Difference Between Alcohols and Spirit

Alcohols vs Spirit

There are proofs to say that alcohol beverages are running back to a very long time. When there was no scientific knowledge, people were using fermentation process to make alcohol beverages.


The characteristic of the alcohol family is the presence of a –OH functional group (hydroxyl group). Normally, this –OH group is attached to a sp3 hybridized carbon. The simplest member of the family is methyl alcohol, which is also known as methanol. Alcohols can be classified into three groups as primary, secondary and tertiary. This classification is based on the degree of substitution of carbon to which the hydroxyl group is directly attached. If the carbon has only one other carbon attached to it, the carbon is said to be a primary carbon, and the alcohol is a primary alcohol. If the carbon with the hydroxyl group is attached to two other carbons, then that is a secondary alcohol and so on. Alcohols are named with a suffix –ol according to the IUPAC nomenclature. First, the longest continuous carbon chain to which the hydroxyl group is directly attached should be selected. Then the name of the corresponding alkane is changed by dropping the final e and adding the suffix ol.

Alcohols have a higher boiling point than the corresponding hydrocarbons or ethers. The reason is the presence of intermolecular interaction between alcohol molecules through hydrogen bonding. If the R group is small, alcohols are miscible with water. However, as the R group is becoming larger, it tends to be hydrophobic. Alcohols are polar. The C-O bond and O-H bonds contribute to the polarity of the molecule. Polarization of the O-H bond makes the hydrogen partially positive and explains the acidity of alcohols. Alcohols are weak acids, and the acidity is close to that of water. –OH is a poor leaving group, because OH- is a strong base. But, protonation of the alcohol converts the poor leaving group –OH into a good leaving group (H2O). The carbon, which is directly attached to the –OH group, is partially positive; therefore, it is susceptible to nucleophilic attack. Further, the electron pairs on the oxygen atom make it both basic and nucleophilic.


Spirit is the alcohol beverage which is produced by the distillation of alcohol. It mainly consists of ethanol and is a very strong beverage. Primarily the sugar containing materials like fruits, grain, vegetables, sugar cane are allowed to ferment by anaerobic bacteria like yeast.  In the fermentation process, sugars are converted to ethanol. This content is then distilled. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water; therefore, it evaporates and the collected vapor is condensed back to get concentrated spirit. Spirits are measured according to its alcohol content compared to the volume. Brandy, rum, vodka, and whiskey are some examples for spirit beverages.


What is the difference between Alcohol and Spirit?

• Spirit mainly contains ethanol, which is an alcohol. The strength of the spirit is measured by the amount of alcohol they contain.

• Although commonly beverages are known as alcohols, all the alcohols are not consumable. Spirits are the group of consumable beverages.

• Alcohol can be made from fermentation, but the spirit is made from distillation.