Similarities (and Differences) between Hardcore Liquors: Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey/ Whisky
The alcohol by volume (ABV) content of gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whiskey/ whisky averages about 55 %, hence my calling them hardcore. But that is not the only thing they have in common.
Similarities between Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey/ Whisky
- They were first used for medicinal purposes. Gin, for example, was used to treat kidney ailments then scurvy and later, as a stimulant for the Dutch military.
- Production process includes fermentation, and distillation through continuous column or pot stills.
- Some of their blends are aged in new or old wooden barrels/ casks (tequila is also aged in stainless steel vats). Length of the aging period depends on the flavor, body, and color producers want to create.
- They are infused with various herbs, fruits, and other botanicals to create new blends. For example, producers add coriander, lemongrass, ginger, rosemary, hot chili peppers, anise, chamomile, mint, cinnamon, cardamom, tamarind, citrus peels, berries, grapes, watermelon, peach, mango, almond, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, or honey. They use one botanical or combinations of them. Gin producers must include juniper berries regardless of what other botanical(s) they use.
- Blends can be dry or sweet, light to full-bodied, and clear to various shades of brown.
- Each of them was called many different names. Gin was called Hollands, genever or the Dutch -jenever because of the juniper berries. Rum was saccharum -Latin for “sugar,” rhum –French, ron –Spanish, demon and kill-devil -English commonwealth, and rumbullion. Tequila was octli –Aztec, and pulque. Vodka was aqua vitae –Latin for “water for life,” voda –Russian for “water,” bread wine, burnt wine, bitter wine, and distilled wine. Whiskey was known as uisce breatha or uisage breatha –Gaelic for “water of life,” poteen, moonshine, and white lightning.
- They each have various distinct classifications. Gin is classified as distilled or compound. It is also classified as London Dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, or Dutch. Rum can be grouped as light, dark, or flavored/ spiced. It also grouped as Jamaican, French, Spanish, or Demerana. Tequila’s classification is mixto (mixed) or 100% agave. It is also classified as Blanco, Resposado, or Anejo. Vodka is grouped as neutral or flavored. And whiskey/ whisky is classified as malt or grain, and also Irish, Scotch, American, or Canadian.
- They are great for making cocktails. For example, gin is used in the classics Tom Collins, gimlet, and gin & tonic. Rum is used in Pina Colada, Daiquiri, Mai-Tai, and mojito. Tequila is found in Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, and Diablo. Vodka is in Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, screwdriver, and White Russian. Whiskey/ whisky is in Manhattan, Rusty Nail, mint julep, and whiskey sour.
Differences between Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey/ Whisky
The following lists some of the differences between the liquors.
- With the exception of rum and tequila, gin, vodka, and whiskey/ whisky are fermented from various grains. Gin is made from corn, wheat, barley, or rye. Vodka is made from barley, wheat, rye, corn, rice, or sorghum (some producers even use soy, potato, beets, or molasses). Whiskey/ whisky is made from corn, rye, wheat, or barley. Rum comes primarily from molasses (the by-product once sugar has been extracted from sugar cane) but also sugar cane syrup, sugar cane juice, or beet sugar. Tequila is fermented from the blue agave plant.
- Before fermentation and distillation, the grains of gin, vodka, and whiskey/ whisky are crushed then combined with water and boiled, or steeped into hot water to make a mash. Sugar cane is crushed to extract the juice, which is then boiled to a concentrate, and turned into a thick liquid before the sugar and molasses are separated. Agave is baked then the juice or “pina” is extracted for fermentation.
- These five hardcore liquors or spirits, as they are also called, originate from different parts of the world. Though gin is the national spirit of England, it originated in 17th century Holland. The British military was responsible for introducing it.
Rum production, according to the website www.sweetplantains-stjohn.com, began in Asia some 3,000 years ago because sugar cane is native to that region. It reached the Caribbean, today’s major producers, in the 15th century through Portuguese and Spanish explorers including Christopher Columbus, and 17th century slave traders who used it to barter.
Tequila is a Mexican original. In fact, the spirit must be made in Mexico to be called tequila. The agave comes from the town of Jalisco. Native Aztecs were the first to ferment it. By law, tequila must contain 51% agave.
Vodka, Russia and Poland’s national drink, has three countries laying claim. Russia says it was discovered by Russian monks around 1100AD. Poland says they made it in the Middle Ages. And Sweden says they invented it in the 15th century.
The origin of whiskey/ whisky is contended by Ireland and the Scotland. Notes found in a 1405 journal favor the Irish. Written evidence supporting Scotland’s claim was discovered in 1494.