Some fermented foods and beverages were used by aboriginal groups, often in ceremonial contexts. (Culture and alcohol:
Distilled alcohol was introduced by early European traders along with a different tradition of alcohol consumption. (the effects of alcohol)

Fermentation is a gradual chemical change in which, in the case of alcohol, sugar or starch is broken down into ethanol and carbon dioxide.C6H12O6 = C2H5OH + 2CO2 (Gay-Lussac 1815)
In natural fermentation, the ethanol content is limited to a maximum of about 14%. Distillation separates out the ethanol so that it becomes more concentrated.
More information:

In everyday usage, when we say "alcohol," we mean ethanol. The ethanol found in beer, wine and spirits. Methanol is found in antifreeze, household cleaning solvents and other "non- edible" products. This type of alcohol is extremely poisonous and can cause sickness, blindness and death. The isopropyl alcohol used in rubbing alcohol is also dangerous.

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