This section is from the book "Materia Medica: Pharmacology: Therapeutics Prescription Writing For Students and Practitioners", by Walter A. Bastedo. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica: Pharmacology: Therapeutics: Prescription Writing for Students and Practitioners.
The alcoholic drinks in common use are of five classes:
1. The malt liquors.
2. The red and white wines.
3. The fortified wines.
4. The distilled liquors, or spirits.
5. The elixirs.
1. The malt liquors are prepared from starchy substances, usually grain. The grains are ground and boiled with water to form a mash, i. e., to hydrolyze the starch and form a starch paste. On the addition of barley malt, which contains the ferment diastase, the starch changes and goes into solution as dextrin, maltose, and dextrose. To this solution are added hops, which yield a bitter principle and a hypnotic substance; then, after filtration, the liquid is fermented by yeast to the desired degree. Then the yeast is killed by heat, the fermentation being always stopped before all the sugars are destroyed. Cheap beers have quassia, gentian, wormwood, or other bitter substitutes for the hops.
The malt liquors contain from 3 to 7 per cent. of alcohol by volume, together with about the same percentage of extractive matter, composed of dextrin, maltose, and colloidal material, and acids of the fatty series, chiefly acetic. They all contain Co2 gas, so are effervescent. Strauss states that they average about 0.145 gm. of purin bodies per liter. They are acid in reaction, have the action of bitters upon the appetite, and are nutritive. In the stomach they immediately set free the contained Co2. The sugar bodies also tend to generate gas, and the colloidal material to interfere with the activity of the digestive ferments. None of the malt liquors are pharmacopaeial, but those in common use are: Beer, ale, porter, and stout.
Beers ("lager beer") are prepared by slow, cool fermentation (38o F.) - Blyth says 12°-14° C. (53°-57° F.) - by bottom yeast, i. e., a yeast which sinks. Imported beer is usually stronger than domestic, a little higher proportion of alcohol being desired for preservation purposes.
Ales (in British countries called "beer") are fermented at ordinary temperatures (56°-68° F.) by top yeast, i. e., a yeast that floats. They average somewhat more alcohol than beer.
Porter and stout are ales in which the malt has been highly kilned or roasted, so that some of it is changed to caramel. As a consequence they have a very dark color and a caramel taste, and are rich in dissolved substances. Stout is the richer and stronger of the two.
2. The wines are made by yeast fermentation of saccharine fruit-juices. They vary considerably in their composition, but regularly contain from 8.5 to 15 per cent. of alcohol by volume, with glycerin, tartaric acid, acetic and other fatty acids, aldehydes, furfurol, amylic, cenanthylic and other alcohols, certain esters which are produced on long standing and give to the wine its mellowness and bouquet, and albuminous and other colloidal extractive matters. The red wines contain tannic acid; the sweet wines contain dextrose. Kahlbaum of Berlin has separated 12 different esters from wines in common use, acetic ether being that most frequently encountered. Wines are not so nutritive as the malt liquors, and many, such as claret, Burgundy, Rhine, and Moselle wines, contain little or no sugar. With age the tannin, alcohol, and acids decrease, and the glycerin and esters increase. The largest percentage of esters is 0.3 (Dupre). The wines are not recognized by the Pharmacopoeia.
A sweet wine is one that contains free sugar; a dry wine is one that is entirely or almost free from sugar, practically all the sugar having been changed in the fermentation. A light wine is one that contains a low proportion of alcohol; a strong or heavy wine, one that is strong in alcohol. A sparkling wine is one that contains Co2 in solution, as champagne and sparkling Burgundy; these wines bubble or effervesce when the cork is withdrawn, and because of the Co2 gas are often readily borne in cases of refractory vomiting.
Red wine is prepared by fermenting the juice of red grapes in the presence of their skins. It contains tannic acid, and is more astringent than white wine. Claret is a common red wine, which, because of its astringency, is sometimes used as a gargle in sore throat.
White wine is made from grapes that have been freed from seeds, stems, and skins. It usually does not contain tannic acid. Sauterne and Chablis are examples.
Fermented apple and pear ciders are of the class of wines,, as they are prepared from sugar-containing fruit-juices. They contain much malic acid and usually sugar, and a large quantity of extractive matter.
3. The fortified wines are certain wines whose percentage of alcohol has been increased by the addition of a distilled liquor made from grapes, raisins, figs, or sweet potatoes. In ordinary fermentation the yeast activity, even under the most favorable conditions, ceases altogether at about 15 to 17 per cent. of alcohol by volume, so that this is the limit of strength to be obtained by simple fermentation. The fortified wines have a strength between this and that of the distilled liquors.
Sherry (vinum xericum), port (vinum portense), and Madeira are the common fortified wines, and they contain from 17 to 25 per cent. of alcohol by volume. Sherry is quite acid, and contains little or no sugar. Port is less acid, but has from 3 to 7 per cent. of sugar. The fortified wines are not official.
4. The distilled liquors, or spirits, are prepared by distilling any fermented liquor. By the distillation the sugars, the nonvolatile acids and extractive matters are left behind, and the alcohols, the ethers, and any volatile acids are distilled over. On long standing the alcohols and acids react upon each other and develop the esters, which give the liquor its bouquet. The distilled liquors, none of which are now pharmacopaeial, are separated into two general classes, according to their origin, viz.:
In common use are whisky and gin.
Whisky (spiritus frumenti) is described in the Pharmacopoeia of 1900 as "an alcoholic liquid obtained by the distillation of the mash of fermented grain (corn, rye, wheat, barley), and not less than four years old. It contains 44 to 55 per cent. by volume of ethyl alcohol, and in addition minute quantities of various other alcohols, ethers, etc., carried over in the distillation, and acid esters formed on standing." Cheap whiskies are aged by ozone and electricity in three days, and are darkened with prune-juice to give them the color that is properly derived from storage in oak barrels. The fusel oil of whisky is composed chiefly of amyl alcohol and furfurol.
Scotch and Irish whiskies have a somewhat smoky odor from being distilled over peat fires, or being made from malt that is dried over peat fires. They are said to contain traces of creosote and other empyreumatic oils. Irish whiskies usually contain a rather high percentage of alcohol.
Gin is prepared by distillation of fermented rye mash, and redistillation of the product with juniper berries, or sometimes other aromatics, such as cardamom or coriander. It contains a high percentage of alcohol, 60 to 70 per cent., and some volatile oil of juniper, on account of which it is diuretic and carminative. It is a favorite remedy among women for dysmenorrhea. Gin is sometimes called the "compound spirit of juniper."
These are known as brandies. Apple-brandy and pear-brandy are prepared from apple or pear cider. But the brandy of commerce and of medicine is that from grape-wine. It is known also as "Cognac" or "French brandy."
Brandy (spiritus vini gallici) is not now official. It is described by the Pharmacopoeia of 1900 as "an alcoholic liquid obtained by the distillation of the fermented, unmodified juice of fresh grapes, and not less than four years old. It contains 46 to 55 per cent. by volume of ethyl alcohol, besides enanthic and other esters."
Rum is the distillate from fermented molasses, and has a slight taste of brown sugar. It varies greatly in strength, but is frequently much stronger than brandy.
5. The elixirs are aromatic, sweetened, hydro-alcoholic liquids. They are artificial mixtures, and contain various flavoring substances, sugar, and a large percentage of alcohol. They include the pharmaceutic elixirs, and the liqueurs, cordials, crimes, etc.,