If you've ever wondered about booze bottles bearing those curious cask- or barrel- strength labels, then mystery revealed: It turns out that the liquor industry has quietly gone "extreme" in recent years. Special editions of whiskey, vodka, gin and other potent potables are now available in levels of 51 to 70 ABV (or 102 to 140 proof) – and a few far higher – compared with more typical 40 ABV/80 proof of garden variety distilled spirits. These high-strength brews not only pack an alcohol wallop, but many are extremely flavorful, and thus stand out better when used with mixed drinks than their more diluted siblings (yes, it's true, most spirits are cut with water). Since many are twice or more as strong as your typical tipple, they'll ring your bell though if you don't treat them with the proper respect. Pour poorly at your peril.
Everclear Grain Alcohol.
Quite possibly the most potent form of liquid ever intended for human consumption, Everclear is capable of literally taking your breath away, thanks to its incredible 95 percent alcohol content. To put that into perspective: Your typical beer has an ABV of 5 to 6 percent, so you'd have to down more than two cases of brew to get the same effect as a single bottle of this stuff (which by effect we mean what doctors usually call "death"). As its name suggests, Everclear is completely clear and, despite its strength has only a slight aroma, like the faint smell of rubbing alcohol. As far as the taste goes, it's almost irrelevant as Everclear is really intended for use in punches and mixed drinks, but for the record: extremely dry with a very powerful finish that burns a streak as it goes down the throat. Alcohol at this strength is deadly dangerous if consumed to excess – which for most would be even a single shot – which is why grain alcohol is banned by several states. But used sparingly it's an efficient way to give cocktails or punches some kick without adding to or altering their flavor. [$17; luxco.com]