A standby for college students around the country looking to jump-start campus shenanigans, Everclear has found itself in a unique position. Notorious for its 190-proof alcohol content, Everclear remains the controversial go-to brand for grain alcohol.
Part of Everclear’s allure may come from the fact that it’s a bit elusive. According to The New York Times, it’s currently illegal in 11 states. And while it remains a popular ingredient in the party punch Jungle Juice, the brand prefers an image that conveys itself as “a blank liquid canvas” for bartenders.
Keep reading to learn more about the infamous brand known as the “King of Grain Alcohol.”
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What Type of Alcohol is Everclear?
Contrary to what some may think, Everclear is not the name of a spirit category but rather a trademarked brand name (think: Kleenex or Band-Aid). The spirit itself is what’s known as a “grain alcohol” or “neutral spirit” — essentially grain (in this case corn, though potatoes or beets are also used) that has been repeatedly distilled to create a pure, clear, and unscented product.
Everclear’s Parent Company Hails From the Midwest
In 1958, Paul Lux and David Sherman Sr. founded the David Sherman Corporation in St. Louis and acquired the Everclear label in 1981 from the now-defunct American Distilling Company. In 2006, the company rebranded itself “Luxco” to honor its co-founder. Today, Luxco also sells two other grain alcohol brands known as Golden Grain and Crystal Clear, both possibly the same product as Everclear, but with different branding.
The Origin of Everclear Is Disputed
While some sources list 1950 as the date when the American Distilling Company registered Everclear’s trademark, there remains some ambiguity as to its exact origin. As VinePair details, two publications, one dating from 1922 and another from 1936, mention a product named Everclear — produced many years before the mid-20th century records.
It’s Not the First of Its Kind
Luxco touts Everclear as the “original” grain alcohol, but that honor actually goes to Graves Grain Alcohol, produced by Boston’s C.H. Graves & Sons. While mostly known across New England, the 190-proof grain alcohol was introduced in 1860 and can still be found today.
An American Band Is Named After the Brand
In a 2009 interview, Art Alexakis, the lead singer of American rock band Everclear, confirmed the band’s name was indeed inspired by the liquor, noting its harmless water-like appearance is deceitfully “pure white evil.”
Somehow, It’s Not the Strongest Spirit
While Everclear is certainly very potent, it is not the strongest liquor sold in the U.S. That title goes to the Polish-made Spirytus Rektyfikowany, a spirit that clocks in at 192-proof and comes with a flammable warning on its label. But some experts argue that 190-proof is the highest proof scientifically possible and that Spirytus simply rounds up.
It’s No One-Trick Pony
The ultra-high-proof spirit can be used in more than just blow-your-face-off drinks. It has been touted as a disinfectant, cleaner, and an air freshener. It can also be used to make perfume and deodorant, and bartenders swear by the alcohol as the perfect base in DIY bitters, vermouth, and cordials.
Despite Limited Marketing, It Remains the Category Leader
Everclear is in competition with several other producers of grain alcohol, but according to data from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, Everclear remains at the top, accounting for more than 80 percent of sales in the U.S. grain alcohol market.
The Brand Offers a Less Intense Version
Offered as the legal option in states that ban Everclear’s flagship, the brand’s 151-proof label is still plenty potent. As Mark Bitterman writes in “Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari,” Everclear 151 can also be used to make various homemade tinctures.
Everclear Had an Identity Crisis
Prior to 2018, Everclear’s labels broadcast warnings about its “extremely flammable” nature and hazard to one’s health if over-consumed. Seeking a new identity, the brand updated its packaging with a decidedly more modern and streamlined design that lacks its original illustration of a bright red husk of corn, while its new website is geared toward the craft cocktail crowd with a variety of drink recipes and DIY project ideas.
Is Everclear alcohol illegal anywhere?
Everclear is legal in many states, but not all. States that have banned the 190-proof grain alcohol include California, Hawaii, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington.