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Why Prep?

(Leon's International Liquor-Lovers Association)

...for the liquor connoisseur in us all.


Hello, Fellow Liquor-Lover:

One might seem it strange that I would have a liquor page on an English educational website. Well, I don't think it strange. And, let me explain why.

Firstly, let me pose the question: are not the English words pertaining to liquor part of the English language? Of course they are, and as such should be a part of any adult ESL/EFL education.

Secondly, liquor is perhaps the most important cultural beverage of any country and communication thereabout is of paramount importance for both business and social occasions of a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic setting (where English is the lingua franka).

Thirdly, there are SO MANY ERRORS in the bilingual lexicons that it is just not funny any more. 


Here is my list of international liquor/alcohol
in alphabetical order

Bai Jiu

Bai jiu is a Chinese liquor. Bai means "white" (or in this case: clear), and jiu means "alcoholic beverage".  In China, Bai Jiu is most commonly a distilled liquor, made of various grains, mostly rice and wheat.  It is sold in qualities between 36% alcohol (the cheapest) and 58% alcohol (the most expensive). My favorite is the 38% stuff. Goes down easier and gives one less of a hangover than the cheaper 36% stuff.

Literal Translation:  White Alcohol
Leon's "Free" Translation: Chinese Whisky

But BEWARE; If you go to China, the Chinese think it is WINE.
But, if you think about it...
All whiskies are technically wines...
Because all grains are fruits.


Beer is NOT a distilled liquor although it may be boiled to sanitize the brew. Hence it is only around 5% or 6% alcohol. It is made from water, yeast, malt, and hops. The yeast (a fungus) converts the starch from the malt (made from barley) into alcohol. The hops adds flavor to the beer.

Beer relatives: Ale, Stout, Lager

The difference between beer, ale, stout, and lager seems to be the kind of yeast used.




"Brandy" is distilled wine. (see "Distillation" below).




The origin of the name comes from the tail of a 'cock', which is a male bird--usually a rooster.  Cocks are generally much "prettier" or more colorful than the females of the same species, especially their tails.  (Think about a rooster's tail and a peacock's tail).  I believe that is why the alcoholic cocktails are named thusly... because they are so colorful.

Cocktails (the alcoholic kind) are generally a colorful mixture of liquors and/or liqueurs (see "liqueurs" for definition).



Congac /cohn-yac/

Congac is a grape wine brandy made in Congac, France.




Distillation increases the concentration of alcohol, because alcohol has a very low boiling point, (and for other reasons). So, distilled liquor usually has between 20% and 90% alcohol (depending upon how many times it has been distilled. (see diagram below)



Dong Dong Ju /dohng dohng joo/

Dong dong ju is a Korean rice wine.  It is unfiltered, fermented, undistilled rice wine.  It is called "Floating Alcohol" because some grains of rice float to the top.  It is the same as makgeolli, but makgeolli is filter (no floating rice).

Literal Translation:  Floating Alcohol
Leon's "Free" Translation: Korean Rice Wine

Note:  Dong Dong Ju is NOT listed in the Korean-English lexicons.

It really goes well with Korean Pa-jeon or Bu-chim-gae (Korean pancakes).








Merriam-Webster's online Dictionary defines alcoholic fermentation thusly:

a process in which certain kinds of sugar (as glucose) are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of various yeasts, molds, or bacteria on carbohydrate materials


Lai Jiu

Literally "milk liquor", it is made by taking cow's milk, fermenting it, and distilling it.  It is around 40% alcohol and is as clear as water.  I absolutely love the stuff.  It has a sweet after-taste to it, like evaporated milk (if you've ever tried that).  It gives one such a lovely high (much better than bai jiu).  To my knowledge, (and I've looked), it can ONLY be found in the province of China called:  Nei Meng Gu (Inner Mongolia).  It is a Mongolian drink.  I lived in Outer Mongolia and I looked for it in "Outer Mongolia" (the independent country), but couldn't find it there.  So, if you ever have a chance to visit Inner Mongolia, find a Mongolian restaurant and order a bottle.  You won't regret it!



A liquor which is flavored, aromatic, and sweet.  Examples include:  banana liqueur, blueberry liqueur, strawberry liqueur, rasberry liqueur, etc.




Makgeolli is a crude, raw rice wine in Korea. It is very cheap and easily found at any market. It is of an opaque cream color with low viscosity and a pungent odor.

Basically, it is the same as Dong Dong Ju, but it is filtered.  Dong Dong Ju is not filtered.




"Proof" is a measurement of alcohol content. It is double the percentage of alcohol. Why?

    [If you'd like to find out why, check out the article on  Wikipedia ].

180 proof means 90% alcohol.





Raki (not pronounced "raki", but rather "rakeu") is a Turkish liquor made out of anis and is distilled to 40% alcohol content.  It is very warm going down, has a milky-clear appearance, and tastes a bit like black licorice.   It is an acquired taste for non-raki drinkers, but the Turks love it.




Rum is also a kind of distilled liquor. It is made from sugar cane or molasses. The percent-alcohol is between 30% and 95%. Bicardi 151 is 75.5% alcohol. It is called "151", because that is the "proof".



Sake /sah-keh/

Sake is a Japanese liquor made from rice {and water and yeast (a fungus) and koji (a mold spore)}.  Sake is not distilled, however. It is only pasteurized. Since rice is a grain and all grains are by definition fruits (the seed-bearing part of a plant), AND since it is NOT distilled, it seems appropriate to call it "rice wine".  Sake is sold around 20% alcohol.

Leon's "Free" Translation: Sake = Japanese Rice Wine


Soju /so-joo/

Soju literally means: burning liquor. It collectively covers all distilled liquors in its broadest sense.  However, when Koreans say, "soju," they generally are referring to a distilled liquor made from fermented sweet potatoes (and water).  Hence, we could classify it as a sweet potato whisky.  Soju is sold at 23% to 25% alcohol.

Leon's "Free" Translation: Soju = Korean Whisky

Soju relative--Andong Soju /ahn-dohng so-joo/

Andong Soju is a distilled liquor made in Andong, South Korea. It is made from fermented rice (and water). It is a distilled liquor, sold at around 45% alcohol.

Leon's Translation:  Andong Soju = Korean Rice Brandy



Tequila is hard to classify, because it is neither made from a fruit, nor from a grain (which is a fruit). So, I'd have to put it in a class all its own. It is made from the heart of the agave plant (commonly found in Mexico). It is a distilled liquor and ranges from 40% to 43% alcohol.




The word "Vodka" is a derivation of the Russian word for "water" (Voda), probably cause it looks like water.  I originally thought that vodka was made from potatoes, as that's what I was told.  I guess you just cannot believe everything you hear from people, 'cause I just found out today (December 20,2005) that it is made from grains, such as rye and wheat.  So, definitely, we can call vodka a whisky.  AND HOW APROPO! The word "whisky" comes from a Gaelic word which means: water of life.

A friend or mine who spent like two years in Russia claims that some people do make Vodka out of potatoes, especially the home-made stuff.  So, it appears that the word "Vodka" can be used for any clear distilled liquor.




Whisky is also a kind of distilled liquor.  It is usually made from grains, such as corn.  Scotch Whisky is made from corn.  Merriam-Webster's also includes distilled liquors made from potatoes as whisky as well.




First of all, let's address the word "wine". It comes from the Latin word: "vino", which means "vine", as in "grape vine". Wine, therefore, primarily is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes, which have fermented. There has been NO distillation, and the percentage of alcohol ranges between 12% and 16%.




The word "wine" has come to mean the fermented beverage made from any fruit (or seed).  Some examples are:  strawberry wine, Oriental (green) apricot wine (see Maeshil Ju),  raspberry wine (see Bok Bun Ja Ju), and even rice wine (see Sake and Dong Dong Ju).



Did I miss any?
(That's a rhetorical question, of course I did).


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