Discover the facts about pH and find out the pH levels of common drinks including tequila, vodka and gin.
Table of Contents
Why is pH important?
pH is important for health
pH levels of food and drink can impact our health. The most obvious factor is dental health. Low pH means higher acid which can damage tooth enamel. Tooth decay starts to occur when pH levels in the mouth fall below 5.5. Eating foods and drinking beverages with pH levels much below this level can damage teeth over time.
Knowing acidity levels is important for those focused on acid reflux or GERD issues. Those following an alkaline diet also want to be aware of the pH levels of their food and drink.
pH is important for making alcoholic beverages
pH is important for the production of alcoholic beverages including beer, wine and spirits such as tequila. During fermentation pH level must be managed to ensure the process goes as it should. Too high or two low a pH and you get a failed fermentation.
The final pH level is important for shelf stability, or preservation. For wine, too high a pH – much above 4.0, and the wine runs the risk of being spoiled due to microbial growth.
pH is important for taste
pH is also an important aspect for how things taste. All else being equal, more acid food and drink is more sour, with a sharper taste. In very sweet drinks, increasing the acidity can balance the flavor and vice versa. Consider coke, which has a pH about that of lemon juice, – the added sugar helps counteract the low pH for a tasty beverage.
What is pH?
The “basic” description
pH is a measure of how acidic or basic a solution is. It’s a scale that ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above 7 is basic or alkaline. The lower the number, the more acidic the solution is, and the higher the number, the more basic it is.
The pH scale is logarithmic, which means that each change in pH value by one unit represents a tenfold change in acidity or basicity. So, a solution with a pH of 2 is ten times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 3, and one hundred times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 4.
pH stands for “potential of hydrogen”. The pH of a solution is determined by the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH-) in the solution. pH is also known as pH = -log [H+].
Acids are substances that release hydrogen ions (H+) when they dissolve in water. The more hydrogen ions present in a solution, the more acidic the solution is, and the lower the pH value. For example, hydrochloric acid (HCl) is a strong acid that completely dissociates in water to form hydrogen ions and chloride ions (Cl-).
Bases are substances that release hydroxide ions (OH-) when they dissolve in water. The more hydroxide ions present in a solution, the more basic the solution is, and the higher the pH value. For example, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is a strong base that completely dissociates in water to form hydroxide ions and sodium ions (Na+).
When an acid and a base are mixed together, they undergo a chemical reaction called neutralization, which results in the formation of water and a salt. During this reaction, the hydrogen ions (H+) from the acid combine with the hydroxide ions (OH-) from the base to form water (H2O). The remaining ions combine to form a salt. As a result, the pH of the solution becomes neutral (pH 7).
pH of common drinks
|Lemon juice, lime juice||2.3||1|
|Coke – Classic||2.4||1|
|Ginger ale (Canada Dry)||2.8||1|
|Ice Tea (Arizona)||2.9||1|
|Coke – Diet||3.1||1|
|Whisky (Johnnie Walker Red Label)||3.8||2|
|Tomato juice (Campbell’s)||4||1|
|Coffee (Starbucks, Medium Roast)||5.1||1|
|Club soda (Canada Dry)||5.2||1|
|Water (bottled mineral water)||5-6||1|
|Water (from the tap)||7-7.2||1|
|Gin||4.3-7.4||6, 7, 8|
pH of Tequila
Tequila has a pH of between 3.6-5.3. This data is from a scientific study measuring pH values of 50 bottles of tequila bought from stores in Mexico. The average pH for tequila was 4.2 making it slightly acidic.
Interestingly there was not a notable difference in pH levels between unaged, blanco tequila and aged extra añejo tequilas. Each class had an average pH of between 4.1 and 4.3 with unaged tending to be slightly higher pH.
A second study evaluated the pH levels of blanco tequila as it aged in oak barrels. This showed the tequila with a pH of between 3.3 and 4.1. The tequila used here was not the finished product however, with an alcohol percentage of 48%. Most likely this would have been reduced down to 40% prior to bottling with distilled water which would have caused the pH to increase.
The second study showed that after an initial drop in pH, aging tequila increased pH levels. This study focused on the same batches of tequila, which may present a more accurate view.
Does aging spirits increase or reduce acidity?
Aging increases the pH of spirits over the first 12 to 36 weeks based on a study with tequila in new French oak barrels.
pH of Mezcal
Mezcal may have a higher pH, around 5.8, making it significantly less acidic than tequila. However this is based on only one observation. More samples would need to be taken to increase confidence.
pH of Vodka
A scientific study of nine different vodkas bought in Japan found a pH range of 7.1-8.1. Although a quick Google search would suggest that vodka can have a pH of as low as 4, there does not seem to be much evidence provided to support these claims.
Based on this study, vodka is neutral to slightly alkaline. Another way to say this is that vodka is slightly basic. Vodka is not acidic.
In particular this claim is being spread by FIX, a vodka brand promoting itself as “High Alkaline Vodka.” FIX claims its vodka has a pH of higher than 8 vs typical vodka which has a pH of 4. This claim seems at odds with the evidence.
The Japanese study included a wide variety of major brands from around the world. The brands in the study and place of production included Stolichnaya (Latvia), Finlandia (Finland), SKYY (Italy), Smirnoff (South Korea), Absolut (Sweden), Moskovskaya (Russia), Absolwent (Poland), Grey Goose (France) and Wilkinson (Japan). The vodkas were bought in Japan. All were 40% alcohol by volume. Individual pH values were not labeled in the study.
A second study backs this up, showing the pH of Absolut vodka measured at 7.0.
pH of Gin
Gin has a pH range of 4.3-7.7, with most popular brands being around 7.0 or more. 7.0 is neutral, so most gins are neutral pH to slightly basic.
Some brands and measured pH’s of Gin:
- Gordon’s, pH 6.9
- Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve, pH 5.1
- Ransom Old Tom, pH 4.3
- Bols Genever, pH 5.6
- Tanqueray 10, pH 7.2
- B24, pH 7.4
- Bombay Sapphire, pH 7.4
- Plymouth Gin, 7.4
- Unnamed commercial brand of gin from scientific study, pH 6.5
Is alcohol acidic or basic?
The pH of alcoholic beverages can vary widely, from strongly acidic to weakly alkaline. The most acidic types of alcohols tend to be sour beers, white wines, vermouth and some spirits like rye and bourbon which have pH levels around 3.0-3.5. The least acidic, or even alkaline alcohols tend to be vodkas and gins which commonly have pH levels of 7.0-8.0.
What alcohol is least acidic?
The least acidic alcohols are vodka and gin. Many are actually slightly basic, with ph levels of 7.0-8.0.
What is the pH of beer?
Most beer has a pH of around 4.0-4.5, making it weakly acidic. Sour beer has a lower pH, around 3.0-3.5 making it strongly acidic.
What is the pH of wine?
Most wine has a pH of between 3.0-4.0. Red wines tend to be slightly less acidic than white wines. Red wines tend to have a pH of between 3.3-4.0. White wines tend to have a pH between 3.0-3.3.
What is the pH of vodka?
Most vodkas have a pH between 7.1-8.1 making them slightly alkaline, or basic. Various myths appear to be circulating online that vodka has a pH of 4 but scientific evidence suggests this is false.
What is the pH of gin?
Most gins have a pH between 7.0-7.7 making them neutral to slightly alkaline, or basic. However this depends on the brand – some varieties have been tested as low as 4.3.
What is the pH of tequila?
Most tequilas have a pH between 4.1-4.4 making them weakly acidic.