcohol to achieve higher ABV than is easily reached using fermentation alone.
Ethanol is a moderately good solvent for many "fatty" substances and essential "oils", and thus facilitates the inclusion of several coloring, flavoring, and aromatic compounds to alcoholic beverages, especially to distilled ones.