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  • What Is Considered Liquor? | Popular Types Of Liquor

    Liquor (Whiskey, Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Rum, Brandy, & More) | Abuse, Effects, & Treatment Options

    Liquor is among the most popular types of alcohol. It has a greater alcohol content than other alcoholic drinks, which means it poses a high risk of abuse and addiction.

    If you or someone you love struggles with liquor abuse, recovery is possible. 

    What Is Liquor?

    The term liquor (also called hard liquor, hard alcohol, or distilled spirits) refers to distilled alcoholic beverages. 

    The distillation process involves heating alcohol to create a vapor and then condensing it back into a liquid. This process removes excess water from the drink and increases its alcohol content. 

    The alcohol content is measured in alcohol by volume (ABV). While beer has about 5% ABV, liquor generally has about 40% ABV. However, ABV can vary depending on the type of liquor. Popular types of liquor include:


    Brandy is made from wine or fruit juice. It’s available in different varieties, including Armagnac and Cognac. It typically contains between 35% and 60% ABV. 


    Originating in the West Indies, rum is made from sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. It has between 36% and 50% ABV. 


    Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, which is native to Mexico. It has between 35% and 55% ABV. 


    Made from juniper berries, gin originated in Europe. It has between 35% and 55% ABV. 


    Vodka is made from grains, potatoes, fruits, or sugars. It originated in Russia, Poland, and Sweden. It has between 35% and 95% ABV.


    Whiskey (also spelled whisky) is made from grains such as wheat, barley, or rye. It has between 40% and 50% ABV.


    Scotch is a type of whiskey that originated in Scotland. It’s made from malted barley, wheat, or rye. The drink’s ABV can range between 40% and 94.8%. 


    Liqueurs are liquors that contain added sugar and other sweeteners and flavorings. Popular liqueurs include amaretto, campari, and kahlúa.

    Flavored Liquors

    Like liqueurs, flavored liquors are liquors that contain flavorings. Unlike liqueurs, they contain little to no added sugar. 

    Mixed Drinks

    A mixed drink is a drink that combines at least two different flavors or ingredients. Most mixed drinks feature liquor, liqueur, or flavored liquor. Popular mixed drinks include:

    • martinis, which contain gin and vermouth (fortified wine)
    • margaritas, which contain tequila, orange liqueur, and lime or lemon juice
    • Manhattans, which contain whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters (alcohol infused with spices, leaves, fruit, bark, roots, or herbs)

    What Is Liquor Abuse?

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a standard serving of liquor is 1.5 ounces. Liquor abuse occurs when a woman has more than one serving of liquor in one day or a man has more than two servings of liquor in one day. 

    Signs Of Liquor Abuse

    A person who struggles with liquor abuse may:

    • experience strong urges to drink liquor
    • drink more or for longer than intended
    • lose interest in activities once enjoyed
    • withdraw from friends and family members
    • experience mood swings, irritability, depression, or anxiety

    Effects Of Liquor Abuse

    Like other types of alcohol, liquor impairs your judgment and ability to think clearly. That’s why people who abuse liquor may:

    • fall behind at work or school
    • struggle to maintain relationships
    • engage in dangerous behaviors, such as drunk driving or unprotected sex

    Alcohol Poisoning

    Liquor abuse also increases your risk of alcohol poisoning. This life-threatening condition occurs when you drink too much alcohol too quickly. Common signs of alcohol poisoning include:

    • nausea and vomiting
    • confusion
    • pale, bluish, or clammy skin
    • slow or irregular breathing
    • slow heart rate
    • seizures
    • sudden drop in body temperature
    • loss of consciousness

    Health Problems

    In addition, long-term liquor abuse can lead to health problems such as:

    • high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke
    • liver disease
    • mental health problems like depression and anxiety
    • memory problems like dementia
    • cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
    • miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol syndrome 

    Alcohol Use Disorder

    It can also lead to alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). This disease makes you feel unable to control your alcohol use. It’s usually accompanied by tolerance and physical dependence. 

    Tolerance means you need increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects. Physical dependence means your body requires alcohol to function normally. Without it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

    • irritability
    • anxiety
    • depression
    • mood swings
    • fatigue
    • nightmares
    • shaking 
    • sweating

    Treatment Options

    To recover from liquor abuse or addiction, you should attend a substance abuse treatment center. Most centers offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. Talk to your doctor to determine which type of program is right for you. 

    Whether inpatient or outpatient, most treatment programs offer the following services:

    • medical detox, in which doctors help you slowly and safely stop drinking alcohol
    • mental health counseling, which you’ll learn how to manage cravings and cope with any underlying mental health concerns that contribute to your alcohol use
    • medication-assisted treatment, in which you’ll receive medications to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms
    • support groups, in which you can share your experiences with other people recovering from alcohol abuse

    To learn more about treatment options for liquor abuse and addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. We provide comprehensive treatment services to help you achieve and maintain recovery. 

    Liquor Addiction FAQs

    How Much Liquor Is In A Drink?

    According to the NIAAA, one standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is the equivalent of 0.6 fluid ounces. For liquor, one drink is 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol.

    Is Beer Or Liquor Stronger?

    Liquor is stronger than beer. Alcohol content is measured in alcohol by volume (ABV). A standard serving of liquor (1.5 ounces) has about 40% ABV, while a standard serving of beer (12 ounces) has about 5% ABV.

    Learn more about Hard Liquor Vs. Beer

    Is There A Difference Between Liquor & Alcohol?

    The key difference between liquor and alcohol is that liquor only refers to distilled alcohol like tequila or vodka. Alcohol refers to the liquid organic compound found in both distilled and undistilled drinks like beer or wine.

    To learn more, read Is There A Difference Between Liquor & Alcohol?

    How Much Hard Liquor Does It Take To Get Drunk?

    In general, you’re considered drunk when your blood alcohol concentration (the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream) reaches 0.08%. Most people reach this concentration after consuming three or four shots of hard liquor. A “shot” is about 1.5 ounces. 

    However, the exact amount of hard liquor it takes to get drunk depends on personal factors, such as:

    • your sex
    • your body weight
    • your age
    • your tolerance to alcohol
    • how quickly you consume alcohol

    To learn more, read How Much Hard Liquor Does It Take To Get Drunk?

    When Was Alcohol Illegal? 

    The manufacture, transport, and sale of alcohol were illegal in the United States between 1920 and 1933, a period is known as Prohibition.

    However, Prohibition levels of alcohol consumption were only 30-50% less than pre-Prohibition alcohol consumption, and the loss of tax revenue and increase in organized crime had major effects on American society during and after this period.

    Learn more about Prohibition In The United States

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Drinking Levels Defined
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - What Is A Standard Drink?
    United States National Library of Medicine - Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 20, 2022
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