One of mankind’s oldest beverages, alcohol has been used since antiquity by many cultures for a variety of purposes. Originally made from fermented fruits and grains, the process of making and distilling alcohol has been furthered refined throughout the centuries, providing us with countless choices for our shot. Alcohol was, still is, and will continue to be the recreational drink of choice for hundreds of millions of people everywhere.
What’s It Made Of
Alcohol, also called grain, ethyl or drinking alcohol, is a volatile and flammable liquid with a characteristic odor. It is usually made by fermenting the sugars present in grain with yeast, but other processes also exist.
Although some of their characteristics may be similar, ethyl alcohol has one major difference from isopropyl or rubbing alcohol—your liver will convert isopropyl alcohol into a toxin when consumed and kill you. On the other hand, ethyl alcohol, in moderate amounts, is safe to drink.
What It Does
Alcohol is more commonly associated with a range of recreational drinks. For the purposes of this article, the alcohol we refer to is “hard liquor”, which are characterized by their distilled properties and much higher alcohol content. Undistilled alcoholic beverages usually has an alcoholic content or ABV (alcohol by volume) rating of less than 15%, while distilled alcoholic beverages like vodka, rum or moonshine has an ABV rating starting at 35%.
Beyond getting us hammered, alcohol is a very versatile substance that can be used for cooking, cleaning and even as a weapon.
Here are some of its many uses:
- Fire Starter
Because of its high alcohol content, hard liquors are flammable. You’ve probably seen a cook in a kitchen or a TV show splashing alcohol on a dish and seeing a short burst of flame, or bartenders serving flaming cocktail.
To use as a fire starter, simply soak a small piece of cloth in alcohol and light it up with a match or lighter.
- Cough Medicine
In this old home remedy, it’s really the honey that does the work to relieve you of your cough, but a small amount of bourbon makes it better and will also give you a good night’s sleep. Simply juice half a lemon in 4 ounces of water, add a tablespoon of honey and 2 ounces of bourbon for your home-made cough medicine.
It’s important to clean and disinfect open wounds to keep them from getting infected. Alcohol happens to be a handy disinfectant. Use with caution however, because alcohol can also damage the healthy tissue surrounding a wound, but in the absence of cool running water and soap, this method will do.
Simply apply a small amount of alcohol over the wound (just enough to cover the affected area) then apply a bandage or gauze. Alcohol can also be used to disinfect items such as blades, knives or utensils. Just fill a small container with alcohol and completely submerge the item for a couple of minutes.
- Bug Repellant
Not everyone likes hard liquor, including insects. In a survival situation, this can be very important since bugs are among the harbingers of diseases.
Mix a small amount of lemongrass oil with vodka and spray the solution in the air to keep bugs out. You can also mix vodka with a some olive oil and apply it on your skin to keep mosquitoes and other bugs from biting you.
- First Aid for Poison Ivy
In a bind, you can dab alcohol on skin affected by poison ivy to dilute the oils and help keep the toxin from spreading.
It won’t provide complete relief, but it can help contain the rash for a while until you get access to better medication and sterilize the affected area.
- Treatment for Molds
Alcohol evaporates quickly and displaces water by taking some of the water molecules with it when it becomes a gas. Without moisture, it will be hard for mold to thrive, and this is where alcohol comes in. Simply apply some alcohol to the area to take out molds and mildew in your camp ground or equipment.
Bad odor is the least of your concerns in a survival situation, but is a good indicator of bacteria on your body. If this bugs you and all you have is a bottle of vodka, you can put some on a rag and apply it on your armpits as a substitute deodorizer.
You can also use it as a mouthwash to kill off some of the bacteria in your mouth and take the edge off of a tooth pain.
In extreme cases when you have to defend yourself or your property, a rag and a bottle of alcohol can be made into a Molotov cocktail or poor man’s grenade. It won’t be as effective as one made with gasoline or napalm, but can still create some damage and be a deterrent.
Should the situation devolve into a close-quarters melee, you can even turn the bottle into an improvised weapon by wrapping the bottle’s neck with cloth and smashing one end.
- As a Barter Item
Aside from food, medicine and tools, liquor can also be a prized commodity in certain situations. Because of its many uses, liquor is an item that will be sought after by other survivalists like you.
Unsurprisingly, its alcohol’s intoxicating quality that will be most useful in dire situations. It can provide a welcome respite from harsh conditions, a valuable respite worth trading for. This brings us to…
- For Your Personal Consumption
Let’s face it: when faced with an apocalyptic scenario, alcohol is one of the best things to have around. A shot or two of alcohol can help you relax, ease muscle tension and will let you sleep a little bit better.
Keeping alcohol may not be high on the survival list of some people, and if you’re one of them, we hope this list will help you reconsider. Even if you’re a teetotaler, alcohol can provide more uses other than its more well-known purpose.
And when s**t does hit the fan? It’s not a bad idea to have a bottle to get you through the night.