How Much Sugar In Alcohol
People often make different assumptions about alcohol and sugar, in fact about alcohol generally.
Like alcohol itself is full of sugar not alcohol drinks and alcohol free drinks’ have no sugar.
It is often good to take a step back and think about what alcohol actually is and how it relates to sugar. It goes back to fruit juice being hailed as the great alternative to alcohol.
Actually lots of sugar can do us enormous harm and you only have to look at the rates of diabetes to work that out.
But then alcohol also affect our health in so many ways.
So ideally the more we know about both alcohol and sugar the better as it means we can be realistic about both about alcohol and alcohol free drink alternatives.
So how is alcohol made anyway?
You would be surprised how many people think alcohol is sugar itself and that alcohol free drinks’ have no sugar in them. So I can drink as much of alcohol free drink as I want as they are diet drinks.
It really is worth getting some facts about alcohol itself and how it’s made.
Think of alcohol as a product of something else. Other ingredients make it and its not something you would just pick up off a shelf.
Its not grown on trees! But it can be fermented from fruit!
Of course, we just refer to alcoholic drinks’ as alcohol so the message gets very confused.
So as with anything let’s get back to basics.
Think of sugar as a natural product which is grown in many islands including the canaries and the Caribbean. Many of these countries are proud of their sugar production and so they should be.
It of course what we do with sugar afterward that matters.
If you imagine sugar as a natural product but it is suddenly set alight with a match. It changes form and becomes something else.
We can call that “match” yeast for example, and yes the same ingredient is used to make the lovely bread you have in the morning!
Fermentation and Alcohol
Fermentation is again a world you will need to get used to if you want to understand how much sugar there is in alcohol.
Once the fermentation process begins in the brewery or winery process what we call carbohydrates, starch and sugars create carbon dioxide or CO2 and what is know as “ethyl alcohol”.
Ethyl alcohol is in beers, wines, rums, whiskey it is in fact all alcoholic drinks’.
It is the substance that makes us lively, sad, dehydrated and has the potential to make us very ill.
People often shout me down for this but alcohol is a poison and whereas the body can handle so much after a while it will go into toxic shock which is when alcohol poisoning can happen.
And yes it all starts with something you think would be harmless so “sugar and yeast.” combined in a process.
Crazy when you think that one chemical process can do all that.
Here is the mistake that people make. They think alcohol is made from sugar then it stays as sugar and of course it is not as simple as that.
Different alcoholic drinks have different amounts of sugar in them. These are very different things as you can have alcohol and sugar in the same bottle of wine for example.
Of course in fermentation not all the sugar is converted into alcohol which is why the ABV figures are so important.
ABV is alcohol by volume and as a none drinker knowing that figure is key.
Alcohol free options is the future if you want alternative choices to alcohol drinks per se.
I still need to keep an eye on how much sugar is in a drink and the same goes for full on alcohol drinks’ as well if that is your preferred option.
The thing is that you won’t see recipes only the ingredients on alcohol based drinks’ or alcohol free ones for that matter.
But drink labels are a great place to start.
The ABV and the Carbohydrate figures are key if you are cross-checking alcohol, sugar and calories.
All of them will be listed.
Beer is made with grains, barley and wheat are some of the most popular. And of course the usual dose of hops. Actually whiskey comes from the same ingredient.
Did you know that?
If you heat beer until the water goes it becomes gas and then cools into full on alcohol which is in fact whiskey!
I use that example as it’s a good indication as to what alcohol is and how it is made!
Alcohol is made from sugar not the other way around.
Wine is a different beast and is made almost exclusively from grapes. Again the fruit is fermented just like cider would be in that sense creating wine.
Wines can be sweet or dry and will depend on how much sugar is turned into alcohol. If you have ever tasted a dessert wine you will know what I mean.
It was one of the issues with the early alcohol free wine in that they just tasted like grape juice.
So yes full of sugar with no alcohol and no wine taste at all.
This was before the process of dealcoholization started.
Which gets the flavor of the wine but with none of the alcohol. So yes you had less sugar and no alcohol.
Depending on the brand of course.
With Spirits, you are talking about all sorts of ingredients being chucked into the mix.
Sugarcane syrup, molasses, fruits and vegetables, across a range of alcohol drinks’ including rum to gin! It what gives them their flavor.
It’s not always the sugar that give you the calories
People often want to cut back on alcohol because it’s the sugar that has the calories but alcohol is tremendously high in its calorific content.
Why when you go alcohol free yes there is sugar but there is also fewer calories because you are taking the alcohol out of the mix.
Less alcohol all things being equal means the fewer calories and an inch on your hips as they say.
Many food experts call alcohol “useless calories” and I get why!
They don’t actually have any nutrients in them that could assist with your diet needs really. ‘Empty calories’ with no nutritional value or benefit.
So not only are you drinking so-called empty calories you are also drinking lots of sugar from the alcohol based drinks’ not the alcohol itself.
You need to separate the two out and maybe keep a drinks’ diary. This can really help increase your awareness. I am a big fan.
Some thoughts on how much alcohol in sugar
Zero is the answer if you are just talking about alcohol however pure alcohol is hardly ever drunk but you come close to it with vodka.
Alcohol is produced by a mixture of starch, natural sugar and of course the catalyst is the yeast that is added.
It will vary per alcohol drink depending on how much sugar is left in after the production process and also on the drink and taste.
It’s the reason looking at the alcohol label is key.
Alcohol has useless calories and just one gram of it can have up to seven calories. So if you separate out the sugar from the alcohol then you get a really true picture of what you are drinking.
You are getting calories not just from the sugar but the alcohol as well.
Full fat mixer will add to the calories but generally the higher the alcohol content the less the sugar. So gin and vodka come to mind.
Alcohol free gin is a great alternative. If you see a light Fever Tree tonic water and use with an excellent alcohol free brand gin or spirit then you can also have zero calories and no sugar.
That’s a win win and a good example of how no alcohol and no sugar combined can make a massive difference.
It might be a good alternative as just one bottle of wine could be as much 560 calories and up to 23 grams of sugar.
Some alcohol free wine can cut your calories intake and you can read about them here.
It worth remembering alcohol comes from sugar not the other way around and more alcohol and sugar can affect how our body works including affect our blood sugar levels.
So while going alcohol free in terms of drinks’ it can help but of course it is not the whole picture but could make a massive difference. Just still watch your sugar intake!
It is also worth saying that if we are coming over 3,000 calories a day our weight could really start to increase dramatically. Sugar can also make us sluggish and even more so with alcohol !
If you look up the latest advice from The World Health Organization it talks about you and me not consuming more than 50 grams of sugar in any one day.
Do check on your alcohol limit and visit drink aware
Something to bear in mind when you check the labels of both alcohol and alcohol free drinks on sugar and alcohol content.
I would love to know your thoughts on how much sugar in alcohol. Leave a comment below and I will also get back to you. And do let me know if you try the alcohol free gin!