Grain Alcohol is pure alcohol that has been made from fermented grains.
In North America, it is often made from corn, but it doesn’t really matter what grain is used, as none of the grain’s characteristics are going to come through in the finished product.
Grain Alcohol is a clear liquid, with no colour, no smell, and no taste. It has a very harsh, burning aftertaste, that makes most people cough.
It is usually produced in a continuous still method, as that’s the cheapest way to produce it. Distillation alone, however, can only produce alcohol up to 96% pure. Even if you could make 100 proof alcohol through distillation, it’s very hard to keep it at that level. Chemically, alcohol attracts water only to the point at which it reaches an equilibrium. This is around 96%. To get 100% pure alcohol, benzene has to be added, and then distilled again. In spite of this extra distillation some benzene will remain so it’s not safe for consumption. When Grain Alcohol is 95% pure, it is 190 proof.
The chemical formula is C2H5OH.
Grain Alcohol differs from vodka in that vodka is more diluted, and charcoal filtered.
It’s not usually used in mixed drinks of any quality, though college students will often mix it with fruit drinks to make a cheap punch, particularly in garbage-can size quantities. The fruit punch is chosen because its sweet taste helps mask the burning aftertaste, making it easy to drink a few glasses quickly. But two glasses of something so high in alcohol are enough to end the party before it’s even started for most people.
Grain Alcohol is commonly used in making other alcohols, such as liqueurs, and is the base for some cheaper whiskies, particularly in Canada.
Rubbing alcohol is made from Grain Alcohol, but it’s altered first, making it poisonous to drink, thus ensuring that its value as an alcohol for consumption has been destroyed.
It can be used as a disinfectant, but you don’t need full-strength: a solution of 3 parts Grain Alcohol to 1 part water will do it.
Any liquid mixture that contains 50% or more Grain Alcohol will be flammable.
Grain Alcohol will boil at 172 F (78 C.)
Brands of Grain Alcohol in the States include Everclear, and Century.
Consumption of Grain Alcohol can cause unconsciousness and alcohol poisoning.
A 0.5% blood level is fatal.
Called “Alcool” in Québec.