I was reading one of my cocktail books a few weeks ago, where the author was talking about how alcohol is “literally a poison,” his exact words. This took me aback as I’d never heard alcohol was poisonous. I’d heard of alcohol poisoning, of course, but not that drinking in moderation might slowly kill you. It seems odd that something humans have been doing since literally the dawn of civilization (the first known recipe for beer dates from 7000 BCE—bonus, you can buy beer made from the recipe!) is actually poisonous. Sure, the Romans drank from led cups, BUT THEN THEY STOPPED THAT. We’re not still drinking from led cups.
Despite my doubts, however, I found myself concerned that I was actually poisoning myself. So I decided to do some research. It turns out that The Science is not in agreement with this idea that alcohol is poison, and calls the statement “misleading at best.” Technically anything can be poisonous in the right amounts, but that does not make it a classified poison. And hundreds of studies have shown that moderate drinkers actually live longer than teetotalers. Even heavy drinkers live longer than teetotalers, actually, by a margin of 3%.
The idea that alcohol was a poison began during Prohibition, started by the Anti-Saloon League. Then the government decided to use it to keep people from drinking, but not just as a propaganda campaign—they LITERALLY poisoned industrial alcohol, killing about 10,000 people before the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933.
Governments and other anti-alcohol organizations continue to promote the idea that alcohol is a poison. For example, Scotland recently released the Drinking Mirror app, designed to show how drinking will age women (it’s killing you AND your skin cells!) in an effort to “appeal to their vanity” and get them to stop drinking. Hey, doesn’t the sun and mortgages and driving to work every day and having kids and basically being alive also age you? We should get PSAs for that as well. The creators of the app also claim that they’re targeting only heavy drinkers, but the app itself only has options for low- to moderate-drinking as defined by the medical community, and is thus targeting average drinkers (to be fair, heavy drinkers probably wouldn’t stop drinking just because an app told them to).
From what I’ve gathered through these articles, alcohol is only a poison if you overindulge in it or lived during Prohibition. The more you know!
For some reason (probably because I’m a dork), a few months ago I started worrying about what defined a cocktail: the proportions or the ingredients? If you read DIY Cocktails (which is a great book, by the way), they define cocktails by the proportions: two parts strong to one part aromatic (makes manhattans), three parts strong to two parts sweet and one part sour (makes margaritas), and so on.
But a lot of cocktails have different proportions according to different people, yet are still defined as those cocktails. For example, one of my favorite cocktails is the sidecar. I make it with two parts strong, one part sour, and one part sweet; but I’ve come across recipes where it’s proportioned more like a margarita, recipes where the sweet and the strong are equal and there’s very little lemon juice, and everything in between. A sidecar is defined by its ingredients: brandy, triple-sec, and lemon juice. How you mix them is up to you, but you’re still mixing a sidecar. The same is true with nearly any other cocktail you can think of: a cosmo has to have cranberry juice and vodka; a martini can gin or vodka and vermouth.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ingredients “make” the cocktail—or at least define it—not the proportions. Because of this, I think coming up with original cocktails is actually *really* difficult, maybe more so than coming up with original food recipes. If you want to invent a new cocktail, you have to basically use a new ingredient (this is why so many “modern” cocktails use obscure ingredients, which drives me crazy fyi) or combine classic ingredients in a way no one’s tried before (good luck with that).
What do you think defines a cocktail, the ingredients or the proportions?
Cocktails are great, but one of their downsides is how many calories you take in drinking them. As we all get older, we lose metabolism and start gaining weight. Quelle horreur. Can we enjoy our cocktails and still keep our girlish figures?
Teresa Howes says yes. I say yes too, but probably not the same way and for not the same reasons. My answer would be, if you want to cut down on calories, the easy fix is to drink slightly less. Unfortunately, that means you won’t get as shit-faced. Whomp-whomp. Howes’ answer is to use only liquor with the highest alcohol-to-calories ratio in her cocktails, then combine them with low-calorie mixers like diet soda, fruit juice, and sweet-and-low.
What this means on a practical level: the only alcohols you can drink are high-proof vodkas, gins, rums, tequilas, or whiskeys. And the vast majority of recipes in Skinnytinis use vodka exclusively (I actually don’t recall seeing any whiskey recipes in this book, but I might have missed them).
This is great if you like vodka, but I’m not a huge fan. I actually only use it to make other liqueurs. My favorite liquor is brandy, with whiskey a close second. And I like using mixers like vermouth. Vermouth is cheap.
Also, some of the recipes in Skinnytinis make no sense from a bartending perspective. I have never in my life seen a drink recipe that called for a caffeinated beverage to be shaken. Wha-huh? That makes no sense. Usually you add the carbonated element after shaking all the other ingredients together. Then there are other drinks that really SHOULD be shaken because otherwise the ingredients won’t mix well, and they aren’t. This is the kind of stuff that would make Jeffrey Morgenthaler and other cocktail geeks spazz the hell out. I don’t consider myself a cocktail geek, but after reading this book I do think Skinnytinis is completely divorced from mixology and traditional bartending.
Nevertheless, a part of me thinks maybe Skinnytinis would work for the average American who generally only has one liquor on hand—especially if that liquor is vodka—and has only ever ordered cocktails at a bar. For people who aren’t well-versed in mixology, I can see how Howes’s recipes might be more approachable than traditional cocktails. So while this definitely wasn’t the cocktail book for me, it might be for others.
Thank you to the author and CLP Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review!
As the author of "SkinnyTinis — All the Fun for Half the Calories" I’ve spent A LOT of time in the liquor aisle. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading nutrition labels on various mixers, juices, sodas, syrups, nectars, teas, etc. I tested hundreds of recipes before my book went to print and continue to make new recipes weekly. Based on over 5 years of experience, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what you want to keep on hand. I broke up the list into two sections. First, the necessary booze and mixers – those will give you the goods to pump out 13 designated SkinnyTini recipes from my book on demand. Then I have another list that “add a fun flair.” And by having these little beauties within reach, you’ll be able to shake, stir and serve nearly half of the recipes in the book!
Necessary Booze and Mixers:
Light Cranberry Juice
Liquid Sweet & Low
Light Pink Grapefruit Juice
Sugar Free Peach Syrup
Fun Flair Booze and Mixers
Diet Ginger Ale
Fat-Free Hot Cocoa Mix
Sugar-Free Vanilla Coffee Creamer
Diet Lemon-Lime Soda
Sugar-Free Mango Syrup
This will give you infinite possibilities to create SkinnyTinis and Skinny Cocktails for under 150 calories by avoiding unnecessarily sugary liquors. So with these solid go to skinny ingredients, you can make not only a ton of tried and true SkinnyTinis, you also have a fully loaded kitchen – essentially an adult play ground. When you come up with a favorite recipe, click it into www.skinnytinis.com to see how many calories you have, name it, print it and pass it on to your friends. You can be your very own Skinny Mixologist. For more inspiration and information on skinny drinking or recipes, visit my blog at www.eatdrinkadbeskinny.com!
It’s well-known that writers generally like to have a drink or two or five, as the premise of this blog testifies. But what happens when one spends more time drinking than writing?
Brendan Behan once said, “I’m a drinker with writing problems,” and when you’re your own boss and make your own hours, keeping business and pleasure separate can certainly be a problem. In his book, The Blogger Abides, Christopher Higgins talks about when he first started freelance writing. Every day he’d go to the pub to write children’s novels and have a pint. Then he’d have another pint and write some more. And then another pint. Point is, he wrote a whole series of children’s novels drunk (and hopefully edited sober) before he realized the need for “drinking hours,” which he recommends to every freelance writer.
I usually never drink before dinner, and we usually have dinner around 8 pm. I just can’t face drinking on an empty stomach; and besides that, I have things to do. I’m uncoordinated enough without adding alcohol to the mix.