kottke.org posts about alcohol

Beating the whiskey shortageMay 20 2014

If distillers can't keep up with the current and growing worldwide demand for bourbon, we may have to turn to rum instead.

You can buy some old-ass rum, which, after being distilled from molasses or sugar cane, has sat around in barrels for long periods of time, for relatively small sums of money: El Dorado 15 is, as you might expect, made with a blend of rums that have sat in a barrel for at least fifteen years. Is it slightly sweet and rounded with a "full nose packed with dark coffee, candied orange, almonds, dark chocolate, pepper and rich vanilla." It is only thirty-six dollars. Barbancourt 15 is kind of soft and woody and fruity and other things you might say about a bourbon, but instead of corn it's like molasses. It's about forty bucks. Ron Zacapa 23, which is a blend of rums between six and twenty three years old, is probably the first rum that made a lot of people go, "Oh, rum isn't just that stuff that goes in a daiquiri or a mojito or that made me vomit pieces of my intestines into a urinal while I was wearing a silver crown." Here are some tasting notes for it: "Nose full or apricots, citrus fruits, vanilla, cocoa and bourbon."

How to drink all night without getting drunkApr 25 2014

Jim Koch is the co-founder and chairman of The Boston Beer Company, brewer of the Sam Adams beers. Part of his job is to drink professionally and he does so without getting completely sloshed. What's his secret? Eating a packet of dry yeast before tying one on.

You see, what [expert brewer] Owades knew was that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH is able to break alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus, your brain.

"And it will mitigate - not eliminate - but mitigate the effects of alcohol!" Koch told me.

Could have used this tip last night. Does this mean no hangovers as well?

Update: I got two kinds of feedback about this post:

1) What's the fun in drinking alcohol if you're not getting drunk? (Good point.)

2) Yeast doesn't really work. What does seem to work is Pepcid AC and Zantac. From Shenglong on Hacker News:

Again, I'm not a chemist or a doctor, but from my preliminary internet research and anecdotal testing (though I have quite a few different data points), Famotadine (OTC) [Pepcid], and higher levels of APO-Ranitidine (can be prescription) [Zantac] seems to slow the rate of ethanol -> acetaldehyde, balancing out the drunkness effect more, and giving you more time to process the acetaldehyde -> acetic acid. I typically go from maxing out at 2 drinks / 3 hour period, to about 11 drinks / 3 hour period on Ranitidine, given favorable conditions. I've had lower levels of success with Famotadine.

And it goes without saying, I don't recommend trying any of this at home. At the local bar on the other hand Nope, not there either. (thx, @natebirdman)

It's Pappy timeNov 21 2013

This year's allocation of Pappy Van Winkle's cult bourbon was recently released. There's never enough supply to meet demand, which means two things: lines rivaling iPhone release day queues and high resale prices.

Pappy Line

On Craigslist in NYC, bottles of Pappy are for sale for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. One seller is offering a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year for $1,250...that's right around $80 for each 1.5 oz pour (without any markup).

Pappy Prices

Luckily, there are some close-but-not-quite alternatives. As this article on the bourbon family tree notes, the W.L. Weller 12 Year contains the same whiskey as Pappy 15 Year, but aged three fewer years. It can be readily found online for around $26 a bottle. To bump it perhaps a little closer to actual, Bourbonr has concocted what they call Poor Man's Pappy:

Pick up a bottle of both W.L. Weller 12 (90 proof) and Old Weller Antique 107 (107 proof). They will cost around $20-$30 each. Start off with a 50:50 mixture of the two Bourbons. The easiest way to do this is with a digital scale. If you don't have a scale just add a tablespoon from both Bourbons to your glass. With a 50:50 ratio you have a 98.5 proof delicious Bourbon.

Next, try a different ratio. Try mixing 60:40 Antique to 12. The Bourbon blend is now 100.2 proof and much closer in taste to the 107 proof Pappy 15.

Anyone else tried this? Thoughts?

The bourbon family treeNov 15 2013

A chart of where many varieties of bourbon come from, along with five things you can learn from the chart.

Bourbon Chart

Pappy Van Winkle is frequently described by both educated and uneducated drinkers as the best bourbon on the market. It is certainly aged for longer than most premium bourbons, and has earned a near hysterical following of people scrambling to get one of the very few bottles that are released each year. Of the long-aged bourbons, it seems to be aged very gently year-to-year, and this recommends it enormously. But if you, like most people, can't find Pappy, try W. L. Weller. There's a 12 year old variety that retails for $23 around the corner. Pappy 15-year sells for $699-$1000 even though it's the exact same liquid as the Pappy (same mash bill, same spirit, same barrels); the only difference is it's aged 3 years less.

The chart is taken from the Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining.

Written by the founders of Kings County Distillery, New York City's first distillery since Prohibition, this spirited illustrated book explores America's age-old love affair with whiskey. It begins with chapters on whiskey's history and culture from 1640 to today, when the DIY trend and the classic cocktail craze have conspired to make it the next big thing. For those thirsty for practical information, the book next provides a detailed, easy-to-follow guide to safe home distilling, complete with a list of supplies, step-by-step instructions, and helpful pictures, anecdotes, and tips.

(via df)

The science of boozeOct 25 2013

Hmm, this looks interesting: an upcoming book on the science of booze written by Adam Rogers.

In Proof, Adam Rogers reveals alcohol as a miracle of science, going deep into the pleasures of making and drinking booze-and the effects of the latter. The people who make and sell alcohol may talk about history and tradition, but alcohol production is really powered by physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and a bit of metallurgy-and our taste for those products is a melding of psychology and neurobiology.

Proof takes readers from the whisky-making mecca of the Scottish Highlands to the oenology labs at UC Davis, from Kentucky bourbon country to the most sophisticated gene-sequencing labs in the world -- and to more than one bar -- bringing to life the motley characters and evolving science behind the latest developments in boozy technology.

Rogers wrote the piece about the mystery whiskey fungus I linked to a couple of years ago.

Whisky cures blindness in vodka-poisoned manDec 03 2012

Denis Duthie was recently struck blind by vodka reacting poorly to his diabetes medication. Doctors in his native New Zealand thought he might have formaldehyde poisoning, which you can get from drinking methanol. The cure? More cowbell, er, ethanol. Since the hospital didn't have enough medical ethanol for treatment, a nurse went to the liquor store for Johnnie Walker Black, which was then dripped directly into Duthie's stomach.

It worked because the ethanol competed with the methanol and prevented it from being metabolised into harmful formaldehyde, which can cause blindness.

"There are two potential ways of doing it: one is to give intravenous ethanol through a drip, but that is not available in all hospitals. There is also nothing wrong with supplying that alcohol via the gastro-intestinal tract, which is what they've chosen to do in this circumstance, and that's a well established treatment. If the patient's awake they can just drink it."

Science! No word on if Duthie had been eyeballing, butt-chugging, or using vodka tampons before going blind. (via @jamie_bear)

Drinking numbersAug 18 2011

Every year, Gallup surveys the drinking habits of Americans. If this is familiar, it's because I posted about the 2010 version of the study last year (and I'll probably post about it next August, too, if I'm here). The biggest notes this year are beer falling 5% to the drink of choice of only 36% of Americans. This puts it in a statistical tie with wine (35%) as America's favorite beverage. (Us rye drinkers are down at 23%.)

But also, more educated people spend more on alcohol, and praying reduces alcohol consumption. The more you know.

Gallup drinking surveyAug 03 2010

The percentage of Americans who drink is up a bit this year (67%) from last year, and is at its highest level since 1985. Another fact: Since 1992, beer has been the most popular alcohol (though down slightly this year) every year except 2005, when the most popular drink was wine. Dollars to doughnuts it was Sideways that caused that.

Shaking cocktailsNov 30 2009

Kazuo Uyeda demonstrates his hard shake:

From an article in the NY Times about cocktail shaking:

Mr. Uyeda, who owns a bar named Tender in the Ginza district, is the inventor of a much-debated shaking technique he calls the hard shake, a choreographed set of motions involving a ferocious snapping of the wrists while holding the shaker slanted and twisting it. According to his Web site, this imparts, among other things, greater chill and velvety bubbles that keep the harshness of the alcohol from contacting the tongue, while showering fine particles of ice across the drink's surface.

Drinking like Mad MenOct 15 2009

Some folks from the web magazine Double X wondered what it would be like to drink as much in the workplace as the characters do on Mad Men. So they spent the day getting hammered and tried to do some work. The results are somewhat different than on the show.

This short blog post by Sasha Frere-JonesMar 31 2008

This short blog post by Sasha Frere-Jones about rock show patron drink tipping practices is impossible to excerpt...lots of lovely little bits. Ok, twist my arm:

When Chromeo played, their crowd drank house vodka and Budweiser. Didn't tip. Some of them did what I'll call the slide-backs. They put a dollar down on the bar, wait until you turn your back, then palm their buck and walk away. Classy. When your night starts out with "What's your cheapest drink?" that's also not good."

Whiskey enthusiast, reacting to 2400 bottles of antiqueNov 15 2007

Whiskey enthusiast, reacting to 2400 bottles of antique Jack Daniel's possibly being poured down the drain because of unlicensed sales: "Punish the person, not the whiskey."

A surprisingly non-exhaustive list of martini drinksSep 25 2007

Vanilla-tini (vanilla vodka)
Espresso-tini (coffee liqueur + espresso)
Key Lime-tini (key lime)
Valen-tini (tequila rose)
Pome-tini (pomegranate)
Raspberry-tini (raspberry)
Nutty-tini (amaretto + hazelnut liqueur)
Crescendo-tini (at the orchestra)
Moe-tini (at Moe's Restaurant)
Franklin-tini (for Ben Franklin's 300th birthday)
Tut-tini (King Tut exhibition)
Mex-tini (orange vodka + tequila)
Ginger-tini (grapefruit + ginger + pomegranate)
Spa-tini (at the spa)
Blue Glow-tini (with glowing ice cubes)
Free-tini (no charge)
Champagne-tini (champagne)
Pineapple-tini (pineapple)
Sex-tini (Asian sex tonic + x-rated vodka)
Flu-tini (vodka + cold medicine)
Apple-tini (apple)
Red Lobster Butter-Tini (butterscotch schnapps + half and half + Bailey's)
Bikini-tini (low calorie)
Fire-tini (jalapenos)
K-tini (sauerkraut)
Caramel Apple Pie-tini (applesauce + caramel syrup)
Red Hot Santa-tini (chili peppers + whipped cream)
Fall-tini (apple cider)
Insomnia-tini (energy drink)
Jello-tini (lime Jello)
Peep-tini (Peeps candy)
Diamond-tini (1.06 carat diamond)

Time to lower the drinking age? "TheApr 23 2007

Time to lower the drinking age? "The age at highest risk for an alcohol-related auto fatality is 21, followed by 22 and 23, an indication that delaying first exposure to alcohol until young adults are away from home may not be the best way to introduce them to drink."

Park Smith is no ordinary wine collector...Feb 14 2007

Park Smith is no ordinary wine collector...he's got 65,000 bottles in a cellar measuring 8,000 square feet.

Is it worth paying $700 for a bottleJan 30 2007

Is it worth paying $700 for a bottle of wine? Well worth it, says Slate's wine columnist, for the right bottle. "My father took a sniff of his glass, and he immediately registered a look of shock that called to mind the expression on Michael Spinks' face when Mike Tyson first landed a glove on him in their 1988 title fight. Unlike Spinks, however, my father managed to remain upright. I took a sip of the wine and quickly pronounced the same verdict I had rendered 20 months earlier: 'Holy shit.'"

Tremble funnyman Todd Levin dons the Non-Expert'sJan 19 2007

Tremble funnyman Todd Levin dons the Non-Expert's hat over at The Morning News to explain how to buy wine. "FANCY SERIF FONT + PARCHMENT LABEL + SOMETHING YOU KIND OF REMEMBERED FROM THE MOVIE SIDEWAYS + $12-$16 PRICE TAG = SUCCESS"

Top 100 wines of 2006 according to Wine Spectator. (via lists 2006)Dec 28 2006

Top 100 wines of 2006 according to Wine Spectator. (via lists 2006)

Frozen beer tricksNov 30 2006

I learned something terrific yesterday: if you take a really cold but still liquid beer out of the freezer and open it, the beer will freeze within seconds. The freezing trick also works if instead of opening the beer, you give the unopened bottle a sharp rap. The reasons I've found online for why the trick works varies slightly for the two cases. According to Daryl Taylor's site for science teachers, opening the bottle changes the pressure in the bottle and thus lowers the temperature:

The sealed bottle's envoronment has a specific volume, pressure, and temperature. By changing one, you are necessarily affecting the others. The chilled liquid has a smaller temperature, esentially the same volume, thus a smaller smaler pressure. This is, of cousre, according to the basic gas-law, PVNERT. Better known as PV=nRT. Even though the internal pressure has decreased, it is still far greater than the pressure outside the container, namely one atmosphere. Upon opening, the pressure inside drastically plunges as it tries to equalize with the atmosphere. This rapid decrease in P corresponds to a rapid decrease in T, since the V is essentially the same. This rapid drop in temperature of a liquid that is NEAR freezing actually plunges the liquid into a frozen state.

Not sure I completely buy this...does the ideal gas law work for liquids? I can see that the small amount of gas in the neck of the bottle would decrease in pressure and thus decrease in temperature and that might be enough to spur the liquid into freezing. For a better answer for both cases, I consulted the internet's all-seeing oracle, Ask Metafilter. This comment gives a succinct answer:

The beer is below the freezing temperature, but there is not enough contamination for the ice to form. The bubbles of carbon dioxide released when the bottle is hit act as nuclei for ice crystal growth in the supercooled beer. Same thing happens in reverse when water is microwaved in a smooth container but won't boil until hit.

This more scientific discussion of unfreezable water provides more evidence of what may be going on: supercooling effects, the carbon dioxide in solution hindering freezing (osmotic depression of freezing point), and hydration factors. Anyway, wicked cool! Supercooled beer!

Update: If you require visual proof, check out these two videos of beer freezing after it's been opened. Here's a video with water...so fast! (via digg)

Scientists in the UK have quantified theDec 06 2005

Scientists in the UK have quantified the beer goggle effect. (via cd)

Winerd (wine + nerd, get it?) is aOct 14 2005

Winerd (wine + nerd, get it?) is a board game that involves wine tasting and looks like a cross between Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Asshole.

Interview with Sidney Frank, the guy whoSep 22 2005

Interview with Sidney Frank, the guy who brought Jagermeister to the US in a big way and sold his Grey Goose vodka brand to Bacardi for more than $2 billion.

Steven Shapin reviews Tom Standage's A HistoryJul 28 2005

Steven Shapin reviews Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses, a "social life of beverages". Standage is one of my favorite technology/culture writers; he wrote about the telegraph in The Victorian Internet.

Steve makes prison wine out of moldyJul 08 2005

Steve makes prison wine out of moldy bread, ketchup, grape juice, raisins, garbage bags, and tube socks. "It's hard to believe this started out as a bag of fruit snacks and grape juice. Yet somehow these ingredients went from sweet and child-like to harsh and alcoholic quicker than Lindsay Lohan."

In defense of drinking expensive wineJun 21 2005

In defense of drinking expensive wine.

This review of Per Se mentions their non-alcoholic wine pairingsJun 13 2005

This review of Per Se mentions their non-alcoholic wine pairings. "With each course, we were given a beverage - ranging from grape juice to steamed milk - which complimented the tastes in the dish. Libby's 'Red Rice and Beans' was completed by a lime margarita. My foie gras with a gossamer grape juice that was finer than most wines."

A guide for the un-initated to buyingJun 09 2005

A guide for the un-initated to buying Guinness in an Irish pub.

Tags related to alcohol:
food beverages wine books beer science video how to

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