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Friday, August 14, 2009

Alcohol (and math)

So I turned 21 yesterday, and had a wonderful time with girlfriend and family and friends, starting at midnight with the last half of the fantastic Fido, and continuing into breakfast this morning with my girlfriend. And although I have no intention of regularly drinking alcohol, I of course had to exercise my newfound right to do so. So after much pondering, I settled on a Long Island Iced Tea at Applebee's. I'll spare you the details of the experience, because that's not what this blog post is about. As my Facebook status noted, I decided that so far, alcohol mostly tastes like cough drops, and at least in small amounts has minimal effects on my behavior. The part that I felt the need to write a blog post about is that I just spent the last two hours writing this blog post and researching (yes, researching) what exactly is in what I drank, what proof they all are, what "proof" even means, and, ultimately, exactly how much alcohol I consumed.

First of all, I had to figure out how much of what was in my glass. I remembered it had gin, rum, and I thought vodka (which is partially why I chose it - three birds with one stone and all), but I didn't know how much of each, so Google pointed me to the occasionally informative (but more often inane) Yahoo! Answers, which verified that it is indeed gin, rum, and vodka, and also triple sec, one ounce of each.

Sidenote: I'm always thrown off by punctuating things like Yahoo! Like right there - do you end the sentence with an exclamation point? A period? Both? I recently got an e-mail from Jeopardy! that contained the sentence "Thank you for registering for the Jeopardy! College Online Test!", which I thought was kind of awkward. I think people should just not include punctuation in brand names, and it would make all our lives, or at least those of us grammar Nazis, a little easier.

The next step, of course, was to figure out what proof each of these were, and what that meant as far as alcohol content. A comment on the Yahoo! answer provided the brand names, but added tequila. Some further Googling found the Applebee's page (the Google cache, logically enough, used the Fremont, CA location), which provided the correct brand names. I looked them up on Wikipedia, and it turns out these things are much more complicated than I thought. There are a plethora of Bacardis, half a dozen Tanquerays, a dazzling variety of Smirnoffs, and an unnumbered variety of triple sec. Given that, I assumed that Applebee's just went with the standard, 80ish-proof variety of each alcohol, and the normative (according to Wikipedia) 60-proof triple sec. Smirnoff varies, but is evidently 75-proof, Tanqueray presented a bit of a complication, as the proof apparently depends on where you get it, but I went with the US 94.6-proof, and Bacardi is straight 80-proof. Now, what does that even mean?

As it turns out, the original "proof spirit" was, like most units back in the day, a profoundly arbitrary. Wikipedia tells me it's from the days when sailors were paid in rum. To make sure it had enough alcohol, they would take a bottle, soak some gunpowder in it, and try to light it. If there was enough alcohol to light the gunpowder, there was apparently enough alcohol to get the sailors drunk. This ended up being 57.15% alcohol by volume, so 100% alcohol was about 175-proof. The United States, of all countries, evidently decided to standardize the measurement, and the US proof is a flat 50% alcohol by volume. Of course, the rest of the world now just uses ABV, which is twice the US proof, and has since abandoned the "proof spirit", along with measuring alcohol with gunpowder.

So, all of that just means that ABV is half of proof, since no one uses the proof spirit anymore. That leaves us with the following for my Three-kinds-of-alcohol Iced Tea:

  • 1 oz 80-proof Bacardi Superior rum = 1oz * .4 ABV = .4 oz alcohol
  • 1 oz 94.6-proof Tanqueray London Dry Gin (US) = 1 oz * .473 ABV = .473 oz alcohol
  • 1 oz 75-proof Smirnoff Red Label vodka = 1 oz * .375 ABV = .375 oz alcohol
  • 1 oz 60-proof triple sec = 1 oz * .3 ABV = .3 oz alcohol
So that's a total of .4 + .473 + .375 + .3 ounces, which according to my TI-89 (I don't trust myself with arithmetic, alcohol or not) is 1.548 ounces. Now, what does that mean? Fortunately, the internet is still around to help. The appropriately-named informed me that a "drink" (which I'm assuming is the seven "drinks" one of my friends cites as being her "drunk" threshold) is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of 72-proof liquor. Which, as we learned above, is 1.5 oz * .36 ABV = .54 oz of alcohol.

So, to answer the question I was originally trying to answer - how much alcohol did I consume last night - seems to be 1.548 oz I consumed divided by .54 oz per standard "drink", which comes out to 2.866 drinks. For confirmation, I came across another measure on the internets. 1 Bud Point is simply the amount of alcohol in a can of Bud Light. Since a can of Bud is 12oz at 5% ABV, that's 12 oz * .05 ABV = .6 oz alcohol. So, 1.548 oz is 2.58 Bud Points, or just over two and a half cans of Bud Light, which is pretty close to my other reference. And, according to the Bud Points guy, probably enough for a DUI, but not quite halfway to "a good night." Personally, I was a first-time drinker, but also on a pretty full stomach, which I'm told is significant. I didn't feel any difference other than a slightly warmer stomach, but I also didn't try to do math or anything, much less drive - just hold up my end of a conversation, open presents, and successfully walk out of the restaurant. Nevertheless, I wouldn't think of driving or making any critical decisions, because it's dangerous, and I am (obviously) rather clueless as to the effects of alcohol first-hand. And also it's illegal.

Now, a disclaimer for anyone who's worried about me obsessing with alcohol all of a sudden (this is for my girlfriend and family), I'm not headed down a death-spiral of alcoholism and depravity, and have no intention of becoming remotely alcoholic. I have plenty of friends who, by their experiences, have convinced me that it's a bad idea. My roommate, for example, has both woken me up at 3am retching into a bucket, which was not a pleasant experience for either of us, and sworn never to drink again from the couch at noon after a particularly bad hangover. Safe to say, the occasional social drink is as far as I'm going, and I have plenty of people to hold me to it. My temporary obsession is just because it's new, and as the insatiably curious ENTP that I am, I must know everything about everything that I come across. Alcohol is no exception, so I'm researching it from a safe vantage point called the internet. And that, my friends, is the first and hopefully last time I will ever refer to the internet as safe for anything.

1 comment:

Becky said...

You also conked out pretty fast when we got home, which I suspect had a little to do with the alcohol.