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 the correct procedures followed. There are no subtleties involved such as quality of grapes or the type of yeast used. The starting material can be corn, potatoes, grapes, wheat, rice, milk, molasses — in fact anything which contains a fermentable sugar. One hardly even needs to worry about hygiene; just add large amounts of bakers' yeast to a solution of sugar and stand back. The sugar will be rapidly fermented to a crude alcohol known as "beer" in the trade, and then this "beer" is fractionally distilled to remove all the extraneous, noxious substances to leave a clear, sparkling, 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, and shall no doubt say again, 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. The only difference between a cheap bottle of "plonk" and a vintage chateau-bottled wine costing an arm and a leg is a very slight difference in the congener make-up, and the only difference between a rot-gut whiskey and a single malt, lovingly produced in the Highlands of Scotland and aged for donkey's years, is the difference in the congeners. No such considerations apply in the case of gin and vodka. The "beer" produced by adding bakers' yeast to a 20% solution of cane sugar would be completely undrinkable by all but the most dedicated tipplers, but fractional distillation will rid the mixture of all the congeners, all the undesirable compounds, and produce 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. No aging is required, — gin and vodka are ready to drink the day you make them.
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 for gin, and from various fruits and herbs for liqueurs and punches. And this is simply a matter of personal taste and preference.
It is also worth mentioning here that, in addition to using one's own natural ingredients to flavour alcohol, ready-made flavouring essences can be purchased from beer- and wine-making supply stores. These essences cover a very wide range, from fruity liqueurs to whisky, rum, brandy, etc.
As a final word of encouragement, a litre of vodka can easily be made from 1 kg of sugar. So, depending on the price of sugar where you live, the cost of all the ingredients to make a litre of 40% vodka will be about $1 (U.S.).
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