This section is from the book "The Human Body: An Elementary Text-Book Of Anatomy, Physiology, And Hygiene", by H. Newell Martin. Also available from Amazon: The Human Body.
To obtain liquids containing more alcohol and less water than that found in fermented liquors, the process named distillation is employed.
Alcohol boils and passes off as vapor at a temperature much below that at which water is converted into steam. Consequently, if a solution of a small proportion of alcohol in a large quantity of water be heated (for example, beer or wine), the alcohol will evaporate before much of the water does, and can be condensed and collected in a cold receptacle, mixed with but little water. This fact is used in preparing such liquors as whiskey and brandy. The fermented extract of rye or corn, or fermented grape-juice, is heated, and the first products of the evaporation, which contain much alcohol, are collected in a cold vessel. Some water and some flavoring matters (varying with the fermented substance) come over with the alcohol, and influence not only the flavor but the intoxicating effect of various distilled liquors.
How does the craving for alcohol differ from the appetite for food ? What is the only remedy for the alcoholic appetite ? What is the name of common alcohol? What is fusel-oil? How do distilled differ from fermented liquors? How does distillation bring about a greater proportion of alcohol in the distilled liquid ?
Brandy, whiskey, gin, and rum all contain more alcohol than an equal bulk of simply fermented liquors, such as wine, beer, or ale; but all such liquors, whether merely fermented, or fermented and then distilled, contain alcohol, and should never be used as a food. They are poisonous beverages, and injurious to health. Distilled liquors contain more alcohol than fermented, and are therefore more mischievous.
Alcohol, or, in chemical phraseology, ethyl alcohol (C2H5, HO), is a clear liquid, lighter than water and very inflammable. It has a great avidity for water, and even when diluted, as in whiskeys or brandies or spirits of wine, will extract water from animal tissues and make them hard. To this fact, illustrated in every museum of natural history, is due part of the harm wrought by alcohol upon living human tissues.
To obtain pure ethyl alcohol is a difficult matter on account of its great tendency to take water from the atmosphere or any other water-containing solid, liquid, or gas. Pure ethyl alcohol is only to be found in chemical laboratones; diluted alcohol may be found in every bar-room. Pure or diluted, adulterated, or mixed with other alcohols such as fusel-oil, it is a poisonous substance, harmful to healthy persons. Its hurtful influence on the joints, muscles, heart, digestive organs, blood-vessels, and nervous system are indicated in other pages of this book; while its influence in weakening the will and character can hardly be exaggerated.
Why do distilled liquors vary in flavor? How do fermented drinks differ from distilled drinks ? What is the substance common to all of them ? What are its effects upon health?
Describe pure ethyl alcohol. How does it act on animal tissues even when diluted ? Why is it hard to obtain pure ethyl alcohol ? Where may impure ethyl alcohol be always obtained ? Name some organs which alcoholic drinks injure ?