Any molecular difference between wine/vodka/whisky alcohol

My friend claims that there’s no difference between the type of alcohol molecule found in any given alcoholic beverage, be it whisky, wine, vodka, etc. I think different, as wine seems to warm me up, wheras vodka doesn’t.

Anybody got the skinny?

The alcohol molecules are the same, you are likely feeling the effects of something else in the drink. Ethanol is ethanol, so an ethanol molecule is the same from one drink to another. It’s the quantity and other differences that make it different.

Belt is absolutely correct, so your next step is to try to identify the variables that might be at work to help you explain your subjective distinctions. Consider first, however, that when you’re comparing wine and other spirits, e.g. vodka or whiskey, you are dealing with different percentages of alcohol. Wine is about 24 proof (12%) alcohol. Vodka is closer to 80 or 90 proof (40-45% alcohol). On the other hand, a “drink” of one provides about the equivalent amount of alcohol as the other, given the differing amounts of booze in the concoction. The other factors must be related to what the alky is mixed with - grape essense, hops, potato, various grains, etc. Finally, I’m thinking that the sensations you report may be more related to your beliefs and feelings about drinking one beverage or the other. It’s clearly not the alcohol. That’s the same from drink to drink. xo C.

The ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) itself is, of course, the same, but I’d like to add that various other chemicals are formed in the fermentation process. These chemicals are collectively known as congeners. Small quantities of heavier alcohols (propyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, and so forth) as well as methanol (a.k.a. methyl alcohol: lighter than ethanol and highly toxic) are formed in the fermentation process, for example.

Distilled spirits like whiskey, vodka, and essentially anything with more than around 15% alcohol tend to be freer of these chemicals, since the distillation process allows the makers to carefully control what ends up in the end product. That requires a certain expertise, however: methanol is responsible for the stereotype of moonshine causing blindness or death, since if the distillation is done wrong, it can be concentrated to toxic levels.

Of course, there’s all sorts of other chemical differences between different alcoholic beverages - hence the variation in color and flavor. Red wine is usually said to cause a much worse hangover than any other drink, possibly due to the greater presence of congeners; clear liquors, in contrast, are reputed to cause the least hangover.