015 Teetotalers No More (Part Two): A Post-Mo Guide to Alcohol Basics

This is so much more complicated than coffee

Here’s to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald


In part one of our series on navigating alcohol after Mormonism, three of our panelists discussed how Mormonism shaped their views on alcohol and what it was like to shed those narratives as they left the church behind. In this episode, Chloe sits down with Colleen from the Mormon Happy Hour podcast to discuss the basics of alcohol. They cover a wide range of topics including the basics of beer, wine, and liquors, as well as give some tips on how to experiment to find what you like, how to save some money on alcohol, and how to avoid the dreaded hangover.


  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is a standard measure that you can use to compare the amount of alcohol in different types of drinks: the higher the ABV, the more alcohol a drink contains. A standard serving of alcohol is one 12 oz serving of beer (approximately 5% ABV), one 5 oz pour of wine (approximately 12% ABV), or a 1.5 oz shot of distilled spirits (approximately 40% ABV).

  • Beer is made from the fermentation of different types of grains, most frequently barley. There are many different types of beers to try, and the flavor of each will depend on the type of grain used, additional ingredients added, and the fermentation process itself. Some common types of beers include: ales, lagers, stouts, porters, and hefeweizen.

  • Wine is the product of the fermentation of grapes and there is an enormous amount of variation in the wines you can try. Some key factors that determine what a wine will taste like, sometimes referred to as the 4 Vs, are: the varietal, or the type of grape used; the vineyard, or where the grapes were grown; the vintner, or the producer of the wine; and the vintage, or the year the grapes were harvested.

  • Wine can also be broken into the basic categories of white, rose, red, and sparkling wines.  Some of the basic characteristics of wine include its level of sweetness, acidity, tannin levels, alcohol content, and the overall body of the wine.

  • Liquors, or spirits, are distilled from fermented grains, fruits, or vegetables. They have the highest alcohol by volume, often 35% or higher. The six basic types include vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, brandy, and tequila. Liqueurs are sweetened spirits with various flavors or extracts added, such as schnapps, Kahlua, triple-sec, Baileys, and Amaretto, amongst many others. Liqueurs can have a lower ABV, but some have an alcohol content equivalent to standard spirits.


  • If you are interested in developing a taste for beers, go to a brewery and order a flight of beers. You’ll receive small samples of several different types, and you can use this to start narrowing in on what you prefer. Keep trying new varieties and take notes on what you’ve enjoyed.

  • Cooking with wine can be a good way to introduce yourself to the flavors wine imparts to a dish. When you’re ready to have a glass of wine, start with a sweet white wine like a Moscato. If you find Moscatos to be too sweet, a Riesling could be good option as well. If you’d like to try a red wine, find a sweet red as your starting point. Again, as with beer, try wine tastings, read descriptions, and take notes of what you like and don’t like.

  • The first rule when it comes to drinking liquor is to buy the best you can afford, whether at a bar or for home. You will want to aim for medium to top quality, or “top shelf”; avoid “bottom shelf” products, as low-quality spirits will make for a less-pleasant experience.

  • Cocktails are good entry point into liquors, since it will likely take some time for you to enjoy sipping a liquor straight up. Some of our panelists’ favorite starting cocktails have been Moscow mules, mojitos, lemon drop martinis, margaritas, and good-old rum and coke.

  • Hangovers can be due in part to dehydration, so to help prevent them, be sure to start drinking water before you drink alcohol, have a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you drink, space your drinks out, and limit the number you consume.

  • If you want to avoid the sticker shock of drinking in a bar or restaurant, host a get-together at your home and have folks bring different options to try out.

  • You may not like a drink the first time you try it, but give it another chance. Keep trying new drinks, new brands, and different mixers until you find things that you like. You never know, you may go from hating the taste of all wines to booking a trip to Napa for a wine-tasting tour.

  • When you’re unsure of what to order, ask bartenders for recommendations. Let them know what you’ve liked or disliked in the past and trust them to make something for you. Also, recommendations from friends can be a great way to find new drinks to try, and of course, you can do research on your own. Google will lead the way.

  • And, most importantly, safety first. Never get behind the wheel of a car if you have been drinking or get into a car with someone who has been drinking; call a rideshare service or a cab to get home, or make sure to choose a designated driver before anyone begins drinking.


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