What Is Alcohol Made From?

Alcohol can be made from just about any type of plant matter, as well as from fossil fuels, biomass and from combining carbon dioxide and water. Synthetic alcohol and alcohol produced from petrochemicals and biomass is used as fuel. Consumable alcohol is made from a variety of fruits and grains plus yeast or bacteria that break down the sugars present to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, a process called fermentation.

Wine is made from fermented grapes or other fruit; beer from fermented grains plus hops; hard cider from apples; and sake from rice. The longer the alcohol is allowed to ferment, the stronger it becomes. Alcohol made from fermentation can be further concentrated through distillation, a process which evaporates water from the alcohol. Of the distilled types of alcohol, gin is made from fermented rye or other grains, with the addition of juniper berries, anise, caraway seeds or angelica root; vodka is made from wheat, rye, corn or potatoes; rum from sugar cane; whiskey from potatoes, corn, rye, wheat or malted barley; tequila from the blue Agave tequilana plant; and brandy from wine. Certain types of wood, resin, flowers, sugar and fruit can also be added to distilled alcohol to make liqueurs.