Alcohol can be incredibly confusing. With hundreds of years of traditions and more laws that any one person can understand, it's only natural that misconceptions abound. Here are some of the most common myths about alcohol debunked.
Champagne affects you more slowly than still wine: Fiction
The opposite is true, and it carries over to all carbonated drinks, including beer and cocktails made with tonics or other carbonated mixers. Scientists have proved that those consuming carbonated beverages absorb alcohol more quickly, but they're still unsure why. One theory is that carbonation increases the air pressure in the stomach, which forces the alcohol into your bloodstream faster than still wine or other mixed drinks. If you're a scientist who would like to do more research on this matter, I'll gladly volunteer to be a test subject.
Letting cold beer warm up changes the taste: Fiction-ish
There can be a change in taste with some beers, typically microbrews and especially wild ferments. The much bigger issue here, however, is not a temperature change but the change in the presence of light. Beer is highly susceptible to damage by light that can give it a "skunky" taste. This is the reason that most beers come in brown bottles or cans. Many beers that come in green or clear bottles, like Heineken or Corona, intentionally create that flavor. In the case of Corona, a lime wedge augments this flavor further.
Absinthe makes you hallucinate: Fiction
While the summer I spent drinking my weight in absinthe all over Europe in 2007 taught me a lot, it also proved there was no green fairy. This legend comes from a harmful, seizure-inducing chemical called thujone in some early forms of absinthe, but even then, thujone never caused hallucinations. Much of absinthe's bad reputation comes from French winemakers whose wine had lost market share to the much cheaper absinthe. They launched a smear campaign that eventually led to the drink's banning in much of Europe and the United States. As of 2007, however, absinthe is now legal so long as it contains only trace elements of thujone. Interestingly enough, most absinthe makers agree that one would need to consume about 300,000 gallons (about half an Olympic-sized pool) of absinthe to be affected by thujone.
Wine is vegan: Fiction-ish
Though wine is made from grapes, winemakers often use many animal products, including egg whites, bone marrow and fish bladders in a winemaking process called "fining." This process removes elements that would otherwise make the wine seem cloudy. Though the animal parts are always removed before bottling, this prevents the wine from being labeled as vegan. There are, however, several vegan wineries that don't use animal products in the fining process and plenty of unfined wines available. Being vegan is a major selling point for these wines, so they'll typically label themselves as such very clearly. Also — and this is just me being pessimistic — any wine made from machine-harvested grapes can't be vegan. The machines indiscriminately pick the grape clusters, picking up anything else that might be on the vines, including bugs, frogs, and even small birds. Eww.
As always, you can see what I'm drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your wine questions and quibbles to email@example.com