Alcohol has been in existence for as long as humans have, and it plays an important role in societies around the world for medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes. Here in the U.S. alcohol is the most widely consumed drug, and more than 70% of people over 18 have reported that they consumed alcohol in the past year! That’s not surprising since alcohol has been present throughout history and continues to gain popularity.
With its lengthy history, there is much to learn about alcohol. Grab your favorite beverage and enjoy these fun facts about alcohol:
1. Gin and Tonic was originally a drink created to treat and prevent malaria
In the 1800s the British Empire sent armies to India, where soldiers began taking a tonic of quinine to cure malaria, a mosquito-borne illness that is very common in tropical regions. The tonic contained cinchona bark, which had previously been found to treat malaria but had a naturally bitter and sharp flavor. To mask the bitter unpleasantness of the tonic, the British soldiers added their rations of gin (a distilled spirit made from juniper berries) along with water, sugar, and lime. The end result was far more palatable and prevented many soldiers from succumbing to malaria. Today, the tonic water you would find in stores contains significantly lower amounts of quinine, so although the modern gin and tonic won’t cure malaria, it does make a refreshing cocktail.
2. Vodka is the most popular liquor in the world.
Vodka has been around for more than a thousand years but has only been the top choice of drinkers worldwide since the 1970s when it surpassed whiskey in sales. The liquor’s near-flavorless neutrality makes it an ideal base for many cocktails, including martinis, Bloody Marys, and Moscow Mules. The word vodka actually comes from the Russian word for water – “voda.” The impartial taste has prompted many distillers to offer dozens of flavor-infused vodkas, from fruity to spicy, all the way to dill pickle! Also contributing to vodka’s popularity are the many new gluten-free choices being made available, using distilled corn or potatoes rather than wheat or barley. This liquor also carries an appealingly low-calorie count at only 90 calories per serving.
3. Rum was the first spirit to be commercially distilled and manufactured.
Fermented sugar cane spirits were first made in ancient China and India; however, rum as we know it was originally produced commercially in the Caribbean during the 1600s. Rum comes in many varieties: light, dark, gold, black, navy, and aged, with the color of the rum being dependent on time spent aging in the barrel. Because rum production depends on the sugar cane growing natively throughout the Caribbean, the rum industry has remained largely unchanged throughout the centuries, with 80% of rum still manufactured in Puerto Rico today.
Whether your drink of choice is gin, vodka, rum, or one of the many other varieties of beer, wine, and spirits, you’ll no doubt have a greater appreciation for your next beverage, and a few new fun facts about alcohol to share at your next cocktail party!