What is Alcohol?

In order to understand alcohol's effects on the body, it is helpful to understand the nature of alcohol as a chemical, so let's take a look...

Here are several facts:

  • Alcohol is a clear liquid at room temperature.
  • Alcohol is less dense and evaporates at a lower temperature than water (this property allows it to be distilled -- by heating a water and alcohol mixture, the alcohol evaporates first).
  • Alcohol dissolves easily in water.
  • Alcohol is flammable (so flammable that it can be used as a fuel).


Alcohol can be made by three different methods:

  • Fermentation of fruit or grain mixtures (See How Beer Works for details). This is often followed by distillation of fermented fruit or grain mixtures (Spirits such as whiskey, rum, vodka and gin are distilled.)
  • Chemical modification of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas or coal (industrial alcohol)
  • Chemical combination of hydrogen with carbon monoxide (methanol or wood alcohol)