Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vera Lynn or Britney Spears

Alcohol has been around for a long long time. How it came about was probably down to some serendipitous mistake, but since it's discovery it has been many peoples' party-time necessity.

La fée verte is the French nickname for Absinthe and it is made using the leaves of Artemisia absinthium (grand wormwood), green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. In the eighteenth century Doctor Ordinaire first patented a drink using aniseed, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and copper sulphate, which is not very good for you, to make it even greener. He had a cousin, Henry-Louis Pernod, who along with Major Dubied and his son Marcellin, opened the first absinthe distillery, Dubied Père et Fils, in Couvet. Absinthe was banned by the French in 1914. Critics were vocal in their disapproval of the drink, one going as far to say:

Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganises and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country.
Rumour had it that Absinthe was an hallucinogen and caused you to go a little loopy. Absinthe is not a dangerous drink, except for the rather high alcohol content, and certainly does not cause hallucinations We now know that the active ingredient, thujoune, which supposedly causes the psychoactive trip, is only found in very trace amounts. Modern science has estimated that a person drinking absinthe would die from alcohol poisoning long before he or she were affected by the thujone.

Prohibition Drinks
If you ban something, people want it more. This is exactly what happened during Prohibition in America between January 16, 1920 and December 5, 1933. So if you can't buy booze the people of America were making their own home-brew. On Dec. 26, 1922 the New York Times reported that "five people were killed in the city on Christmas Day from drinking 'poisoned rum.'" In 1926, 750 New Yorkers perished from poisoning and hundreds of thousands more suffered irreversible injuries including blindness and paralysis. On New Year's Day 1927, 41 people died at New York's Bellevue Hospital from alcohol related poisonings. The cause of this was Methanol. Methanol is a distillation 
of wood pulp, and can destroy the optic nerves. “Blind drunk” was Prohibition-era slang for damage 
caused by drinking grain alcohol that had been cut with methanol by unscrupulous bootleggers.

Mix to Taste
Eben Freeman is a bartender in much the same way that Heston Blumenthal is a chef. One of his creations is his fruitcake brandy infusion. He allows the fruitcake to sit in the brandy for 36 hours. He also practices a process called "fat washing". Take melted fat mix it with alcohol, chill the mix­ture until the fat re-solidifies, then skim it off. Voila, your cocktail is ready.

Jerry Thomas wrote the first book of recipes for alcoholic beverages to be published in America in 1862 called "The Bar-Tender’s Guide (alternately titled How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion)". His signature drink was called the "Blue Blazer". The drink itself was nothing special, just a whisky punch, but the way it was mixed was special. Thomas would use two silver cups, heat the whisky and the water separately, the whisky was then set on fire and the two liquids were passed between the cups without the flames being put out. Thus creating a long arc of blue flame between the cups.

And Finally
In 1999, a Sydney hotel bar held a drinking competition called Feral Friday. The rules were you had 100 minutes to drink as much as possible. Scores were awarded on a sliding scale from 1 to 8 (beer to hard liquor). Mr Allan, the "winner" of the competition achieved a score of 236 from downing 34 beers, 4 bourbons, and 17 shots of tequila within 1 hour and 40 minutes. After a few calls on the porcelain telephone, Allan was taken back to his workplace to sleep off the effects. He never woke up. It is estimated his blood alcohol level would have been 0.41 to 0.43% 



  1. Quite interesting to read about all this.
    I hope for your own health you did not to much of self experimenting ...

    1. No alcohol was drunk in the making of this post...

    2. Well, diplomatically spoken...
      But what about the time preparing for making the post... or after successfully finishing it ...or ...?
      Anyway, cheers!