Later On

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Archive for the ‘Drinks’ Category

Alcohol Use Linked To Over 740,000 Cancer Cases Last Year, New Study Says

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For some reason — God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform — my online reading this morning keeps presenting me with various health risks due to lifestyle habits (smoking, poor diet, and now alcohol consumption). Susan Brink reports at NPR:

The link between smoking and cancer is well-documented and widely known. But alcohol?

“Fewer than one in three Americans recognize alcohol as a cause of cancer,” says Harriet Rumgay, researcher at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization. “That’s similar in other high-income countries, and it’s probably even lower in other parts of the world.”

A new study shows just how much of a risk drinking can be. At least 4% of the world’s newly diagnosed cases of esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver and breast cancers in 2020, or 741,300 people, can be attributed to drinking alcohol, according to a study in the July 13 edition of Lancet Oncology. Men accounted for three-quarters of alcohol-related cancers. Of the 172,600 alcohol-related cancer cas

It’s the first time, Rumgay says, that research has quantified the risks of different levels of drinking. “Our study highlights the contribution of even relatively low levels of alcohol to the risk of new cancer cases,” says Rumgay.

What’s the connection?

There are a few biological pathways that lead from alcohol consumption to a cancer diagnosis, according to the study. Ethanol, the form of alcohol present in beer, wine and liquor, breaks down to form a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and interferes with cells’ ability to repair the damage.

Alcohol can also increase levels of hormones, including estrogen. Hormones signal cells to grow and divide. With more cell division, there are more opportunities for cancer to develop. Alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to absorb certain cancer-protective nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D, E and folate.

What’s more, the combination of drinking and smoking might indirectly increase the risk of cancer, with alcohol acting as a kind of solvent for the carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco.

The more a person drinks, the greater the likelihood of biological damage.

To come up with their statistical estimate, researchers crunched three sets of data: estimated global alcohol consumption estimates, specific cancer risks from alcohol, and estimates of the global incidence of those cancers in 2020.

They found that . . .

Continue reading.

See also: Our World in Data on alcohol consumption and these NPR recipes for alcohol-free mocktails.

Written by Leisureguy

18 July 2021 at 9:26 am

New use for shaving brush

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2021 at 2:18 pm

“It’s a catch-all for everything”

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Alcohol is sneaky. That is something my step-father, a recovering alcoholic, once told me, a phrase that came to mind as I read a NY Times article by Mara Altman:

In the four years since she stopped drinking alcohol, Emily Lynn Paulson has reflected a lot on how central alcohol was to her life.

Quite often, she said, she would drink while taking care of her five children or she’d wake up groggy or unable to recall conversations. But then she’d scroll through Instagram and see a friendly face holding up a mug emblazoned, “Rosé All Day.”

It was so normalized: There never seemed to be an occasion when drinking wasn’t billed as the appropriate response. “If you’re stressed, have a drink; if you’re nervous, have a drink; if you want fun, have a drink; if you’re grieving, have a drink,” Ms. Paulson said. “It’s a catch-all for everything.”

“It made me think, Gosh, this must be OK — everyone around me is doing the same thing.”

Ms. Paulson, who last year founded Sober Mom Squad, an online support network for mothers who have stopped or want to curb their drinking, pins this normalization on the alcohol industry which, for years, has targeted women with its advertising, and made people far less likely to question their intake. Less than half of the population is even aware that alcohol is a carcinogen. It can also lead to other health effects including such as liver disease and heart disease — are very real,— especially for women.

The inspiration for alcohol’s marketing approach with women came from the tobacco industry, which wooed women by tapping into their desire for equality. In 1929, a time when it was taboo for women to smoke in public, marketers hired women to smoke their “torches of freedom” while protesting inequality in an Easter Sunday parade. By the 1960s, Virginia Slims started its influential campaign, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

In ads, women were pictured, impeccably dressed and oozing self confidence, cigarette in hand. These liberated women were contrasted by images of their sepia-toned forebears who had to sneak cigarettes and risked being punished by their husbands for taking a drag.

Smoking became symbolic. It wasn’t just an accessory or a habit, “it was sold as empowerment,” said David Jernigan, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and the former director for the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Alcohol ads have gone the same way by aligning the product with female liberation and sophistication. “We have a repeat of Virginia Slims,” Dr. Jernigan said.

Alcohol companies began expanding their range of products, Dr. Jernigan explained. The push began with wine coolers in the 1980s and continued in the 1990s when alcopops — sweet and fruity alcoholic beverages — came onto the market. The term, which was born from combining the words alcohol and soda pop, applies to drinks like Zima, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Though the companies never announced it outright, Dr. Jernigan said the products were positioned for entry level drinkers and people who didn’t like the taste of alcohol. “Read: young women,” he said. “We called them beer with training wheels.” A 2012 paper in the American Journal of Public Health notes the preference of alcopops over beer among high-school girls.

The industry held on to those female consumers, Dr. Jernigan said, by evolving with them as they became mothers. “And now we have MommyJuice,” he explained, referring to a wine brand, but which is also a popular term for the alcohol that moms keep in their insulated cups. “We have Mommy’s Little Helper.” (The latter term was first used to refer to the tranquilizers prescribed to women in the mid-20th century to deal with the challenges of motherhood.)

To alcohol companies, Dr. Jernigan said, women are a market.

The trend toward female-focused advertising is not surprising given the rise in women’s socioeconomic status, says Linda Tuncay Zayer, a professor of marketing at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. Advertisements linking alcohol with sophistication, elegance and sociability have become commonplace. “It’s positioned as a way to pamper, escape and relax,” Dr. Zayer said.

Recently, Dr. Zayer noticed Anheuser-Busch using themes of female empowerment by tapping Halsey for its “Be A King” campaign. There’s also Kate Hudson’s new vodka brand, King St., that Dr. Zayer said uses a mix of the feminine aesthetic, star power and female entrepreneurship to sell its brand.

During the pandemic, she said, alcohol was thrust into the limelight as the silver bullet for emotional management. As stress increased, so did the wine memes. “It’s supposed to be funny, but it can really make light of excessive drinking,” Dr. Zayer said. “The wine-guzzling mom has become an acceptable form of self-care.”

The rush to court this market has spurred a number of products and trends, says Carol Emslie, the leader of the Substance Use research group within the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. She sees “pink, fluffy and sparkly” packaging, ads promoting wellness — most notably “low-calorie items” — and products positioned for any and all occasions. “Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day,” Ms. Emslie said, “it’s piggybacking onto everything, even International Women’s Day.”

The push for female consumers can even be seen in countries where women haven’t traditionally been part of a drinking culture. For the past few years, Bailey’s has held a Mother’s Day campaign in Nigeria, urging women to share the drink with their mothers. “Here, the love of your mother gets tied up with drinking together,” Ms. Emslie said, “and this, in a place where women haven’t historically drunk.”

Part of the issue is that for many women, the reason for drinking alcohol goes deeper than having a buzz, Ms. Emslie explained. They define themselves by what they drink and how they drink it. Through extensive research, Ms. Emslie found that women in their 30s and 40s often use alcohol as a “time out,” a demarcation point between work and home life as well as a way to transport themselves to a time before career pressures and household responsibilities. “They drink to bring back that sense of carefree youth, frivolity, fun and spontaneity,” she said, “to show their identity beyond what is associated with being a woman in midlife.”

“The alcohol industry is really super aware of this,” she said, noting that it is hyper-focused on messages that speak to those desires.

Lisa Hawkins, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council, said in an email that it was reasonable and appropriate for spirits companies to develop and market products that appealed to their consumers’ tastes, preferences and lifestyle choices. “To suggest that women should be shielded from advertisements about legal products available in the marketplace because they are incapable of seeing an ad and behaving responsibly is patronizing and antiquated,” she wrote.

She added, “We encourage all adults who consume alcohol — men and women — to drink in moderation and follow the advice of the federal dietary guidelines.”

Dr. Zayer, however, said research had shown over and over that we underestimated the influence of advertising in our lives. “Not just women — it’s everyone,” she said. “Companies wouldn’t be spending all this money on it if it didn’t work.”

These days, it’s not only big companies that bombard women with advertisements. Holly Whitaker, the author of “Quit Like a Woman,” argues in her book that women themselves are the marketers now.

“We are marketing to one another,” she said in an interview. “When we post a picture of ourselves enjoying a Friday night in a bathtub with a glass of champagne, we are selling the idea that we have to use alcohol to enjoy ourselves.”

Ms. Whitaker points to cultural touchstones like Ina Garten mixing cocktails with the nonchalance of baking muffins and “Bad Moms,” the movie that works under the premise that moms, after all they do for everyone, deserve to get hammered. It’s not even about asking women to quit, she said, and more about “stepping back and asking why we have all decided to view a glass of ethanol as a reward?”

It is important to consider, given that the health effects on women are harsher than for men. Women metabolize and absorb alcohol differently, which leads to the onset of alcohol-related problems including, but not limited to, liver damage, heart disease and brain damage sooner and from smaller amounts of booze.

Although women still drink less than men, the gap has been narrowing. From 1999 to 2017, alcohol-related deaths among women jumped by 85 percent while alcohol use disorder — the inability to control drinking despite adverse consequences — rose by nearly 84 percent between 2002 and 2013. Liver disease is also rising among young women.

Despite the serious health tolls, experts say it is difficult to communicate the dangers of drinking to women, who have had a long, fraught history of fighting for bodily autonomy. A C.D.C. campaign introduced in 2016 to discourage drinking among women of childbearing age had swift and extreme backlash. “It was absolutely hostile: ‘How dare you tell us what to do with our bodies!’” Dr. Jernigan recalled, referring to many women’s response to the recommendation at the time.

What is even more troubling, says Thomas Babor, a professor of community medicine and public health at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, is that just like Big Tobacco, the alcohol industry has been far from transparent with its consumers, often going to lengths to obfuscate the truth about its health effects. Researchers writing in The Lancet posited there is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume while other researchers have found that alcohol is responsible for at least 15 percent of breast cancer cases. And yet, Dr. Babor said, alcohol companies are known for practices like “pinkwashing” where they decorate their products in pink to convince consumers that they can help fight breast cancer by buying their goods.

“They are trying to appear as if they support breast cancer research,” he said, “when in fact, they are encouraging women to drink at levels that actually contribute to breast cancer.”

The industry also continues to promote the idea that moderate drinking is good for our health, which, Dr. Babor says, it justifies by using old studies that are deeply flawed. “You don’t have to be an alcoholic,” he said — “risk for some 200 health conditions increases with each dose of alcohol you take.”

To turn the tide, Ms. Emslie, the alcohol researcher, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2021 at 2:35 pm

Tofino Rose Hibiscus Gin

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I’ve discussed before the florescence of small distilleries crafting excellent spirits in BC. The nice thing about small distilleries is that they can be experimental and try things that large commercial distilleries will not risk.

Take Tofino Distillery, for example, located halfway up the west shore of Vancouver Island. I just saw their Rose Hibiscus Gin, and of course I had to try it. (And Sheringham Distillery, also local, offers Seaside Gin (with winged kelp among the botanicals), Kazuki Gin (which includes cherry blossoms and green tea), Rhubarb Gin Liqueur, Seaside Lemon Gin Liqueur, and Coffee Liqueur.)

I haven’t scratched the surface. Two excellent spirits that are exported to the US from local distillers: Empress 1908 Gin from Victoria Distillers and Bearface Whisky. The color of Empress 1908 comes from butterfly pea blossoms included in the botanicals. Bearface Triple Oak Whisky is a single-grain whisky made from corn — well, 99.5% corn and 0.5% malted barley — and aged consecutively in barrels made respectively of American Oak, French Oak, and Hungarian Oak.

Unruly Gin by Wayward Distillery is made from honey (that is, it’s distilled from mead — their motto is “We are fundamentally against the grain”), Wallflower Gin from The Odd Society is made from 100% BC-grown barley, and another I saw today, whose name I don’t recall, is made from 100% rye.

Update: I think Rose Hibiscus Gin works best in a highball: club soda (à la Tom Collins) or tonic (à la Gin & Tonic). I tried it as a Martini, and it conflicted with the vermouth.

Update: The Eldest has an excellent suggestion: a Gin Rickey.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2021 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Hot day, so a good serving of pink power juice

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I’m having one of these: a peeled lemon, frozen cranberries, erythritrol, and hibiscus tea, blended into a slushie. (Recipe at the link.)

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2021 at 12:38 pm

Clarified Milk Punch — and other milk-clarified drinks

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Doesn’t this look worth a try?

And that’s just for starters. Read Paul Adams’s article in SevenFftyDaily:

At the New York City restaurant Quality Meats, Bryan Schneider, the bar director of the Quality Branded group’s restaurants in New York, Miami Beach, and Denver, serves a cocktail of one part rye whiskey and two parts Angostura bitters. It sounds potentially undrinkable, but it goes down smooth. The secret? Milk washing, or milk clarification, a technique with centuries of history that’s currently enjoying a fresh burst of popularity and finding its way into cocktail recipes around the world.

Working in 10-liter batches, Schneider mixes 20 parts Angostura with 1 part lemon juice, then stirs that deep maroon liquid into an equal amount of fresh cold milk. After a minute of stirring, the mixture, now tomato red, starts to form clumps as the milk curdles from the lemon’s acidity. Schneider lets the liquid sit overnight, then strains it through cheesecloth. What comes through is a perfectly clear amber liquid that could pass for whiskey but smells intoxicatingly spicy and floral and that tastes familiar yet different—bitters without the bitter.

It works because milk contains proteins that bind to certain molecules associated with bitter and astringent tastes—polyphenols, in particular—and when the milk curds are filtered out of the spirit, those bound-up molecules are filtered out too. Oak tannins in aged spirits are another popular target for milk washing, as are the tannins that naturally occur in tea. The phenomenon of polyphenols being bound by milk proteins was established in the 1960s by researchers in the tea industry.

Packing a Punch

Milk clarification has been around for centuries in the form of milk punch; the technique was used to strip the edges from rougher spirits. In his book Punch, David Wondrich reprints Mary Rockett’s recipe from 1711: “To make Milk Punch. Infuse the rinds of 8 Lemons in a Gallon of Brandy 48 hours, then add 5 Quarts of Water and 2 pounds of Loaf Sugar, then Squize [sic] the Juices of all the lemons; to these Ingredients add 2 Quarts of new milk Scald hot, stirring the whole till it crudles [sic]; grate in 2 Nutmegs, let the whole infuse 1 Hour, then refine through a flannel Bag.”  

While it might not be quite mainstream yet, milk punch has enjoyed a resurgence lately. It established an early foothold at Eleven Madison Park in New York City, where one version or another has been on the menu for years. That’s where Eamon Rockey, the director of beverage studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, first came across it in the mid-2000s. He now sells his own Rockey’s Milk Punch by the bottle. It’s made, he says, from “pineapple, apple, green tea, black tea, lemon, and neutral grain spirit—a classic punch.”

Another effect of milk washing is the way it transforms the texture of a spirit. The milk proteins that curdle and are filtered out aren’t the only type of milk proteins present: Casein forms the curds, but, Schneider says, whey proteins that are dissolved in the liquid stay behind after filtering. They give the resulting drink a silken mouthfeel, and in shaken drinks, they produce a voluminous and lasting froth on top.

At Dante in Greenwich Village, Liana Oster, the head bartender, keeps novel milk punches on the seasonally changing menu. “The first one I made was a roasted banana milk punch, with chai tea as the base,” she says. “We used a rich Jamaican rum and Rhum J.M VSOP and maple syrup. We clarified it with goat’s milk, which gave it a little tang at the end. I think it’s one of the best drinks I’ve ever made.”

In her current rotation is a refreshing milk punch with peach, chamomile tea, Strega liqueur “for its herbaceousness,” says Oster, rhum agricole, and Scotch. “The milk transforms the Scotch—it takes away the kick in the face. And it adds that amazing silky smoothness.” Oster has experimented with . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. LBJ used to drink a mix of milk and scotch on the rocks.

Written by Leisureguy

8 June 2021 at 1:16 pm

America Has a Drinking Problem

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I have gradually come to recognize that alcohol undermines constancy of purpose. A recovering alcoholic warned me when I was still in college, “Alcohol is sneaky.” He meant that you can think things are going well, but if alcohol is part of one’s daily diet, I would say that person is at serious risk. In recent years my consumption of alcohol has been minimal. I am not a teetotaler, but I drink very little and most weeks not at all.

Kate Julian writes in the Atlantic:

Few things are more American than drinking heavily. But worrying about how heavily other Americans are drinking is one of them.

The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock because, the crew feared, the Pilgrims were going through the beer too quickly. The ship had been headed for the mouth of the Hudson River, until its sailors (who, like most Europeans of that time, preferred beer to water) panicked at the possibility of running out before they got home, and threatened mutiny. And so the Pilgrims were kicked ashore, short of their intended destination and beerless. William Bradford complained bitterly about the latter in his diary that winter, which is really saying something when you consider what trouble the group was in. (Barely half would survive until spring.) Before long, they were not only making their own beer but also importing wine and liquor. Still, within a couple of generations, Puritans like Cotton Mather were warning that a “flood of RUM” could “overwhelm all good Order among us.”

George Washington first won elected office, in 1758, by getting voters soused. (He is said to have given them 144 gallons of alcohol, enough to win him 307 votes and a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses.) During the Revolutionary War, he used the same tactic to keep troops happy, and he later became one of the country’s leading whiskey distillers. But he nonetheless took to moralizing when it came to other people’s drinking, which in 1789 he called “the ruin of half the workmen in this Country.

Hypocritical though he was, Washington had a point. The new country was on a bender, and its drinking would only increase in the years that followed. By 1830, the average American adult was consuming about three times the amount we drink today. An obsession with alcohol’s harms understandably followed, starting the country on the long road to Prohibition.

[Hypocrisy is a serious accusation that should not be lightly made. If an automobile manufacturer — or a typical driver — made a statement opposing speeding or reckless driving, I would not see that as hypocrisy. For a brewer or distiller to state that drinking excessively is bad does not seem hypocritical to me, any more than a restaurateur or grocer stating that gluttony is bad. It seems to me that the author did not think through that accusation. – LG  Postscript: It occurs to me that perhaps people nowadays do not understand how bad hypocrisy is. Perhaps the term has weakened through being used too frequently and/or inappropriately. But hypocrisy is a serious failing indeed, and a hypocrite weakens the social fabric though a basic dishonesty.]

What’s distinctly American about this story is not alcohol’s prominent place in our history (that’s true of many societies), but the zeal with which we’ve swung between extremes. Americans tend to drink in more dysfunctional ways than people in other societies, only to become judgmental about nearly any drinking at all. Again and again, an era of overindulgence begets an era of renunciation: Binge, abstain. Binge, abstain.

Right now we are lurching into another of our periodic crises over drinking, and both tendencies are on display at once. Since the turn of the millennium, alcohol consumption has risen steadily, in a reversal of its long decline throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Before the pandemic, some aspects of this shift seemed sort of fun, as long as you didn’t think about them too hard. In the 20th century, you might have been able to buy wine at the supermarket, but you couldn’t drink it in the supermarket. Now some grocery stores have wine bars, beer on tap, signs inviting you to “shop ’n’ sip,” and carts with cup holders.

Actual bars have decreased in number, but drinking is acceptable in all sorts of other places it didn’t used to be: Salons and boutiques dole out cheap cava in plastic cups. Movie theaters serve alcohol, Starbucks serves alcohol, zoos serve alcohol. Moms carry coffee mugs that say things like this might be wine, though for discreet day-drinking, the better move may be one of the new hard seltzers, a watered-down malt liquor dressed up—for precisely this purpose—as a natural soda.

Even before COVID-19 arrived on our shores, the consequences of all this were catching up with us. From 1999 to 2017, the number of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. doubled, to more than 70,000 a year—making alcohol one of the leading drivers of the decline in American life expectancy. These numbers are likely to get worse: During the pandemic, frequency of drinking rose, as did sales of hard liquor. By this February, nearly a quarter of Americans said they’d drunk more over the past year as a means of coping with stress.

Explaining these trends is hard; they defy so many recent expectations. Not long ago, Millennials were touted as the driest generation—they didn’t drink much as teenagers, they were “sober curious,” they were so admirably focused on being well—and yet here they are day-drinking White Claw and dying of cirrhosis at record rates. Nor does any of this appear to be an inevitable response to 21st-century life: Other countries with deeply entrenched drinking problems, among them Britain and Russia, have seen alcohol use drop in recent years.

Media coverage, meanwhile, has swung from cheerfully overselling the (now disputed) health benefits of wine to screeching that no amount of alcohol is safe, ever; it might give you cancer and it will certainly make you die before your time. But even those who are listening appear to be responding in erratic and contradictory ways. Some of my own friends—mostly 30- or 40-something women, a group with a particularly sharp uptick in drinking—regularly declare that they’re taking an extended break from drinking, only to fall off the wagon immediately. One went from extolling the benefits of Dry January in one breath to telling me a funny story about hangover-cure IV bags in the next. A number of us share the same (wonderful) doctor, and after our annual physicals, we compare notes about the ever nudgier questions she asks about alcohol. “Maybe save wine for the weekend?” she suggests with a cheer so forced she might as well be saying, “Maybe you don’t need to drive nails into your skull every day?”

What most of us want to know, coming out of the pandemic, is this: Am I drinking too much? And: How much are other people drinking? And: Is alcohol actually that bad?

The answer to all these questions turns, to a surprising extent, not only on how much you drink, but on how and where and with whom you do it. But before we get to that, we need to consider a more basic question, one we rarely stop to ask: Why do we drink in the first place? By we, I mean Americans in 2021, but I also mean human beings for the past several millennia.

Let’s get this out of the way: Part of the answer is “Because it is fun.” Drinking releases endorphins, the natural opiates that are also triggered by, among other things, eating and sex. Another part of the answer is “Because we can.” Natural selection has endowed humans with the ability to drink most other mammals under the table. Many species have enzymes that break alcohol down and allow the body to excrete it, avoiding death by poisoning. But about 10 million years ago, a genetic mutation left our ancestors with a souped-up enzyme that increased alcohol metabolism 40-fold.

This mutation occurred around the time that a major climate disruption transformed the landscape of eastern Africa, eventually leading to widespread extinction. In the intervening scramble for food, the leading theory goes, our predecessors resorted to eating fermented fruit off the rain-forest floor. Those animals that liked the smell and taste of alcohol, and were good at metabolizing it, were rewarded with calories. In the evolutionary hunger games, the drunk apes beat the sober ones.

But even presuming that this story of natural selection is right, it doesn’t explain why, 10 million years later, I like wine so much. “It should puzzle us more than it does,” Edward Slingerland writes in his wide-ranging and provocative new book, Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, “that one of the greatest foci of human ingenuity and concentrated effort over the past millennia has been the problem of how to get drunk.” The damage done by alcohol is profound: impaired cognition and motor skills, belligerence, injury, and vulnerability to all sorts of predation in the short run; damaged livers and brains, dysfunction, addiction, and early death as years of heavy drinking pile up. As the importance of alcohol as a caloric stopgap diminished, why didn’t evolution eventually lead us away from drinking—say, by favoring genotypes associated with hating alcohol’s taste? That it didn’t suggests that alcohol’s harms were, over the long haul, outweighed by some serious advantages.

Versions of this idea have recently bubbled up at academic conferences and in scholarly journals and anthologies (largely to the credit of the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar). Drunk helpfully synthesizes the literature, then underlines its most radical implication: Humans aren’t merely built to get buzzed—getting buzzed helped humans build civilization. Slingerland is not unmindful of alcohol’s dark side, and his exploration of when and why its harms outweigh its benefits will unsettle some American drinkers. Still, he describes the book as “a holistic defense of alcohol.” And he announces, early on, that “it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then.”

Slingerland is a professor at the University of British Columbia who, for most of his career, has specialized in ancient Chinese religion and philosophy. In a conversation this spring, I remarked that it seemed odd that he had just devoted several years of his life to a subject so far outside his wheelhouse. He replied that alcohol isn’t quite the departure from his specialty that it might seem; as he has recently come to see things, intoxication and religion are parallel puzzles, interesting for very similar reasons. As far back as his graduate work at Stanford in the 1990s, he’d found it bizarre that across all cultures and time periods, humans went to such extraordinary (and frequently painful and expensive) lengths to please invisible beings.

In 2012, Slingerland and several scholars in other fields won a big grant to study religion from an evolutionary perspective. In the years since, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2021 at 12:29 pm

Drunk as a Lord: The Regency Bottle Men

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The blog Georgian and Victorian Britain has an interesting post (which includes several images, including the one above) that begins:

All the decent people in Lichfield got drunk every night and were not the worse thought of.

                                                                   Samuel Johnson

Sir Murrough O’Brien, Marquess of Thomond, was riding through Grosvenor Square one February morning in 1808 when his fell from his horse, smashed his head on the pavement, was run over by a cart and died the same day. He was not a fashionable member of the bon ton, but was important enough to have an obituary.  What could be said about him? He was a six bottle man, said the newspapers- a celebrated six bottle man. Alcohol did not cut short his life however; he was 82.

What was a six bottle man? You may well be guessing that they were people, who drank six bottles of alcohol a day, and on one level you are correct, but there is a lot of ambiguity in that statement. What would have been in the bottle? The answer is best expressed in the negative; not beer or gin (‘Hollands’), as they were drinks of the poor, but possibly port, sherry, brandy or wine – claret or hock.

The six bottle men – and they were men – were the top of the tree, and there was no such thing as a seven or one bottle man. Indeed there was no such thing as a two bottle man, as they would have represented below average consumption for a gentlemen’s convivial evening. The Duke of Queensbury was a two bottle man, said the Morning Advertiser in 1810. He had just died and Lord Yarmouth inherited his wine cellar, most of which, the newspaper implied had not been used up and therefore Yarmouth was a lucky man.  The entry level was the three bottle man- that is three bottles in one sitting- but there were thousands and thousands of these.

William Pitt and Charles James Fox had little in common, but one habit they shared was addressing the House of Commons under the influence of alcohol; mostly port once again. Pitt picked up the port habit in  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2021 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, History

So: Soju

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Readers know that I’ve been watching various Korean series (Crash Landing on You, complete in 16 episodes; The Uncanny Counters ditto; both on Netflix), and as a result I’ve become increasingly curious about soju, a distilled spirit of relatively low proof — about 40 proof, or 20% alcohol (compare, say, a typical gin at 86 proof, 43% alcohol).

Soju is a neutral spirit distilled initially from fermented rice, but the leading brand now uses a mix of rice, barley, and tapioca. That leading brand is Jinro and their Classic Chamisul Soju has been their flagship product since 1924, and I just got a small bottle to try.

Jimro Classic Chamiusul soju has a pleasant, neutral taste. It’s very smooth, probably because it’s filtered through charcoal four times. I can see substituting it for gin or vodka in cocktails —to make a lower-proof Martini, for example. They also make a Fresh Chaimsul Soju, which I will also try at some point. Soju is often served chilled, though right now I’m trying it at room temperature.

Jinro soju has been the largest selling spirit in the world for more than a decade. Chum Churum is another big brand, also good (I read). Generally soju is served chilled (or in a cocktail), but it’s not bad at room temperature. Still, I put the rest of the bottle in the fridge.

More info here. It’s worth a try. I have also found several Korean restaurants here, which I’ll try once going to a restaurant is a thing again.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2021 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food

Taiwan cauliflower and Shaoxing wine

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We did a shopping run and I got back to the supermarket with the Chinese veg. I got some Tung Ho, some Gai Pan Mue, some Shanghai bok choy mue, three long onions/Chinese leeks (look like giant scallions), and this head of Taiwan cauliflower. It’s not so evident in the photo unless you look closely, but the tiny florets, rather than being packed closely in a tight mass, are separate on tiny stalks, so it looks like cauliflower with bed hair. I can’t wait to cook it, probably with one of the long onions.

“Mue,” BTW, signifies a size smaller than “baby”: baby Shanghai bok choy (or baby regular bok choy) is small, but mue is smaller. If the bok choy were doing a dance in a Walt Disney animation, the “mue” would be the little guy at the end.

The Shaoxing wine is from a stop at the provincial liquor store. (There are also private liquor stores: a mixed alcohol ecosystem.) This is Pagoda 8 year old:

From the highest grade of the “Pagoda” Brand, Shaoxing Rice Wine has been selected as the drinking rice wine especially for the State Banquet by Zhong Nan Hai and the Great Hall since 1993.

I use it for cooking (a splash enhances soups, stews, and stir fries). It is pretty much equivalent to a sherry — an amontillado, say: fairly dry, with body.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2021 at 5:36 pm

Evolution of the pink power juice slushie recipe

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I started with Dr. Greger’s relatively simple recipe, but gradually it has evolved. The photo above shows what I’m drinking right this minute. It is made as I described earlier. (At the link are three brief videos: Greger’s original, why erythritol is good, and why cranberries are good but commercial cranberry juice is not so hot.) That earlier recipe:

1 lemon, peeled as shown here
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries (or enough to almost fill the beaker)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
3 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
hibiscus tea to cover

But this I included several good dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Very nice.

Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2021 at 3:32 pm

The Brandy Manhattan from the Upper Midwest

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I have mentioned in a previous post or two, when partaking of a Brandy Manhattan, how my friend Spaeth (from St. Cloud MN) told me that it was a quintessential Minnesota drink. As it turns out, its origins are in Wisconsin, from which it spread to Minnesota and other parts of the Upper Midwest. Unfortunately, the favored brand (Korbel) seems to be unavailable in Canada.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Memes

Enhancing Pink Power Juice; or, Gilding the Lily

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I often make this beverage as an afternoon treat, mixing it in the beaker that came with the immersion blender I use. Today I blended:

• 1 lemon, peeled as shown here
• 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries,  blackberries, and raspberries)
• 1 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
• 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
• 2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
• 3 tablespoons dried mint
• 1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
• hibiscus tea to cover

I blended it well and now I’m enjoying it.

After reading the article on vermouth quoted in the previous post, I was inclined to have some red vermouth on the rocks with a twist, but I have gradually come to realize that when I have a drink I almost invariably make unwise food choices (which and how much). So I dug around in my mind for something suitably enjoyable and festive and made this.

I do, BTW, very much like Carpano’s Antica Formula and often have that on hand for an aperitif or to use in making a Manhattan, though right now I have only Martini & Rossi.

Written by Leisureguy

24 December 2020 at 3:54 pm

A Tale of Two Vermouths

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Laura Fraser has an interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine:

It all started when I was in the mood for a Negroni—a classic Italian cocktail that is herbaceous, bitter but balanced, and made from a combination of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, with a twist of orange. But I was out of Campari, and wanted something less lethal than a martini, which left only the vermouth.

But who drinks vermouth by itself? It’s the dusty bottle at the back of the liquor cabinet, brought out only for the occasional Manhattan or martini–and viewed, in the latter case, with a good deal of suspicion. Winston Churchill’s instruction for a martini was, allegedly, to “drink a tumbler of gin and bow in the direction of France.” Alfred Hitchcock’s martini recipe called for “five parts gin and a quick glance at a bottle of vermouth.” The mania for the dry martini, beginning in the 1950s, made vermouth unfashionable. Only Julia Child championed the much-maligned, herb-infused wine, inventing the “reverse martini,” where the vermouth took center stage, with only a splash of gin.

Well. In matters of taste—and with nothing else open in the liquor cabinet–are you going to listen to gin-guzzling gourmands or a French-inspired gourmet? I poured some vermouth on the rocks, added a twist, and drank it more or less straight—the way, it turns out, Europeans have been drinking it for centuries. It was surprising: light and refreshing, while satisfying that Negroni-like urge for something complex with a bitterness that bites back. I did glance at the bottle, as Hitchcock suggested, and considered that if I’d opened a fresh one sometime within the past seven years, it might have tasted even better. Vermouth is mainly wine—and wine, once opened, even if infused with herbs and fortified with brandy—doesn’t keep forever.

ntrigued, I began tasting other vermouths, starting in Italy, and spreading out to new artisanal varieties being made in the United States. It turns out that while I was rediscovering vermouth, so were the craft cocktail crowd and small-batch vintners, who have made this old-fashioned drink hip again. “Fifteen years ago, no one in the U.S. knew what a Negroni was, and even in Italy, vermouth was out of fashion,” says wine expert Claudio Villani of InoVino in San Francisco, who is from Florence. “Then the bar became central in restaurants, and you needed a mixologist, seasonal ingredients, and hand-crafted cocktail mixers, including vermouth.” In Barcelona, people have been going mad for vermouth bars, drinking the aperitif during “La hora de vermut,” which usually lasts three hours, not one; Spaniards tend to like their vermouth poured from the tap over ice with an olive and an orange twist, accompanied with a selection of anchovies, olives, mussels, and other savory snacks.

These days, if you take a seat at a bar with a serious mixology program in Brooklyn or San Francisco and ask for a vermouth, they don’t look at you like you just asked for a glass of your grandmother’s sweet sherry. They’ll ask which of the many new artisan brands you’d prefer. There’s even a bar in my neighborhood in San Francisco, the Alembic, that serves Brown Label vermouth on tap, made on the other side of town by a man named Carl Sutton. This made me curious to compare his vermouth—and how upstarts like him make it—with the Italian giants who’ve been concocting secret vermouth recipes since the mid-18th century.


Despite the vermouth revival, most Americans—including me, until recently—don’t understand what vermouth is, nor do they necessarily care to find out. When I opened a bottle of Italian amber vermouth for friends before a dinner party—a delicacy I’d bought in a musty shop in Turin and carried home—it was met with wrinkled noses and a request for white wine. Part of vermouth’s tainted reputation in this country is that it has mainly been made cheaply and in bulk in California, the herb flavors masking poor-quality wine, and it’s often the choice of down-on-their-luck drunks. But vermouth—perhaps the most complexly-crafted of wines—is usually much, much better than that.

Essentially, vermouth is neutral-tasting white wine that has been flavored with aromatic herbs, roots, and bark, and fortified with a neutral grape spirit, like must or brandy. In Italy, the definition of vermouth is stricter, requiring that caramel may be the only coloring, that it ranges between 14.5% and 22% alcohol, and that it contains one essential ingredient: artemesia, otherwise known as wormwood. The word “vermouth,” it turns out, is derived from “wermut,” the German name for the bark of this tree. Artemisia absintheum is the variety of wormwood that goes into absinthe, and all types contain the compound thujone, which has been considered dangerous and hallucinogenic, though recent scientists have ascribed the supposedly psychoactive effects of absinthe to overindulgence in the alcohol itself. In any case, thujone was banned from the U.S. for many years, and continues to be strictly regulated, which has made it difficult in this country to make what the Italians consider a “real vermouth.”

The invention of aromatized wine has been credited to Hippocrates, who used wormwood, dittany, and other Greek herbs to create a medicinal wine to help with digestion; “wormwood” was actually a treatment for intestinal worms. It became known as “Hippocratic wine” throughout antiquity, and the Romans improved the recipe by adding more herbs, including thyme, rosemary, and celery. But vermouth didn’t achieve its modern character until the Middle Ages, when Marco Polo introduced spices to the region, and the Venetians began their monopoly trade in cinnamon, myrrh, cloves, ginger, rhubarb, and other exotic botanicals.

Piedmont, a wine region in the north of Italy, which had been producing Hippocratic wines since the 18th century and grew abundant aromatic plants in its hills, was one of the first areas to begin cultivating the new exotics. In 1786, Antonio Benedetto Carpano, of the Fratelli Branca’s Carpano Antica distillery, took aromatized wine one step further and is credited with creating the modern vermouth. (To this day, Antica Formula remains a popular brand worldwide). The Carpanos’ success inspired others around Turin, including the Cinzano family, which opened its vermouth facility in 1816. Three years earlier, in southern France,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 December 2020 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Drinks

Sheringham Distillery’s Kazuki Gin

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I realize that for most of my readers this incredibly good gin will not be obtainable.

Let the maker, Sheringham Distillery — just up the road in Sooke — describe it:

Kazuki Gin 和輝

Kazuki Gin was born out of love of both Eastern and Western botanicals and gin making techniques.

Alayne fell in love with Cherry Blossoms while living in Asia and Jason became intrigued with Yuzu as a professional chef. KAZU, meaning “harmony”, is the blending and respect for both East and West cultures. KI means “radiance” and is an ode to the radiant flavours of the botanicals as they dance on your palette. Cherry blossom petals and yuzu peel were imported from Japan. From Westholme Tea Farm we procured green tea leaves and flowers. Expect dynamic flavours from start to finish with the unique essence the Kazuki provides.

Made from our Vodka, with botanicals sourced locally and from Japan, including Japanese Cherry Blossoms and Green Tea + Flowers from Westholme Tea Farm in Cowichan Valley.



On that page, you’ll also find descriptions of Sheringham’s Seaside Gin (WORLD GIN AWARDS WORLD’S BEST CONTEMPORARY GIN 2019, among other awards) and their Akvavit (“Notes of dill, caraway, anise & citrus with a hint of the ocean from locally harvested winged kelp.”), also superb.

I don’t want to be a dick and just list incredibly good spirits not available, so let me add one from Victoria Distillers that is exported: Empress 1908 Gin, whose blue color is due to the inclusion of butterfly pea blossome in the botanicals. It’s totally wonderful (though, IMO, not quite so good as their Victoria Gin — but that’s not exported; Oaken Gin is also quite good).

Two other gins worth mentioning: Unruly Gin, from spirits distilled from mead (their slogan: “Fundamentally Against the Grain”) and Wallflower Gin, made from 100% BC-grown barley by Odd Society.

And — also available in the US — Bearface Whisky is worth seeking out, made from 100% corn. In a tasting when I visited The Son, Bearface bested Pappy Van Winkle.

This was a serious tasting, with multiple participants, as we played crokinole.

It occurs to me that I might be partial to single-grain spirits: Bearface (100% corn), Wallflower Gin (100% barley), and Canadian Club’s 100% Rye all seem quite good to me — and Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye is exceptional (though only 90% rye).

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Resveratrol not that much help — in fact, no help whatsoever

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Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2020 at 3:40 pm

Cider from Salt Spring Island

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A nice bottle of local cider. We have several local cider houses. In addition to the above, there are Sea Cider and Merridale, both of whose ciders I have tasted. Merridale also makes spirits from their cider, and their gin is quite good. Sea Cider makes some very nice fortified ciders.

Perhaps I should refer to them as cideries, since they (obviously) their ciders are sold beyond their premises. But they do serve cider at the cidery.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2020 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Drinks

Walkies, cold-smoked fish, and XP

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By the way I saw these flowers, though in fact there was an abundance — perhaps two — of flowers. This was just to show that I did indeed walk  — almost 1 1/2 miles (1.445 miles according to my odometer app) to the Finest at Sea local seafood store, where I purchased several cold-smoked fish. I just had some cold-smoked sable fish with Victoria Distillers Left Coast Hemp Vodka (scroll down here), which drinks very like a Martini from an alternate universe. I take it plain, on the rocks, though a twist would not be amiss. I’m now trying the cold-smoked albacore tuna. I prefer cold-smoked to hot-smoked because cold-smoked is closer to sashimi. And I also tried the cold smoked salmon. In order of preference (most preferred first): sablefish, albacore, salmon. That was a surprise.

And I’m going great guns in Duolingo’s Esperanto course. You’ll never catch me now. Note the trend in daily accumulation of XP. I have to say that I like Duolingo more and more as I understand what they’re up to and how they go about it. Eble mi komencis blogi en Esperanto….


Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2020 at 4:48 pm

Easy, DIY Perpetual Buttermilk

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I like buttermilk, but I don’t eat much dairy at all any more. Still, I’ve got to try this. From the post at the link:

The proportions to use are 1 part buttermilk, 4 parts milk and 1/8 t. Kosher salt per cup of milk used.  The method is as simple as placing the ingredients in a clean jar, shaking well, and letting the jar sit on the counter for 24 hours.  At that time, the mixture should be thick and smell like buttermilk.  Place in refrigerator to store.

Save some of this buttermilk to make the next batch of buttermilk.  Just keep saving some of the previous buttermilk batch to start the next batch.

I wish you could see how nice and thick this buttermilk is, much thicker than the commercial buttermilk I started with.

Any milk can be used to make this: whole, low-fat (which is what I usually use), skim and even goat’s milk.  To make crème fraîche, stir 2 T. of the buttermilk into 1 cup of cream, cover and let stand 8 to 24 hours or until thick.

In particular, I want to make the crème fraîche.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2020 at 9:59 am

A good Manhattan

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I usually have a Manhattan on the rocks, but straight up is very nice. The key is that the ice cubes be (a) very cold and (b) complete cubes (not crush or shattered, which would result in too much dilution). The key elements to success:

  1. A good sweet vermouth — Carpano Antica Formula is excellent but even a run-of-the-mill sweet vermouth Cinzano will co.

  2. Good bitters — I usually go with Angostura, but also use on occasion Peychard or Fee Brothers or local artisanal bitters.

  3. About 2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier — smooths the drink and provides a nice hint of orange.

  4. A good Canadian Rye — Odd Society’s Commodore is excellent, or Canadian Club 12 year old or Chairman’s Select, or Crown Royal Northern Harvest, or Lot 40, or … well, there are quite a few of them up here.

The total result is very nice, especially if you use a vegetable peeler to cut a strip of skin off a lemon and twist it over the drink.

I usually skip the cherry. But if I do use a cherry, a Luxardo cherry (the original maraschino cherry) is the only choice.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2020 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Drinks

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