Inebriation and Intoxicants

Ocean-Aged Wine

Ocean Fathoms promised its customers truly superior wine (for the price of $500/bottle) based on its unique method of aging the wine: in the ocean. It dropped the wine bottles to the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel and brought them up a year later. From its website:

The Santa Barbara Channel offers not only the perfect environment for the aging process of wine, but is sits in a rich sea-life transition zone, where cold arctic waters meet warmer waters from the equator providing more than 100 species of flora and fauna unique to this location. The combination of flora and fauna attracts an abundance of sea-creatures and sea-life which ultimately adorn our bottles.

It is also the interaction between the submerged wine cages and the set of special characteristics of the Channel Islands’ environment that gives Ocean Fathoms a superior product. We sourced the absolute best location on planet earth to age our superior wine.

One problem. It never got permits to do any of this. The Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control seized and destroyed 2,000 bottles of the wine.

I wonder if the ocean-aging actually made any difference. My guess is that it's just the latest wine-industry gimmick.

More info: Food & Wine

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 22, 2023 - Comments (5)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Overpriced Merchandise

Powdered Beer

A German brewery, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, has developed a powdered beer. Its rationale is that this will save on shipping costs, since eliminating the water from beer also eliminates most of its weight.

Two Daily Mail reporters tried it and claim it's actually not bad. A little flat, but drinkable.

The brewery has a history of coming out with unconventional beers, such as an anti-aging beer and a beer for bathing in.

More info: drinksbusiness

Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 11, 2023 - Comments (6)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants


Reputed to be the worst whisky ever made for sale. It started out as a Bruichladdich single malt, but was then matured for three months in a cask that had previously contained salted herring. Why? Because according to legend (possibly urban legend) early Scottish distillers occasionally used herring casks to mature their whisky. So a German whisky maker decided to see what it would taste like. From a review:

I took a mouthful big enough to swirl around the palate as I would with any other whisky that I review and regretted my decision immediately. When those sour and salty notes hit my tongue, my eyes watered and I immediately wanted to spit it back out. However, I suffer for my art and carried on. You could say I overreacted, but I retched after that initial mouthful and broke out in a sweat.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Feb 22, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants

Cologne Drunkards

In the late nineteenth century, a brief moral panic emerged about the alleged existence of "cologne drunkards" — society women who inebriated themselves by means of sugar cubes soaked in cologne.

Seems like an expensive way to consume alcohol, but I guess it's plausible that some women really did this.

Good Health magazine - Apr 1885

Philadelphia Times - Feb 7, 1893

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 23, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Nineteenth Century, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents


For only $3 a night, Colin White would rent out one of the drunks from his pub to liven up a party.

White explains that when people are worried about their parties getting off to a slow start, they call up and say: "Oh, Mr. White, I wonder whether you could send us around a drunk about 8:30 p.m.?"

So his employees could legitimately claim to be professional drunks.

Asbury Park Press - Nov 26, 1971

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 11, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Business, Inebriation and Intoxicants, Jobs and Occupations, 1970s

Thanksgiving Hair Tonic Cocktail

In 1909, Friedrich Wilhelm Emil Müller of Chicago received a patent for a hair tonic that, so he claimed, would cause hair "to grow on bald spots of the head." All you had to do was thoroughly rub it into the scalp with the tips of the fingers several times a day.

The tonic struck some at the patent office as sounding quite tasty. So it was served as an aperitif at the 1936 Thanksgiving-week banquet in Washington DC celebrating 100 years of the American patent system.

Tacoma News Tribune - Nov 24, 1936

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 24, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Patents, Thanksgiving, Hair and Hairstyling, Alcohol

Atomic Brandy

1971: Soviet scientists claimed to have invented a method of making brandy in 10-15 days, as opposed to the 2-3 years it usually takes. Specifically, their method involved infusing grape juice with "oak shavings irradiated with 200 rads," and in this way rapidly transforming the juice into brandy.

San Rafael Daily Independent Journal - Sep 14, 1971

Some googling reveals that food scientists have continued to experiment with using ionizing radiation to speed up the aging process for alcoholic beverages. For instance, here's a 1999 article about Brazilian scientists using radiation to speed up the aging of cachaca.

Would the resulting brandy or cachaca be radioactive? Apparently no more so than any alcoholic drink.

Consider this Snopes article: Does U.S. Law Require Alcohol to Be Radioactive?

The answer is that, no, the law doesn't require alcohol to be radioactive, but any alcohol made from plants is going to be slightly radioactive because the plants have been exposed to cosmic rays. As opposed to synthetic alcohol made from petroleum, which will be far less radioactive. So, one way to determine if alcohol came from plants or petroleum is to measure how radioactive it is. Most people, I assume, would prefer the more radioactive stuff.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 11, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters

Vinous Rubber Grapes

Vinous Rubber Grapes, patented in 1885, were rubber grapes filled with various types of alcohol (wine, brandy, whisky, etc.). The idea was that they would allow people to drink discreetly even in places where alcohol wasn't served. Or, as the advertising copy put it, the rubber grapes provided "a ready means for a refreshing stimulant whenever needed, without reservation, even in the most criticising surroundings."

Apparently they sold quite well, right up until the passage of the 18th amendent in 1920.

I don't think that anything quite like them can be bought nowadays.

The Topeka Lantern - Feb 19, 1887

The Judge's Library - Apr 1889

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 01, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Patents, Nineteenth Century

A legendary moment in live theater

During a Dublin production of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, sometime in early 1986 (or maybe late 1985?), the actor Alan Devlin, who was playing Sir Joseph Porter, abruptly stopped in the middle of his performance, proclaimed, "F... this for a game of soldiers," left the theater, and headed to the pub next door to have a drink, with his microphone still on.

Surprisingly, he wasn't fired and was even re-hired for the London production a few months later.

Alan Devlin (right) during the London production of H.M.S. Pinafore

Noel Person, who was the theatrical producer of the play, later described the incident to an Australian journalist (The Melbourne Age - Aug 22, 1986):

"We had this actor named Alan Devlin who was very fond of his drink. During the show one night, he arrived absolutely bombed out of his mind. We used to fly him in from the top of the proscenium. When he came down he tried to start, "I am the mon... monar... mumph" and he couldn't. So he started again, then again, and finally said "Oh, --- it! I can't do it". And he walked out. Through the orchestra pit, in his uniform, through the audience, out the theatre and around to the pub and ordered a pint. Some of the audience thought this is taking Gilbert and Sullivan to the limit.

"The guy that was playing Dick Deadeye and the girl who was playing Buttercup, well, they freaked. But they were very experienced actors. So they cut to the end of the first half. The understudy was already in the show so they began the second half with him."

Happily, Noel Pearson hired back Mr. Devlin for the show's London season. "I got him to sign a contract in blood: he had to be in the theatre an hour before or he got paid only half his salary until the end of the run; we gave him a minder... When we opened at the Old Vic we had publicity like you never saw. On the opening night, when he appeared on stage, he practically got a standing ovation."

On Twitter, someone who was in the audience that night has posted their memory of what happened. An excerpt below:

The first verse went perfectly well. It was when Devlin came to the second verse, and discovered that he couldn't remember it, that the visible trouble began. He improvised by simply repeating the first verse. And again, for a third time. People started to wonder.

Then he tried to leave the coracle. Surmounting he brim of it - about two feet high if my imperfect memory serves - gave him great difficulty. But after a couple of attempts he managed it, and stood center stage, swaying slightly as though in a moderate breeze.

After briefly considering his options, he then announced "ah f*** this for a game of soldiers," hopped down into the orchestra pit (with more adroitness than you'd have expected from his swaying), strode along the central aisle through the audience, and left by the main exit.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Feb 06, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Theater and Stage, 1980s

Wine Bottle Dust

A gag gift sold to wine lovers back in 1979.

Given how many wineries, with attached gift shops, have sprung up in the past twenty years, I think this would sell even better today. An opportunity awaits for an entrepreneur.

Alexandria Town Talk - Apr 19, 1979

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 31, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Imitations, Forgeries, Rip-offs and Faux, Inebriation and Intoxicants, 1970s

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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