Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a solvent, and as a fuel. In common usage, it is often referred to simply as alcohol or spirits. Ethanol is a 2-carbon alcohol with the molecular formula CH3CH2OH. Its empirical formula is C2H6O. An alternative notation is CH3-CH2-OH, which indicates that the carbon of a methyl group (CH3-) is attached to the carbon of a methylene group (-CH2-), which is attached to the oxygen of a hydroxyl group (-OH). It is a constitutional isomer of dimethyl ether. Ethanol is often abbreviated as EtOH, using the common organic chemistry notation of representing the ethyl group (C2H5) with Et. Ethanol is the systematic name defined by the IUPAC nomenclature of organic chemistry for a molecule with two carbon atoms (prefix eth-), having a single bond between them (suffix -ane), and an attached -OH group (suffix -ol). The fermentation of sugar into ethanol is one of the earliest biotechnologies employed by humans. The intoxicating effects of ethanol consumption have been known since ancient times. Ethanol has been used by humans since prehistory as the intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic beverages. Dried residue on 9,000-year-old pottery found in China implies that Neolithic people consumed alcoholic beverages.
Contributions by Shimmin, AxelBoldt, and Jorge Stolfi.