aqua vitae

distilled liquor

Alcoholic beverage obtained by distillation from wine or other fermented fruit juice or from various cereal grains that have first been brewed. The essential ingredient is usually a natural sugar or a starchy substance that may be easily converted into a sugar. The distillation process is based on the different boiling points of water (212 °F [100 °C]) and alcohol (173 °F [78.5 °C]). The alcohol vapours that arise while the fermented liquid boils are trapped and recondensed to create a liquid of much greater alcoholic strength. The resultant distillate is matured, often for several years, before it is packaged and sold. Seealso aquavit; brandy; gin; liqueur; rum; vodka; and whiskey.

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Aqua vitae (Latin, “water of life”) is an archaic name for a concentrated aqueous solution of ethanol. The term originated in the Middle Ages and was originally used as a generic name for all types of distillates. It eventually came to refer specifically to distillates of alcoholic beverages.

Aqua vitae was typically prepared by distilling wine; it was sometimes called “spirits of wine” in English texts. “Spirits of wine” was a name for brandy that had been repeatedly distilled.

A local translation of aqua vitae was often applied to an important local distilled spirit. Thus, we have whisky in Scotland (from Gaelic, uisge-beatha) , whiskey in Ireland (from Irish, uisce beatha) , eau de vie in France, and akvavit in Scandinavia.

When the term is used in England, it usually refers to French brandy.

Aqua vitae was also known in Slavic lands; it appears in Ukrainian оковита (okovita), Belarusian акавіта (akavita), and яковита (yakovita) is southern Russian dialects.

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