Difference between Alcohol and Liquor

Updated on April 19, 2017

Contrary to popular belief, the terms “alcohol” and “liquor” are far from being alike. This article provides a clear comparison between these two liquid compounds.

Definitions

Alcohol
Examples of different types of alcohol

Alcohol, also known as ethyl alcohol, methanol, or ethanol, is a flammable liquid compound. An intoxicating substance distinct for its pungent odor and burning taste, alcohol is used mainly as a solvent in medicines, beverages, colognes, lotions, rubbing compounds, and rocket fuel. Because it has a strong chemical composition, pure alcohol is not intended for ingestion. Once lethal amounts are consumed, pure alcohol may cause alcohol poisoning in the bloodstream.

Alcohol is derived from different sources. Alcohol extracted from oil, fossil fuels, and natural gas are used for the industrial field, whereas alcohol from grains and fruit extracts are commonly used to create alcoholic beverages.

Liquor
Different types of liquor

Liquor, on the other hand, is a type of alcoholic beverage. Popularly known as “spirited beverage” or “spirits,” liquor is created by distilling the alcohol extracts from fermented grains and fruits. Even though wine, beer, and whiskey all have an alcohol content, not all of them are categorized as a spirited beverage. The distillation process sets liquor (e.g. whiskey and brandy) apart from other fermented beverages (e.g. beer and wine).

In comparison to other alcoholic beverages, liquor has the highest ethanol content. The different types of liquor include gin, rum, whiskey, vodka, and brandy.

Alcohol vs Liquor

So what’s the difference between alcohol and liquor? Even though these terms are mostly used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two.

Firstly, pure alcohol is a colorless volatile organic fluid formed when the hydroxyl functional group (-OH) is linked to a carbon atom. It is derived from oil, fossil fuels, natural gas, grains or fruits. Liquor, also known as a spirited beverage, is a type of alcoholic beverage created by distilling alcohol extracts from grains or fruits. As the alcoholic beverage with the highest ethanol concentration, liquor contains around 40% to 95% alcohol by volume.

Since alcohol is derived from different sources, it exists in many forms. The different types of alcohol include ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and acyclic alcohol. Liquor, on the other hand, is an intoxicating alcoholic beverage packaged as rum, brandy, gin, vodka, or whiskey.

Additionally, the use of alcohol is not limited to creating alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is used as a solvent in creating medicines, antiseptics, engine antifreeze, rocket fuel, and preservatives, whereas liquor is mainly used for drinking purposes.

Unlike liquor, not all alcohol types are intended for ingestion. In fact, pure alcohol consumption can be hazardous to humans. When ingested in lethal amounts, pure alcohol can cause a coma or death. Liquor, while created for drinking purposes, may also cause alcohol intoxication when consumed in excessive amounts.

Comparison Chart

AlcoholLiquor
A colorless volatile organic fluid formed when the hydroxyl functional group (-OH) is linked to a carbon atomA type of alcoholic beverage created by distilling alcohol extracts
Derived from oil, fossil fuels, natural gas, grains, or fruitsCreated from distilled alcohol extracts from grains or fruits
Types include ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, methanol, and acyclic alcoholTypes include rum, brandy, gin, vodka, and whiskey
Used in creating medicines, antiseptics, engine antifreeze, rocket fuel, and preservativesUsed mainly for drinking purposes
Certain types of alcohol are not intended for ingestionAll types of liquor are intended for ingestion