Beers, wines and spirits bought in the UK usually have somewhere on their label a figure that says something like 13% Proof.

Proof is old measure of the strength of an alcoholic drink. It has its origins from the days when a test was needed to show that the drink did really contain a 'correct' measure or significant amount of alcohol. The test was applied as follows :

  • Some of the drink was poured over a little gunpowder.
  • The alcohol was ignited.
  • If the alcohol content of the drink was adequate, then it would burn with a steady blue flame...
  • leading eventually to the ignition of the gunpowder.

If the powder burned, then the drink was proved (hence proof of its alcohol content!)

This procedure was later replaced by a test using an instrument known as a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity. This was far more objective and allowed people to give a much better indication of the amount of alcohol in a given batch of beer or wine or spirit.

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