Chef's Guide to Alcohol for Cooking

Alcohol, specifically and importantly ethyl alcohol, has been incorporated into what we call "food" since the very beginning of time, across all cultures, continents, and civilizations.  Thanks to natural fermentation processes, alcohol found its way into our food, naturally if given enough time and the right conditions.  It wasn't until modern science that we fully understood how and why this "spirit" worked when consumed

Moving to the present, alcohol plays a role in key dishes of every culture, whether in sauces, marinades, seasonings, or as flavor enhancers in various forms. However, despite the distinct differences in taste between spirits like rum and tequila or aquavit and vodka, they all contain ethanol. This single molecule is responsible for the effects of spirits when used in cooking beyond their flavor profiles.

fast paced commercial kitchen cooking with food grade alcohol

Food Grade Alcohol, for Cooking

There are many types of alcohols, but when discussed in a food context or recipe, the word "alcohol" always means pure ethyl alcohol (ethanol). 

"Pure ethyl alcohol" is the same alcohol available at the beverage liquor store, as well as from reputable suppliers online offering "food grade ethanol" for sale.

200 Proof means 100% ABV.  190 Proof means 95% ABV.  If stated at 190 proof, the other 5% is always water.  Beverage alcohol at 80 proof (40% ABV) or lower may contain a non-negligible amount of sugar in place of water.

The percentage of water in solution can affect what the alcohol can do in terms of extraction, solubility, evaporation, and preservation properties.

Why is alcohol useful in cooking?

Alcohol is a powerful solvent, capable of dissolving and holding flavors or colors in solution until needed.  When heated in a pan or as part of a baked recipe, alcohol will cook away leaving behind any flavors that were dissolved into the alcohol.

pastry chef applying final touches on a cake with desserts in the foreground

Creative Applications for Food Grade Alcohol in the Kitchen

Homemade Flavor Extracts with Alcohol

Discover the amazing improvement to your next recipe when you make your own flavor extracts.  Making your own flavor extracts at home is quick and easy for results that will make your next recipe stand out from the crowd.  Use the links below to jump to popular homemade flavor extract recipes.

    Citrus Extracts with Alcohol - Quick and Easy

    Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits burst with incredible flavor, nutrition, and aroma, transforming into even more remarkable treasures when extracted with food grade ethanol. This quick and straightforward process unlocks the full potential of citrus fruits, and grasping their anatomy enhances the vibrant possibilities that food grade ethanol brings to your creations.  Read More About Mastering Citrus Extracts.


    citrus extract made with food grade alcohol in glass bottles with orange slices


    Citrus Extract Recipes

    Alcohol captures the essential oils of citrus at any temperature.  Citrus extracts made with 200 proof food grade alcohol are a true reflection and embodiment of the specific variety of citrus used.  Extracts let you add flavor in unexpected ways, preserve seasonal or hard to source varieties, and control the level of citrus flavor you add to your dish or recipe.

    lemons limes oranges and grapefruit in a pile on white

    All-Natural Food Coloring and Dye (From Real Ingredients!)

    Say "Good Bye" to artificial food coloring and dyes made from synthetic chemicals, petroleum by products, animal glands, insect parts, or who knows-what ingredients (to be honest).  Making your own all-natural food coloring and dye using real natural ingredients and some 200 proof food grade alcohol is the ticket. Every color of the rainbow is available, sourced from fresh natural ingredients if you look in the right places.

    red beets for natural red food coloring
    blueberries and blackberries for natural purple food coloring
    turmeric for natural yellow and orange food coloring
    about artificial food coloring and better natural alternatives made with natural ingredients, water, and food grade alcohol

    Working with Sugar and Food Grade Alcohol

    Bakers and confectioners often utilize food grade alcohol to help manipulate sugar in a variety of ways.  Sugar and ethanol can be combined and engineered to create decorations or sugar art.  Food grade ethanol is also used to thin edible paints or glazes, as a solvent for mixing luster dust or petal dust, and to clean tools and equipment when working with sugar. 

    Read More Here:

    pastry chef working on sugar work edible decorations 

    Working with Chocolate and Food Grade Alcohol

    Food grade alcohol serves multiple essential purposes when working with chocolate. Firstly, it improves the chocolate's consistency and workability, facilitating the creation of precise designs. Additionally, it helps prevent chocolate from seizing by evaporating quickly, thus avoiding unwanted moisture in the mixture. Moreover, when used in chocolate coatings and decorations, it thins the mixture for a smoother application and glossy finish, while also serving as a base for crafting flavorful chocolate extracts and vibrant edible paints.

    Read More Here:  Improve Your Chocolate Work with Culinary Solvent's 200 Proof Food Grade Alcohol

    chocolate chunks and melted chocolate for chocolate-work recipes and projects

    Surface and Tool Sanitization for Food Service

    Food grade ethanol is 1.) Safe, 2.) Natural, 3.) Proven as a sanitizer and disinfectant.  Dilute with water to the right ratio for proven effectiveness against grime, grease, germs, viruses, stains and more. 

    Additional Resources for Chefs

    Search our Alcohol for Chefs blog for more tips, techniques, recipes, and information on using, buying, and storing food grade alcohol for cooking.

    Journeying Through Culinary History: Unraveling the Traditions of Alcohol in the Kitchen

    Use the links below to explore more about the traditional use of alcohol in cooking across different cultures and eras in time.

    happy female baker holding fresh baked goods made with 200 proof food grade alcohol

    Why make your own all-natural food coloring?

    In today's era of science and technology, many choose to use a dropper of mysterious blue ink-like liquid to color their cupcake batter a Smurf-blue, thinking it's convenient. However, today's foods often contain artificial colors not only for festive reasons but also to appear "normal."

    Natural is better.  By exploring natural sources, we can discover real food-based colors that, when mixed with pure food-grade ethanol, create all-natural food colorings.  Now, it's never been easier to ditch artificial synthetic chemicals and still provide festive color to our baked goods and recipes.

    More resources about Artificial Food Coloring

      Classic dishes that count on food grade alcohol.

      Present across all cultures and through the ages, these dishes wouldn't exist without food grade alcohol.

      Read more

      Herbalist's Guide to Tinctures and Extracts.

      Fresh grown, wild foraged, or dry-stored herbs and alcohol go hand-in-hand. View more resources and recipes for making herbal tinctures and extracts using pure food grade alcohol.

      Food Grade Ethanol Guide

      How to buy Food Grade Alcohol from

      Click the "Buy" link in the top nav menu or view our step-by-step guide to buy pure food grade alcohol from Maine.

      Step-by-Step Guide
      Buy food grade ethanol here from

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      Step 1: Get Culinary Solvent


      Culinary Solvent and Everclear are both high-proof ethyl alcohols used for culinary applications and tincture making, yet they differ in branding and target markets. Culinary Solvent emphasizes its purity and suitability for food and beverage creation, offering organic options, while Everclear is a broadly marketed, high-proof alcohol available in varying strengths. The choice between them depends on specific needs, preferences, and local regulations regarding alcohol content. Everclear is a registered trademark of Luxco, Inc.

      These products are similar, but are not the same. Culinary Solvent is 100% Ethyl Alcohol where Pasteuriser 77 is 77% ethyl alcohol. Both products contain ethyl alcohol.

      Yes. Culinary Solvent is pure ethyl alcohol, contains no additives, and is safe for consumption.

      Yes! Culinary Solvent is pure ethyl alcohol, the same alcohol in vanilla extract from the supermarket spice aisle, just with less water. Add equal parts water to Culinary Solvent 200 Proof before making vanilla extract for optimum extraction potential!