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An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol, although in chemistry the definition of an alcohol includes many other compounds. Ethanol is a centrally-acting drug with a depressant effect, and many societies regulate or restrict its sale and consumption. Countries place various legal restrictions on the sale of alcoholic drinks to young people. The manufacture and consumption of alcohol is found to some degree in most cultures and societies around the world, from hunter-gatherer tribes to organized nation-states. The consumption of alcohol is often important at social events in such societies and may be an important aspect of a community's culture. Ethanol is only slightly toxic compared to other alcohols, but has significant psychoactive effects at sublethal doses. A significant blood alcohol content may be considered legal drunkenness as it reduces attention and decreases reaction time. Alcoholic beverages are addictive when consumed repeatedly or in high doses and the state of addiction to ethanol is known as alcoholism.
The alcohol most often used in cooking is fermented. This includes beer, wine, and mead. Alcoholic beverages are used in cooking to provide an additional layer of flavor and the alcohol is almost always completely evaporated leaving only the flavor of the drink itself. Wine is used the most often for cooking and is used extensively in Italian, Greek, French, and Spanish cuisine. Wine can give a subtle hint of flavor to a dish or completely alter its makeup. Inexpensive wines are used for cooking because the flavor difference between expensive and inexpensive wine is minimal as opposed to directly drinking it.
Beer is a more hearty alcohol and as such is used more often in meat based recipes. It is popular to use beer in German, Scandinavian, and Russian cuisine.
Distilled Alcohol is also often used in cooking but tends to be more often used in a dessert setting since the strong flavors will usually overpower other ingredients.