Advice on being sensible this New Year's eve
Dec. 26, 2001
The day every city policeman, sheriff's deputy and highway patrolman fears most comes next week. It is, of course, New Year's Eve.
You can admonish the public every week of the year and every day not to drink and drive, but many of them will and some will suffer serious consequences.
Does it sound strange for someone who writes about the pleasures of wine to warn you about overdoing on New Year's Eve? Sorry, but here are the facts.
All wine contains alcohol in varying degrees. The average is about 13 percent by volume. Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc is exactly on that mark. The popular Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve chardonnay is at 13.5 percent. Most red wines range between 13 and 15 percent. So if you have a 26 ounce bottle of wine that is 13 percent by volume you have about 3 1/2 ounces of alcohol in it. That is the equivalent of two stiff drinks using bourbon, scotch, vodka or gin.
Champagnes are slightly less. Tattinger contains 12 percent alcohol. The low-priced Cooks is 11.5. The lowest percentage is found among the German wines, usually 9 percent. The highest is the Ports. Sandeman's Ruby Port is 19 percent. Vintage ports can run up to 21 or 22 percent alcohol.
As far as hard liquor is concerned, the industry formerly put the proof on the bottle without explaining what the proof was. The proof number is simply double the amount of alcohol in the liquid by volume. A bourbon that's 80 proof is 40 percent alcohol by volume. Most of today's whiskeys are 80 proof.
There are exceptions. Regular Wild Turkey is 101 proof or slightly over 50 percent alcohol. Their premium Wild Turkey Rare Breed is 108.4 proof translating into over 54 percent. J&B Scotch is 80 proof. So is Jim Beam whiskey. Jack Daniels, however, rises to 86 proof or 43 percent alcohol, and Maker's Mark is up to 90.
Don't think the popular vodkas are any different. Most of them are also 40 percent alcohol or 80 proof. Blue Saphire gin, currently one of the most popular premium gins on the market, is 47 percent alcohol or 94 proof.
Now let's see if we can make some sense out of this.
A bottle of wine contains about 26 ounces. The average pour is approximately 5 ounces. Therefore, if you drink two glasses of wine or 10 ounces of a wine that is 13 percent alcohol, you will have consumed about 1.3 ounces of alcohol as part of the juice and other ingredients that make up that wine. Four glasses of wine takes you to 2.6 ounces, about equal to two average drinks of vodka, gin, whiskey, scotch or bourbon, with some kind of mix such as soda or Sprite. If that wine is a port, 10 ounces will be equal to four ounces of pure alcohol and you would be well on your way to feeling no pain.
As for the scotch or bourbon, the whiskey in an average drink is poured from a 1.5 shot glass. Two of those is three ounces, meaning you have consumed 1.2 ounces of pure alcohol in just two drinks. Four drinks doubles that and six drinks in an evening puts 3.6 ounces or for example, more than half of the contents of an old fashioned six ounce coke bottle in your system. You can get very inebriated on six drinks. Of course Wild Turkey multiplies that.
It's your choice
The effect of alcohol varies depending on body size and the length of time between drinks. Bigger people seem to be able to consume more, smaller people less. But if you guzzle, just remember the more you consume the greater the amount of alcohol in your system and alcohol is the stuff that makes you drunk.
How you handle New Year's Eve is up to you but the truth is you have only three choices. Drink very, very moderately. Have a designated driver. Don't drink at all.
Many celebrants think there is a fourth option. In their foggy-minded condition they are convinced they are quite able to drive their car. Those are the ones who kill or hurt others in a wreck. Those are the ones whose names you see here in The Meridian Star the next day charged with DUI.
Those are also the ones for whom I have no sympathy. Have a happy New Year but make it a sensible one.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime resident of Meridian, writes a wine column for The Meridian Star.