This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
The spirits in common use have different physiological action. As their alcoholic basis is substantially the same in quality, the effects are varied mainly by aromatics. Gin is the most distinctly diuretic of the liquors. Given with a little lemon juice and diluted with some effervescing water, it promptly increases the urinary secretion. Brandy is somewhat more astringent than whisky, which is sometimes laxative. Brandy is therefore to be preferred in cases of diarrhoea, but in this country at least it is very apt to be impure. The role of liquors as tonics and stimulants will be referred to under the heading of the different diseases in which they may be required, and their influence in producing alcoholism is discussed under that heading.
Liquors are flavoured and also adulterated by a variety of substances. Among those mentioned by Chambers as oftenest found are cocculus indicus, ginger, quassia, wormwood, caraway and coriander seeds, hartshorn shavings, nux vomica, gentian, alum, cream of tartar, chamomile, juniper berries, bitter almonds, orange peel, licorice, honey, rhatany, and catechu.
Much of the cheapest claret sold in this country is little more than a decoction of logwood, and the flavour of some of the better grades is cleverly imitated. For example, Chateau-Latour is sophisticated with almonds or other nuts, Chateau-Lafitte with violets and nuts, and to other grades cherry juice is added. Wines are often adulterated with artificial pigments, alum, tannin, fusel oils, cider, perry, and lime salts.
The cheaper grades of strong liquors contain an excess of fusel oil or amylic ether, which is not an adulterant in the sense that it has been added for sophistication, but because it is a poisonous natural product which is difficult to eliminate. It is responsible for much of the headache, foul tongue, nausea, dyspepsia, and even cirrhotic changes in the viscera which are incident to dram drinking.
Liqueurs play no part in invalid diet. With the exception of absinthe and Angostura, they contain a very high percentage of sugar with essence, and they all have a large proportion of alcohol. They are used as luxuries, and are seductive beverages, for their agreeable flavour sometimes begets the habit of alcoholism. This is especially the case with absinthe.
Analyst's of Liqueurs (Rupp)
100 C. C. LIQUEUR.
The essences are distilled or expressed from aromatic plants, and such colouring agents are used as saffron, cochineal, indigo, etc. Vermuth contains only 17 per cent of alcohol.
The following table by Duckworth is a convenient summary of the average percentages of alcohol in round numbers in the different beverages above described:
Spirits............... 35 to 44 per cent.
Port wine................. 19 " "
Madeira.................. 18 " "
Sherry.................... 17 " "
Champagne............... 11 " "
Burgundy................10 " "
Bordeaux...................8 per cent.
Rhine wines................ 8 " "
Porter.............. 6 per cent or more.
Ale................3 to 6 per cent.
Cider...............4 per cent.
Fig Wine is made in countries bordering upon the Mediterranean, and has an alcoholic strength of between 7 and 8 per cent. It also contains considerable mannite. It is often used for the sophistication of grape wines.
Cider made from ripe apples usually contains from 4 to 8 volumes per cent of alcohol besides malic acid, extractives, sugar, and salts.
It is slightly laxative. The excess of carbonic acid generated by cider protects it from the atmospheric air, but when the gas disappears acetic fermentation converts the cider into vinegar.
Cider is sometimes made from condensed apple juice, which is added in the proportion of one part to twenty of water when ready for use.