Most countries also specify a legal drinking age, below which the consumption of alcohol is prohibited. In the U.S., the legal age for purchase or possession (but not necessarily consumption) in every state has been 21 since the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which tied federal highway funds to states' raising their minimum drinking age to 21. Many states specifically permit consumption under the age of 21 for religious or health reasons or with parental approval.
In many countries, production of alcoholic beverages requires a license, and alcohol production is taxed. In the U.S., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (formerly one organization known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) enforce federal laws and regulations related to alcohol, though most regulations regarding serving and selling alcoholic beverages are made by the individual states. There also exist intrastate regulatory differences, as between Montgomery County, Maryland and the rest of the state. In the UK the Customs and Excise department issues distilling licences.
Common state regulations in the United States are:
" Many U.S. states require that distilled liquor be sold only in dedicated liquor stores. For example: In Washington, liquor stores are run by the state. In Oklahoma, liquor stores may not refrigerate any beverages. Often, liquor sales are prohibited on Sunday by a Blue law. Other laws, governing a variety of issues, vary regionally.
" Most U.S. states do not allow open containers of alcohol inside of moving vehicles.
" Some U.S. states offer relaxed rules for beer at or below 3.2% alcohol.
" Many cities and counties ban drinking alcoholic beverages in public; that is, on the street or sidewalk.
" Often bars serving distilled liquor are exempted from Smoking bans.
In New Zealand it is legal to produce alcohol for personal use. This has made the sale and use of home distillation equipment popular.
Types of alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic beverages include low-alcohol-content beverages produced by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing products, and high-alcohol-content beverages produced by distillation of the low-alcohol-content beverages. Sometimes, the alcohol content of low-alcohol-content beverages is increased by adding distilled products, particularly in the case of wines. Such fortified wines include Port wine and Sherry.
The process involved (as well as the resulting alcohol content) defines the finished product. A "beer" involves a relatively short (incomplete) fermentation process and an equally short aging process (a week or two) resulting in an alcohol content generally between 3-8%, as well as natural carbonation. A "wine" involves a longer (complete) fermentation process, and a relatively long aging process (months or years -- sometimes decades) resulting in an alcohol content between 7-18%. (Note that sparkling wine is generally made by adding a small amount of sugar before bottling). Distilled products are generally not made from a "beer" that would normally be palatable as fermentation is normally completed, but no aging is involved until after distillation. Most distilled liquors are 40% alcohol by volume.
Standard drinks of alcoholic beverages in the United States all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol, about 0.6 ounce each. A U.S. standard drink is a 12 ounce can or bottle of beer, a five ounce glass of dinner wine, or a 1.5 ounce drink of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink).
" Bitter ale
" Mild ale
" Pale ale
" Real ale
" Stock ale
o Fruit Beer
o Lager beer
" Dry beer
" Oktoberfest M?rzen
o Small beer
o Wheat beer
" Lappish Hag's Love Potion
o Palm wine
o Wine cooler
o Fruit wine
The names of some beverages are determined by the source of the material fermented:
Source Name of fermented beverage Name of distilled beverage
rye beer Rye whisky
corn beer Bourbon whiskey
shochu (Japan), soju (Korea)
juice of fruits, other than apples or pears wine (most commonly from grapes)
brandy, Cognac (France), Branntwein (Germany), Pisco (Peru/Chile)
juice of apples
("hard") cider, apfelwein
applejack (or apple brandy), Calvados
juice of pears
perry, or pear cider
juice of sugarcane, or molasses
basi, betsa-betsa (regional) rum, cacha?a, aguardiente, guaro
juice of agave
juice of plums
slivovitz, tzuica, palinca
pomace wine grappa (Italy), Trester (Germany), marc (France)
distilled mead ("mead brandy" or "honey brandy")
potato and/or grain
potato beer vodka: potato mostly used in Ukraine, otherwise grain
Note that in common speech, wine or brandy is made from grapes unless the fruit is specified: "plum wine" or "cherry brandy" for example, although in some cases grape-derived alcohol is added.
In the USA and Canada, cider often means unfermented apple juice (see the article on cider), while fermented cider is called hard cider. Unfermented cider is sometimes called sweet cider. Also, applejack was originally made by a freezing process described in the article on cider which was equivalent to distillation but more easily done in the cold climate of New England. In the UK, cider is always alcoholic, and in Australia it can be either.
Beer is generally made from barley, but can sometimes contain a mix of other grains. Whisky is sometimes made from a blend of different grains, especially Irish whiskey which may contain several different grains. The style of whisky (Scotch, Rye, Bourbon) generally determines the primary grain used, with additional grains usually added to the blend (most often barley, and sometimes oats).
Two common distilled beverages are vodka and gin. Vodka can be distilled from any source (grain and potatoes being the most common, also industrial cellulose for the cheapest!) but the main characteristic of vodka is that it is sothoroughly distilled as to exhibit none of the flavors derived from its source material. Gin is a similar distillate which has been flavored by contact with herbs and other plant products, especially juniper berries. The name comes from the Dutch liquor genever, which in turn takes its name from the Dutch word for juniper.