Why lemon gin won’t quench your thirst (YOUR thirst)

How many of you are furry all over?

If your ass looks like this in a thong, today’s heat probably felt at least 10° higher than actual temperature.

I love summer, but not because it’s hot. I love the summer drinks, and today I’m thinking gin-and-lemonade—Gin-Ade (Gin-Aid, if you ever consider sponsoring a charity show to raise money for the LBHQ gin supply). Surely Gin-Ade will supply all the refreshment and hydration a hairy bear needs.

But apparently doctors say not.

According to Robert H. Shmerling, who has considerably more letters after his name than yours truly, even though a cold alcoholic bevy may sound refreshing, it’s not the wisest choice to quench thirst.

OMG, why??!

When you’re active in on a hot day, you lose water and salt, which has side effects*:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Lowered muscle function

For bears like me, no problemo. Bring on the gin. But for you guys these things can be bad, especially if you lose more water than salt. This makes blood vessels constrict, increasing cramps and prompting the brain to send a chemical messenger (anti-diuretic hormone, or ADH) instructing the kidneys to conserve water.

In tandem with this, the brain’s thirst center kicks in, so you drink more. If you’re sensible, you reach for some H2O. If you’re a hirsute, thong-wearing bear, you belly up to the bar for another Gin-Ade.

So…good, right? Either way, you’re taking in fluids and therefore rehydrating. Wrong, according to Dr. Shrmerling. Those smart ADH instructions your brain sent to your kidneys to conserve water—well, alcohol inhibits those instructions. Your kidneys release water instead of holding onto it, and next thing you know you’re taking six consecutive trips to the pissoir where you crack comments like, “You can only rent a beer—*hic*.”

So your poor dehydrated body can’t hang on to the water it needs. And get you—you’re so pissed that not only does your ADH turn off; so does your judgment, and you order another round. And when you’re fully pissed, you have no idea how thirsty you are.

Throughout all this, of course, you feel increasingly clever and attractive and generally scintillating to everyone. If no one disabuses you of these notions (and perhaps if they do), you drink more, chasing the dragon that is your own magical charisma. You’ve screwed up, friend, and you won’t realize it till tomorrow, when you wake up dry-mouthed with a thong on your head.

Drinking on a hot day can start a spiral into dangerous dehydration. If you’re lucky and you don’t venture into epic excess, you’ll just end up with a wicked hangover. But keep an eye on those dehydration symptoms, or your Gin-Ade bender could eventuate in much worse.

As for Gin-Aid, let’s make it happen! Watch this space for more info.

* Luckily I don’t have blood, muscles, brains, etc. Not even genitals, I suspect.



SHOOFLY SHIRAZ (2010)—Call that koala off!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Today the whole family’s out looking at our new headquarters, so naturally I’m wondering what I can get up to.

But without thumbs it’s hard to get up to much.

My fur hurts.

And then there’s this raging, fur-blasting headache. Did my parents offer me a painkiller for it before they left? Noooo. They helped themselves to 400mg ibuprofen each, then stowed the bearproof container on an upper shelf.

So why do we all (minus the kiddies) have this thwacking great headache? Reluctant as I am to blame SHOOFLY SHIRAZ (2010), the evidence is pretty solid. Two glasses of red wine shouldn’t do such a number on the old brain pan.

Red wine, along with Scotch, bourbon and anything dark, is famous for causing headaches. But the evidence tends to be anecdotal and fraught with variables. How many drinks? At what level of hydration? With or without carbonation? Consumed exclusively or mixed with different alcohol types?

It’s red wine that gets the worst rap. Why do some wines inflict more next-day head pain that others?

Nobody really knows.

According to Winegeeks, from which I swiped much of my information, the cause of red-wine headaches hasn’t been precisely determined. But here are some suspects:

  • Sulfites—natural byproducts of yeast added to ensure clean fermentation. But white wine typically contains more sulfites than red.
  • Histamines—plant and animal substances that spur allergic reactions. While they are more common in red wine than white, the data are inconclusive. For one thing, histamine occurrences are very low. For another, a study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed no difference between the side effects suffered by drinkers of low- and high-histamine wines.
  • Tannins—substances that give plants a bitter taste and produce that saliva-drying sensation you get from dry wine, tea, coffee, and nuts. They have healthful antioxidants but (one theory goes) may bind to starches, preventing their uptake and use in the brain’s manufacture of serotonin. Serotonin deficiency, in turn, causes vasoconstriction, which leads to migraines.
  • Congeners—chemicals produced during fermentation that contribute to the flavor of non-distilled drinks. These include acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, glycols (the list goes on), none of which sound too brain-friendly, although one congener in particular, fusel oil, contributes to red wine’s complexity. Dark drinks are generally more congener-rich than clear drinks. In a bourbon-vs-vodka study, subjects who drank bourbon suffered disturbed sleep and diminished performance compared to subjects who consumed vodka.

It’s all you. Or is it?

Individual susceptibility is also a factor. We all know people who avoid red wine because of headaches; likewise, plenty of people/bears enjoy a glass or three without ill effect. Our little tasting crew falls into this latter category, so when we find ourselves reeling around gripping our heads the morning after splitting one 750mL bottle of SHOOFLY between us, something’s up with that wine.

What about that SHOOFLY?

The 2010 vintage may be a little young. Even after we let it breathe a good 45 minutes, it exuded fresh yeast along with a rush of ripe berries and black fruit. Vinified from super-ripe grapes harvested from old vines around Adelaide, SHOOFLY is fruit-lush yet parchingly tannic—not massive but large and reasonably well structured. The finish is perhaps a little clipped.

Like many an Aussie Shiraz it packs a 14.5% wallop. It’s less a symphony than a kick-ass rock concert. Damn, I liked it last night. It even made my parents’ conversation about moving and finance a bit less boring.

Still, SHOOFLY isn’t tame. Maybe a year in the bottle would help it—but will the headache genie still come out with it? It’s a wild animal all right. I woke up with it clawing my melon from the inside like some scrofulous koala yammering sweet nothings at my two brain cells. I barely got through today.

What’s important, though, is that SHOOFLY is yummy booze for $18. And if someone will just open the Advil bottle for me, I’ll forgive it anything. Hell, if we had a second bottle I’d drink it right now. But I’d need help opening it.

Looking for the hair of the dog? Try MAUDITE

My Fellow Inebriates,

The kids are fascinated by bottlecaps and were on the verge of fighting over the lone one they found on the counter this morning, which came off a bottle of MAUDITE, a Quebeçois offering from Unibroue, makers of TROIS PISTOLES. Four-year-old Miss V was so heartbroken when Miss P seized it that she said very earnestly to our parents:

“I just wish you guys could have a beer.”

My kind of kid! I certainly was wishing for a beer at that matutinal moment, hurting as I was from a Friday night of drunken revelry that began with MAUDITE, progressed through a very nice bottle of Spanish wine, and culminated with BOWMORE 12 and a small amount of vomiting.

My parents don’t often cut loose, but the stars lined up for me last night. They’d been stressed out all week by work, transportation, medical and dental issues, and then my newest friend Robert showed up bearing booze.

Catching the aroma

Lest you think our family unwholesome I should mention the kids were safely tucked into bed before the wine was finished and the whiskey came out. No one blacked out except me, and Robert stayed the night in our guest room instead of mowing down pedestrians or planting his car in a ditch.

Going from grain to grape to grain is risky business, or so they say. But who are “they” and do they know what they’re talking about?

Not Robert or my dad, but having more fun than both

Thank goodness for ibuprofen or I wouldn’t have managed to research the topic. Ninety-five percent of what I found on mixing grain-based and grape-based alcohol was purely anecdotal, but at last I found an interesting study in which three Melbourne lads (presumably of similar build) volunteered to get drunk at a bar.

Prior to heading out, each had his blood sampled for C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation, the partial culprit in a hangover. Then:

  • Ben drank white wine all evening.
  • Justin confined himself to beer.
  • Brad drank both white wine and beer.

The next morning all had blood tests again.

The verdict?

Only Ben, who drank white wine exclusively, showed evidence of a bad-ass hangover, with a CRP jump from 1.5 to 1.9. The other two guys’ CRP levels actually went down (from 0.4 to 0.3 for Justin and 1.2 to 1.1 for Brad).

Dr. Jeffrey Wiese

This seems to dispel the theory that mixing drinks leads to worse hangovers. Dr. Jeffrey Wiese of Tulane University, who analyzed the blood-test results, agreed, adding that if mixing drinks leads to hangovers it’s because when people do so they tend to drink more alcohol in total. Congeners—impurities found in darker drinks such as rum and red wine—are the more probable culprits. If Justin and Brad had enjoyed dark drinks all evening, they probably would have needed ibuprofen the next day.

If they’d been drinking MAUDITE instead of Foster’s Lager (the way I picture it), their CRP levels might well have increased as their wine-drinking buddy’s did. MAUDITE is a deep and hazy coppery brown with a liquorstorebear-colored, persistent head. Its aroma is ripe, floral and orchard-like. On the tongue fruitiness emerges with complexity—a touch of spice, a suggestion of grassland and some background coriander perhaps. It’s dry and complicated—hard to put your paw on which flavors are which as they merge in splendid balance.

MAUDITE has an extraordinary mouthfeel and a mellow smoothness that effectively conveys its 8% alcohol to your liver without seeming very boozy. It’s a real creeper that way and could land you on your ass if you drink several without checking the label.

I wonder what Dr. Jeffrey Wiese would think of MAUDITE. The winner of 21 international medals, MAUDITE is bottle-fermented, and its higher alcohol content acts as a natural preservative, so I wouldn’t implicate it as a big hangover beer because it seems less likely to be the toxic soup of congeners that so many cheap beers are.

My parents should take little Miss V’s suggestion and crack a MAUDITE right now. We all have wretched hangovers to address, and this wonderfully complex brew would probably solve the mutual problem. And then Miss V would have her very own bottlecap.

I love the kids but they have no idea how loud their voices are today. Still, they wouldn’t judge us for embracing the hair of the dog.

But my parents are boring, my mum especially so. (She didn’t even like MAUDITE! What a philistine.)