Whether you choose to drink wine, beer, or spirits, they all contain alcohol. Get the facts about alcohol's ingredients and the processes involved in its production.

How is alcohol made?

The type of alcohol in the alcoholic drinks we drink is a chemical called ethanol.To make alcohol, you need to put grains, fruits or vegetables through a process called fermentation (when yeast or bacteria react with the sugars in food - the by-products are ethanol and carbon dioxide).

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What is fermentation?

Wine and cider are made by fermenting fruit, while fermented cereals such as barley and rye form the basis of beer and spirits.

A drink's alcohol content is affected by how long it's left to ferment.

Spirits also go through a process called distillation – where a proportion of the water is removed, leaving a stronger concentration of alcohol and flavour.

What are the dangers of alcohol?

Drinking alcohol in excess can put you at risk of a number of short and long term health harms. For example, consuming too much alcohol in a short span of time could put you at risk of alcohol poisoning.

In the long term, drinking too much too often can increase your risk of developing different forms of cancer and other serious health problems.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis.

What is an alcohol unit?