Alcoholic beverages not only have different flavors and ingredients, but they also have different proofs. A beverage's proof is a way of gauging its potency and informing drinkers of the strength of the substance. Knowing a beverage's proof helps you control your alcohol intake and also gives you an idea as to which liquors will mix. Knowing the proof of an alcohol, whether it's 50, higher or lower, is a useful tool for responsible drinking.
A Simple System
An alcoholic beverage's proof is based on its alcohol by volume. Alcohol by volume, or ABV, refers to the percentage amount of ethanol or ethyl alcohol, which is the chemical name for alcohol, is in liquors or mixed drinks. Proof is measured directly from the ABV; a proof is twice the amount of alcohol contained in the beverage. Simply divide the proof in question by two to get the ABV or alcohol amount, so a proof of 50 divided by 2 has an alcoholic content or ABV of 25 percent.
Feats of Strength, Signs of Weakness
Although proof theoretically has a range from 0 to 200, most liquors fall between 30 to 120 proof. The most widely known highest proof liquor is a type of grain alcohol; it has a proof of 190, which is an ABV of 95 percent. A few other specialty liquors go a little higher, but never to 200 for that is 100 percent ethanol and highly dangerous. On the low end of the spectrum, some fruit-flavored and cream liqueurs have proofs that range from about 10 to 20.
Most liquors that are at or near 50 proof are liqueurs, which are sweetened and somewhat strong liquors. A few liqueurs that fall right on the 50 mark are some brands of creme de cacao, which is a form of chocolate liqueur, and Frigola, a thyme liqueur that originated in Ibiza. Liqueurs near the 50 proof mark include various coffee liqueurs ranging from 40 to 52 proof, melon liqueur, at 52 proof, and amaretto liqueurs at around 54 or 56 proof. Other 50 or near 50 proof alcohols include some flavored vodkas and sloe gin.
What's in Your Drink?
A liquor will keep its proof out of the bottle, but the effect it has changes depending on what you mix it with. Liquors become diluted by other ingredients in cocktails and shots, and their individual potencies will have less of a kick. A drink made with 50 proof liquor, or a liquor with an ABV of 25 percent, will not have the same ABV. A mixed drink's ABV takes into account all of the parts, so its ABV is typically lower. For example, mixing equal parts 50 proof liquor and water results in a mixed drink ABV of 12.5 percent -- half its original potency.
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