Better Drinking Through Chemistry—Updated

Better Drinking Through Chemistry—Updated


I’ve got a couple of little bits here relating to chemistry and drinking. They aren’t big enough to warrant posts on their own (I’m not currently that starved for content), so I hope that by putting them together, they can make it to school by themselves.

My wife used to work as a scientific research journal editor for the American Chemical Society, where one of her journals was the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. she called it, “the fun journal”, because the papers submitted would often include things like a really good recipe for pie (not often found in pubs like Chemical Research in Toxicology, thank goodness).
red wine fish
The current issue of “Ag and Food” presents us with a scientific explanation of why we avoid pairing red wine with fish.

Why do we need a study for this?
We don’t drink red wine with fish because it tastes bad.
How much federal money was spent on this study?

Easy, Guy. It was a Japanese study. And the point was to discover what is the chemical reaction that makes red wine taste bad with fish, or vice versa. The abstract is here.
It turns out that iron and/or ferrous ions, which are prevalent in red wines, are what trigger the fishy aftertaste. This is both interesting and potentially useful information. First, it shows us that this aversion is not just a matter of taste; i.e. we don’t avoid Cabernet with fish just because those snooty French said so. Second, not all red wines have a lot of iron in them, so perhaps in the future, diners and chefs can find new ways to employ low-iron red wines with fish. In addition, I could envision more industrial wine makers chelating out the iron from their reds and marketing them as “Fish-Safe”. I have no idea how much the iron affects the basic taste of reds, so whether this last would work, I dunno. But it’s fun nonetheless.
(H/T: Asylum)

Speaking of fun with chemistry, behold the Rotgutonix!

It looks like a pregnancy test.
You and Mr. Walker have some news for us?

You are going to stick your oar in the whole way through this post, aren’t you?
This little device is in fact a tiny laboratory. The idea is to carry it with you out on the town, stick it in your drink, and determine whether or not the bar is pouring the actual brand of liquor the label indicates, or some other brand.
I used to think that bars watering the booze, or pouring cheap vodka into premium bottles, was an urban legend. But a year or so ago, one of my former favorite hangouts, located in a very high-end restaurant, was busted for exactly this kind of switcheroo. The restaurant got off scott-free, as far as I heard, but all the bartenders (who weren’t the ones profiting) got fired. It does happen, and the more poseur the clientele of a bar, the more likely I imagine it is.

So let me get this straight.
You like to hang out in bars that serve a poseur clientele….

Shut up. It makes for great people watching.


So the Rotgutonix is actually a pretty cool idea. But the devil is in the details, unfortunately. First off, it is hardly inconspicuous. I think pulling this puppy out and dipping it for twenty seconds in your fresh drink right in front of the bartender who served it to you might be a bit “in your face” for me. Second, it only recognizes specific brands of liquor (Johnny Walker Red, JB, DYC, Pampero, Brugal, and Havana Club). I don’t even know some of these, and if you are going to test the Striding Man, how about at least the Black Label? The plan is for this device to eventually (it is still in testing) test twenty brands, but that is still pretty limited. Third, and most important, the Rotgutonix only can test pure spirit, mixed with nothing but water or ice. Plop it in your Martini or Daiquiri, and you’ll get a rotgut reading, no matter what liquor was used.
Still, I think they are definitely on to something with this idea, they just need to enhance the product.
(H/T: Oh Gizmo!)

Lastly, we come to an actual commercial product that works along the same lines as the Rotgutonix, but designed to help address a much more serious problem. It’s a lip gloss.
2 Love My Lips

A lip gloss? The serious problem is chapped or dull-looking lips?
Who died and made you Tim Gunn?

Actually, it’s the accessory that comes with the lip gloss that I’m talking about. 2 Love My Lips Cosmetics also includes a little hand-held laboratory of sorts with its lip gloss. It’s a test device that checks for the presence of GHB or ketamine in a cocktail.
Right now, this date rape detector is only available in Great Britain, but it should find it’s way to the US and Australia soon. This product is a really good idea, and the general guidelines for safe clubbing and appropriate use of the tester to be found on the website are well-written and thought out. In fact, they are worth a read to the Cosmo guzzlers out there, even if you don’t want their product. The only thing I don’t understand is that you can only get the tester with the lip gloss. I would not be surprised to see little finger labs like this being marketed separately in the future.
I got this from Al Dente, which points out a few wrinkles that limit the full effectiveness of the tester. It doesn’t detect rohipnol. Further, certain fruit juices will throw off the results, as will some other stuff that shows up in bars. But to me the importance of having one of these around to use if things seem dodgy is simply this: It is an active, not a passive protection. The lady who has it in her purse will have it in the back of her mind. And that thought will lead to the situational awareness that is the best defense for women.
UPDATE: The Frisky has a link to a Daily Mail article surrounding the debate on how prevalent “date rape” drugs actually are. The Frisky has a really on point line I want to show, and take that as an opportunity to clarify what I said in the previous paragraph.

The problem with thinking roofies are more of a danger than they actually are is that it distracts women from far more prevalent dangers, like getting extremely wasted or walking home alone.

The Frisky blogger Amelia McDonell-Parry’s point, and the one I tried to make above, is that the real danger for many women is not so much roofies, as it is impaired judgment and/or control. I don’t know if I agree with her that the Daily Mail’s intent is to “victim blame” or not. While I am adamant that “date rape” is rape, and adding the modifier is in and of itself a means to exculpate the rapist to one extent or another, I do think that society has not just a right but a responsibility to hold young women at least somewhat responsibly for their own safety.
Anyway, the thing I liked about the guidelines from 2 Love My Lips is that they are almost entirely about personal responsibility and appropriate caution, and only a little bit about using the lab on a stick.


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