The term “spirits” can refer to a lot of things: the stuff you’re not supposed to lose during hard times. Something cheerleaders are professionally obsessed with. The beings you negotiate with after you’ve accidentally moved into a haunted house. And, oh yes, bottles of power-packing alcohol. But what are alcoholic spirits, exactly? Basically they’re the biggest, brawniest older brother of the alcohol family. All alcoholic beverages are made by fermenting some form of sugary brew into ethanol and CO2. Because yeast can only ferment so much before alcohol levels become toxic to them, we have to distill (or physically separate out the water) to get higher alcohol concentrations. And that’s why “spirits” are differentiated in two ways: they’re distilled, and they have higher average ABVs, from around 20% to as high as 80 or 90% ABV (most spirits fall somewhere much closer to the middle).