In sharp contrast to all other alcoholic beverages, gin and vodka are made from almost pure alcohol, i.e. alcohol from which all the heads and tails have been removed. This, when diluted with water to 40%, is vodka. To make gin, a flavouring essence based on juniper berries is added.
Using a pure alcohol as the basis for a beverage has many advantages in terms of the ease of manufacture, the raw materials which can be used, and the quality of the product.
In terms of ease of manufacture, the production of pure alcohol is a science, not an art, and results therefore can be guaranteed if the proper equipment is used and procedures followed. There are no subtleties involved such as quality of grapes or the type of yeast used. One hardly even needs to worry about hygiene; just add baker's yeast to any solution of sugar to produce a "beer" and then remove all the extraneous, noxious materials by fractional distillation to leave a pure alcohol. What could be simpler?
By comparison, the production of a fine wine, beer or whisky is much more difficult. As we have said before, the quality of these beverages depends upon the presence of compounds other than ethyl alcohol (the congeners) and it is very difficult to ensure that these are present in exactly the right amounts and the right proportions. No such considerations apply in the case of gin and vodka. The "beer" produced by adding baker's yeast to cane sugar would be completely undrinkable by all but the most hardy, but fractional distillation will rid the mixture of all the undesirable compounds to leave a crystal-clear, unadulterated ethyl alcohol. Even the dregs from glasses after a party could be thrown into the pot and out will come the purest alcohol.
The result will be the same every time, with no variations and no failures. The only art involved will be in the preparation of the flavouring essence from juniper berries and other botanicals, and this is simply a matter of personal taste and preference.
It is also worth mentioning here that liqueurs can be made by steeping fruit in alcohol, or by using ready-made flavouring essences available from stores selling wine- and beer-makers' equipment and supplies. Flavoring essences for the preparation of light and dark rum, brandy, whisky, etc. are also available from the same source.
As a final word of encouragement, depending on the price of sugar, the cost of all the ingredients required to make a litre of 40% vodka or gin will be about one dollar (US).
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