Similarities and Differences Between Hard Liquors: Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey

Updated on January 18, 2020
beverley byer profile image

Beverley Byer has been writing professionally for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

Learn how these hard alcohols compare.
Learn how these hard alcohols compare. | Source

The Main Similarity: High ABV Content

The alcohol by volume (ABV) content of gin, rum, tequila, vodka, and whiskey (also spelled whisky) averages about 55 percent. They are all commonly referred to as hard alcohols, but their higher-than-average ABV suggests that a more apt name might be hard-core alcohols. But their high ABV is not the only thing they have in common.

More Similarities

  • They were all first used for medicinal purposes. Gin, for example, was used to treat kidney ailments, then scurvy, and later as a stimulant for the Dutch military.
  • The production process includes fermentation and distillation through continuous column or pot stills.
  • Some of their blends are aged in new or old wooden barrels/casks (tequila is also aged in stainless steel vats). The length of the aging period depends on the flavor, body, and color producers want to create.
  • They are infused with various herbs, fruits, and other botanicals to create new blends. For example, producers add coriander, lemongrass, ginger, rosemary, hot chili peppers, anise, chamomile, mint, cinnamon, cardamom, tamarind, citrus peels, berries, grapes, watermelon, peach, mango, almond, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, or honey. They use one botanical or combinations of them. Gin producers must include juniper berries regardless of what other botanical(s) they use.
  • Blends can be dry or sweet, light to full-bodied, and clear to various shades of brown.
  • Each of them was called many different names. Gin was called Hollands, genever or the Dutch jenever because of the juniper berries. Rum was saccharum, which is Latin for “sugar,” rhum in French, ron in Spanish, demon and kill-devil in the English Commonwealth, and rumbullion. Tequila was octli in Aztec, and pulque. Vodka was aqua vitae in Latin for “water for life,” voda in Russian for “water,” bread wine, burnt wine, bitter wine, and distilled wine. Whiskey was known as uisce breatha or uisage breatha in Gaelic for “water of life,” poteen, moonshine, and white lightning.
  • They each have various distinct classifications. Gin is classified as distilled or compound. It is also classified as London Dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, or Dutch. Rum can be grouped as light, dark, or flavored/spiced. It also grouped as Jamaican, French, Spanish, or Demerana. Tequila’s classification is mixto (mixed) or 100% agave. It is also classified as Blanco, Resposado, or Anejo. Vodka is grouped as neutral or flavored. And whiskey/whisky is classified as malt or grain, and also Irish, Scotch, American, or Canadian.
  • They are great for making cocktails. For example, gin is used in the classics Tom Collins, gimlet, and gin and tonic. Rum is used in the piña colada, daiquiri, mai-tai, and mojito. Tequila is found in the margarita, tequila sunrise, and diablo. Vodka is in cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, screwdriver, and White Russian. Whiskey/whisky is in the Manhattan, rusty nail, mint julep, and whiskey sour.

What Are the Differences?

  • With the exception of rum and tequila, gin, vodka, and whiskey/whisky are fermented from various grains. Gin is made from corn, wheat, barley, or rye. Vodka is made from barley, wheat, rye, corn, rice, or sorghum (some producers even use soy, potato, beets, or molasses). Whiskey/whisky is made from corn, rye, wheat, or barley. Rum comes primarily from molasses (the by-product once sugar has been extracted from sugar cane) but also sugar cane syrup, sugar cane juice, or beet sugar. Tequila is fermented from the blue agave plant.
  • Before fermentation and distillation, the grains of gin, vodka, and whiskey/whisky are crushed then combined with water and boiled, or steeped into hot water to make a mash. Sugar cane is crushed to extract the juice, which is then boiled to a concentrate, and turned into a thick liquid before the sugar and molasses are separated. Agave is baked then the juice or “pina” is extracted for fermentation.
  • These five hard-core liquors or spirits, as they are also called, originate from different parts of the world. Though gin is the national spirit of England, it originated in 17th-century Holland. The British military was responsible for introducing it.
  • Rum production began in Asia some 3,000 years ago because sugar cane is native to that region. It reached the Caribbean, today’s major producers, in the 15th century through Portuguese and Spanish explorers including Christopher Columbus, and 17th-century slave traders who used it to barter.
  • Tequila is a Mexican original. In fact, the spirit must be made in Mexico to be called tequila. The agave comes from the town of Jalisco. Native Aztecs were the first to ferment it. By law, tequila must contain 51% agave.
  • Vodka, Russia and Poland’s national drink, has three countries laying claim. Russia says it was discovered by Russian monks around 1100 AD. Poland says they made it in the Middle Ages. And Sweden says they invented it in the 15th century.
  • The origin of whiskey/whisky is contended by Ireland and Scotland. Notes found in a 1405 journal favor the Irish. Written evidence supporting Scotland’s claim was discovered in 1494.

Click thumbnail to view full-size


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • beverley byer profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverley Byer 

      6 years ago from United States of America

      Thank you so much! Appreciate your support!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      6 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Very interesting topic and informative as well. Shared in my FB page.

    • beverley byer profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverley Byer 

      7 years ago from United States of America

      Thanks! :)

    • tastiger04 profile image


      7 years ago

      Ok so if gin is good for kidney ailments, i guess i better drink more! For preventative purposes :) Good hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)