You drink them all the time, but do you actually know what plants make the world’s liquors?
A wide variety of grains are used to distill vodka—the main ones being barley, rye and wheat. However, potatoes and beets are also used, primarily in Eastern European countries and Russia.
Whisky is a big category of spirits with a number of sub-categories depending on its origin. All whisky is grain-based, typically distilled from barley, corn, wheat or rye. American whiskey (bourbon) is primarily made from corn, Canadian whisky was historically rye-based (hence why it is synonymously called “rye”) but is now mostly made from corn, and Scotch and Irish whiskey derive from barley. (Editor’s note: Canadian and Scottish varieties are spelled “whisky,” while American and Irish ones are spelled “whiskey.”)
The basis of all Caribbean drinks and the source of an incredibly rich and infamous history of piracy, slavery, bootlegging and gangsters, rum is distilled from either sugar cane juice or molasses (a sugar cane byproduct). The product is a clear liquid that is sometimes bottled straight (white rum) but is usually aged in oak barrels before bottling.
All tequila hails from Mexico, as that’s the only area in the world where the blue agave plant grows—primarily in the states of Jalisco and Oaxaca. It can be sold clear (white or silver tequila) as well as aged in oak cask (reposado or añejo).
Gin is originally distilled from grain, usually wheat or barley, though some recent examples are grape-based. What makes gin unique is the huge variety of botanicals that are infused with the spirit; juniper berries are its original principal flavouring, but it can include any number of other botanicals including anise, coriander, orange peel, licorice root, cinnamon, saffron and nutmeg.
As it is distilled from wine, brandy is made from grapes. Varieties of brandy are accordingly found in all countries that make wine, but it originates in France. Cognac and Armagnac are two famous types of brandy made in the southwest of France. V