Initially liquors were made in the Middle Ages by physicists and alchemists as medicinal remedies, love potions and aphrodisiac cocktails. Often its high alcohol content was not detected and consequently its intake allowed to achieve unusual purposes.
The history of the production of liquors has happened in parallel to the development and advancement of the still, an essential element for obtaining any distillate and brought to the peninsula by the Arabs. Its variety is so wide that, probably, there is no corner of the planet where the inhabitants of the area do not manufacture a traditional liquor.
It is precisely this great variety of types that makes it difficult to define them. It was not until the end of the First World War that a consensus definition was achieved according to which liquors are "flavored hydroalcoholic beverages obtained by maceration, infusion or distillation of various natural plant substances, with flavored alcohols, or by addition to them of aromatic extracts or essences, or by the combination of both."
Historically, liquor has been a product whose quality depends on the low lime content of the water used for its elaboration, an appropriate second distillation and the subsequent addition of sugar, which must be rigorously taken care of.
As far as their classification is concerned, natural liqueurs are those whose components - fruits, berries, herbs, etc. - have been distilled together with the starting spirit. On the contrary, artificial liquors are obtained by a simple maceration of those products in alcohol (for a more or less prolonged time). In turn, in both categories we can talk about simple liquors, that is, those in which only one component enters alcohol and mixed liquors, those in whose elaboration several substances intervene.
There are very different versions about the origin of rum. Even so, it seems that Asia was the original continent of this distillate due to the existence of abundant sugar cane plantations. Initially valued for sugar, it was soon discovered that it had other possibilities: the thick brown liquid ("molasses") that remains once the sugar has been extracted could be fermented and distilled to produce this stimulating alcoholic beverage.
The Arabs were the first to distill sugar cane. They brought it to Spain so that, once the colonizing process began, it would be taken to the Americas by the Spanish colonizers. In 1493, Christopher Columbus also contributed to it.
Some Latin authors mention in their texts that the Persians already enjoyed the existence of a "cane with a juice far superior to honey, without the action of the bees being necessary for its achievement". For their part, the Egyptians of Pharaonic times also knew how to extract sugar from cane, although they only obtained a soft sugar.
The spread of rum in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was basically due to the men of the sea, on whom the image of the drunken buccaneer of rum was forged to celebrate their conquests and looting.
At the end of the nineteenth century, a collapse of sugar prices occurred so there was a need to look for new markets. From here originated the idea of producing a new rum, the rhum agricole of the French Antilles. In this case, the alcohol was not obtained from molasses, but by distillation of fermented cane juice.
The word "whiskey" owes its origin to "uisge beata", which in Gaelic means "the water of life". Over time, "uisge" was transformed into the English form "whisky".
The first record of this barley and rye distillate dates back to the Celts. This concoction was considered a gift from the Gods since it "revived" the dead in addition to warming during the cold winters.
Its origin is intimately related to the history of England and Ireland. It was a friar, Juan Cor, who first distilled whisky in Scotland at the end of the fifteenth century, achieving a production close to 1500 liters.
The art of distillation shifted from monasteries to the village, and it took a century for the first distillation licence in Ireland to be regulated and issued. From this moment its recognition spread very quickly making the leap to the United States in the mid-eighteenth century by the hand of English and Irish immigrants.
Its mass dissemination began as an antidote to grief, so that this "medicine" was consumed mostly at funerals, or by people who had lost a loved one. Over time, drinking and toasting became an act of joy and the toast became fashionable. The prized elixir was gaining popularity due to its reanimating properties and also thanks to its delicious taste and aroma.
In the first quarter of the twentieth century, wood (usually oak) began to be used as part of the elaboration process, a fact that meant an important improvement in terms of flavor. Undoubtedly, the distinctive feature of whisky is its aging in barrels and, therefore, the wood is responsible for its golden color, the toasted aroma and its bitter and dry taste.
Its birth and invention is attributed to the Dutch, specifically to a sixteenth-century anatomist doctor named Franciscus de la Boe. This doctor was the one who made an elixir from the distillation of an alcohol in which he had previously macerated juniper berries.
Gin is a distillate of cereals – mainly corn, rye and malted barley – perfumed with aromatic plants that is born for strictly medicinal purposes. In this sense, gin was a stomach tonic characterized by its diuretic properties.
It achieved great popularity thanks to the Dutch commercial expansion that occurred between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries since its ships made it known in numerous ports in Europe.
In the following centuries, its consumption spread throughout the world and ended up being highly appreciated in England, thanks to the role played by William III of Orange. This leader of Dutch origin ascended the British throne after the Glorious Revolution (1688) and boosted the consumption of gin to the detriment - through high tariffs - of French cognac and whiskey, both very precious so far.
As a result of overconsumption and poor quality of certain gins, taxes were introduced. Consequently, gin became more expensive and its quality increased, thus beginning a firm rise towards the upper classes. In England its consumption was popularized to the point that it began to manufacture its own variant that they called dry gin, considered one of the best spirits in the world.
The classic Gin-Tonic was created -in the nineteenth century- by the British who were sent to India to serve the Empire. At that time they took quinine extracted from the trees, mixed with water and flavorings, to avoid catching malaria. Later, they replaced water with tonic to make it more digestible. In addition, it was the ideal alcoholic combination to celebrate the successive victories of the British troops in India.