We’ve created a monster

This Bone Luge thing is getting out of control! The new issue of New York Magazine ranks the Bone Luge on its weekly Approval Matrix, declaring it slightly highbrow and mostly despicable.

K103 reporter Felicia Heaton has a friendlier take on the topic. She stopped into Metrovino for her first taste of marrow and followed it up with a madeira Bone Luge, declaring both delicious. Watch the video below and click over to K103 for the full story.


Literature-inspired food carts in Portland, Ore. that did not stay in business for very long

Fire on the Mountain Oyster

The Merchant of Venison

In Cold Blood Sausage

Tendon is the Night

A Liver Runs Through It

The Man Who Loved Chitlins

Picture of Durian Gray

Never Let Me Goat

Appointment in Spamarra

Cat on a Hot Tin Plate

Animal Harm


Homeopathic cocktails: Blessing or curse?


Over the past few years, this blog has experimented with a variety of techniques for creating new cocktails borrowed from molecular gastronomy and culinary science. These experiments have been illuminating, but they are also limiting. Science is, after all, but one way of knowing. Lately my interest has been drawn to the methods of alternative medicine, especially to homeopathy. While normally used for the healing arts, homeopathic principles also have profound — even dangerous! — implications for mixology, such that I hesitate to share them here. Yet if I don’t, the chance is all the greater that some unscrupulous bartender will unleash them on an unknowing public. So I write about homeopathic cocktails, but I must urge readers to take the utmost caution if they choose to follow the procedure described below. They do so at their own risk!

The principles of homeopathy were elucidated in the late 1700s by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann. One of his great discoveries was potentization. By this process, remedies become more effective the further they are diluted. This idea runs counter to the dose-response relationship claimed by Big Pharma, which alleges that greater doses of a substance lead to greater responses in the body. The brilliance of homeopathy is that it manufactures cures from an infinitesimal fraction of the active ingredients used in conventional medicine.

The potency of homeopathic remedies is measured on Hahnemann’s centesimal, or C, scale. This is a logarithmic scale, meaning that each advance indicates dilution by a factor of 100. Thus a solution diluted with water to 1 part in 100 would be a 1C dilution. If one takes a fraction of that solution and reduces it again to 1 part in 100, that would be a 2C dilution, equivalent to 1 part in 10,000 for the original substance. By this method of serial dilution a homeopathic remedy can be nearly infinitely diluted, such that even poisons such as arsenic can be transformed into salable potions. Remedies are commonly sold in dilutions of 6C or 30C, the latter of which leaves the original substance at a mere 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1% of the solution.

I say “nearly infinitely diluted” because Hahnemann did work under one limitation. At the time of his practice, knowledge of atoms and the laws of chemistry was still in its infancy. Today we know that at 12C there may not be a single atom or molecule of the active ingredient left in the solution, sohomeopathic remedies must function by some other means. A leading theory promoted by homeopathy advocates is “water memory,” a mysterious process by which water possesses a memory of the substances that were once diluted into it and retains their healing qualities.

Another of Hahnemann’s important discoveries is succussion. At each stage of dilution, the solution must be struck hard ten times. This activates the vital energy of the substance and may be vital to implanting water memory. However one must be careful not to shake remedies too much; Hahnemann warned that doctors transporting their homeopathic remedies on a bumpy road risked making them too powerful.

Yes, but what does any of this have to do with mixology? Can homeopathy get you drunk? This is the question I set out to answer by creating a homeopathic version of one of my favorite cocktails, the Negroni. I have included instructions for those curious to follow along, but I caution against doing so. Here are the materials needed, also photographed above:

1 bottle gin
1 bottle Campari
1 bottle sweet vermouth
mixing glass
cocktail glass
bar spoon
1-gallon container
distilled water, 30 gallons
ice (not pictured)

The first step is to make a Negroni, as per the classic recipe:

1 oz gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth

Stir with ice in the mixing glass and strain into the cocktail glass. As seen in the photo below, the drink has a rich red hue from the Campari and vermouth.


The next step is to begin serial dilution of the drink. Pour the Negroni into the 1-gallon container and then dilute with distilled water until full. Since there are about 5 oz of Negroni and 128 oz of water in a gallon, this is not quite a 1C dilution. However it is close enough for our purposes, and subsequent dilutions will be greater.

Next one must succuss the solution by striking it hard against a surface ten times. A lid is recommended, but since most of the solution will be discarded it is not strictly necessary. The Negroni is noticeably more dilute now, but traces of its color remain.


For the second round of dilution, retain an ounce of the Negroni solution and discard the rest. Add the ounce of solution back to the container and once again fill with distilled water. This is dilution to 2C. By this time all visual evidence of the Negroni has vanished, even to the trained eye of a professional mixologist.


Repeat the process of succussing and diluting the substance to reach the desired level of homeopathic strength. In hindsight I should have been satisfied with 6C, but I foolishly pushed on to an extremely dilute, and thus extremely powerful, 30C.
Finally, once the serial dilution is complete, it is time to make the Homeopathic Negroni. The recipe is refreshingly simple in this age of rococo cocktails with myriad ingredients:

3 oz Negroni solution

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. In a conventional Negroni dilution from the ice would make the cocktail weaker, but in a Homeopathic Negroni it is in fact making the cocktail stronger. Bartenders attempting to make homeopathic cocktails should be sure not to stir too long or to accidentally succuss the mixing glass, lest the power of the drink go beyond their intentions. (It is for this reason that I chose a stirred drink for this experiment. A shaken drink would have been too dangerous, and a muddled and shaken drink such as a Mojito quite possibly lethal!)

Having completed this process, the moment of truth arrived. It was time for me to try my Homeopathic Negroni.


Dear reader, had I but known the power of the drink in my hand, I never would have set down this treacherous path! Though likely no atom of my original Negroni remained in my glass and to all sensory perception it was mere ice water, with the very first sip the room began to sway. I soldiered through, determined to finish and record the experience, but the rest of that dreadful night is lost to my memory. I know only that I awoke late the next afternoon passed out on my kitchen floor, a shattered cocktail glass by my side and a splitting headache in my skull.

I vowed then and there to never again touch homeopathy. However I worry that the temptations to save money by creating homeopathic cocktails will be too great for other bartenders to resist. A conventional Negroni costs a few dollars to make, whereas the serial dilution of a Homeopathic Negroni drives its cost to practically zero. At 30C, a bar would need a cocktail glass larger than the Earth itself to expect a single molecule of the original spirits to make it into a customer’s drink. It is hard to imagine many bar owners abstaining from such enormous profits, endangering the public with their greed. Surely it would only be a matter of time before a careless bartender shakes a drink he should have stirred and puts some unlucky person in the hospital. I urge anyone reading this not to try homeopathy at home or, even more foolishly, to pay someone else to sell them a homeopathic cocktail.
As for myself, I now stick to straight whiskey, and hesitate to add a single rock or drop of water to it. Imbiber beware!

Update 4/3/11:
Follow-up post here.


It wasn’t me

So a day after I announce that I’m a brand ambassador some guy with diplomatic credentials causes a scene by violating a smoking ban:

A Mideast diplomat who grabbed a surreptitious smoke in a jetliner’s bathroom sparked a bomb scare and widespread alert that sent jet fighters scrambling to intercept the Denver-bound flight, officials said.

But no explosives were found and authorities speaking on condition of anonymity said they don’t think he was trying to hurt anyone and he will not be criminally charged. […]

Two law enforcement officials said investigators were told the man was asked about the smell of smoke in the bathroom and he made a joke that he had been trying to light his shoes – an apparent reference to the 2001 so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.

Why is everyone looking at me? Brand ambassadors don’t even have diplomatic immunity. At least I don’t think they do, but that would be a hell of a perk.

[Via Reason.]


Fun with comment forms

If one measure of Facebook’s popularity is the number of totally inept computer users who have joined, then the site is astronomically popular indeed. Witness here, and seriously do click over to ReadWriteWeb and read the comments.

A similar thing happened on this blog a few years ago that new readers probably haven’t seen yet. Back in 2004 when GMail was new and exclusive I wrote a post about a new GMail application, “application” meaning computer program. This ended up being a high-ranking post for people searching for a GMail application form and for the next five years it pulled in more than 300 comments from people seeking GMail, most of them with limited English. The fun starts after the first 15 or so legitimate comments.

(In hindsight I should have updated the post with instructions for getting GMail rather than having them in the comment thread, but I was always amused by the slow trickle of random requests. Having just realized that it still gets occasional comments I’ve added a link.)

[Via the Twitter feed of Peter Suderman.]


Police abuse, Idaho style

It goes without saying that this guy is from Portland:

An Oregon man is accusing Idaho police officers of destroying the mystical qualities of his Native American medicine bag when they opened it during a drunk driving arrest last summer. […]

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that police arrested Show, charging him with driving under the influence of alcohol. He had a blood alcohol level of .16, police said.

In the tort claim, Show says the medicine bag had been blessed by a medicine woman and has been sealed since 1995. But he says the bag’s mystical qualities were damaged when opened by officers.

So many questions. Was this a legal search? Was the bag ever meant to be opened? Was it supposed to cure him in his most desperate hour? Could he have inhaled the mystic contents to sober himself up? Is there an Idaho police officer whose gout has suddenly gone away? Alas, we’ll probably never know.

[Via @IcedBorscht.]


Defending the Aztek

A few weeks ago the hashtag #slatepitches flourished on Twitter, with users mocking the site’s tendency to publish contrarian, counter-intuitive pieces on just about everything. Joke pitches included ideas like “Soccer: It’s time to let players use their hands,” “Lead pipes and your genius baby,” and “How the ridiculed Aztek Pontiac could end up saving General Motors.” Oh wait, that last one’s real:

It’s easy to berate GM for always failing to see where the market is going. But in this instance it was the first to recognize the need for a new kind of vehicle to fill the crossover segment, which would grow rapidly in subsequent years. A crossover is basically a 21st-century station wagon. SUVs are usually built on the same platform used for trucks—and they often feel that way when you drive them. They also inhale gas. Crossovers, by contrast, are built on platforms used for cars, so they have better road manners, and they’re more fuel-efficient. There were some crossover-ish vehicles before the Aztek, such as the Subaru Forester, but these were seen as neo-wagons, or small/compact SUVs. With the Aztek, GM created something that had SUV size, minus the SUV stigma. […]

In terms of innovation, the Aztek shares DNA with some surprising relatives, like Apple’s early, failed PDA, Newton, or its first stab at a portable, proto-laptop Mac. Apple (AAPL) didn’t succeed with these products, but the company began to define new markets with them. Obviously, laptops and notebooks would eventually become huge part of Apple’s business, and while Palm came to dominate the PDA market, Apple’s experience with Newton set the stage for its move into smaller personal devices, such as the iPod and iPhone. GM could banish all recollection of the Aztek, but the vehicle’s controversial design could be just the ticket as GM seeks to define how hybrid gas-electric-crossover technology derived from the Chevy Volt will appear.

Six years in and I still like my Aztek. I just wish it came with a convertible option.

[Thanks to Quasim for the link!]


Neo-Prohibitionist absurdity in Maine

Kid buys lemonade. Kid notices that the label says there are trace amounts of alcohol in the lemonade. Kid tells his school. All hell breaks loose:

Call it a culture clash, trans-Atlantic style. The Brits think the Americans are puritanical and somewhat batty. The Americans find the Brits morally lax and too willing to bend the rules. It all started at a high school in Maine when a student consumed half a bottle of Fentimans Victorian Lemonade, then looked at the label and discovered it contained small amounts of alcohol, listed as less than 0.5 percent. By contrast, a typical American beer usually contains about 5 percent alcohol.

Not wanting to get in trouble, he showed it to school administrators, who called police. Police referred the matter to state officials to determine whether the zesty beverage could be sold to minors. Anti-alcohol groups got involved, sending out warnings about the potential perils of the highbrow brew.

On Thursday, the Maine attorney general’s office said it has determined that, in Maine, at least, people have to be 21 to buy the product.

The trace amounts of alcohol are left over from the brewing process. At that level they’re essentially harmless; according to Fentiman’s, one would have to drink 28 bottles of lemonade to get the same amount of alcohol found in a typical pint of beer. Yet for a prohibitionist, the dose of a drug doesn’t matter. Alcohol is an evil substance that must be kept out of the hands of children and they’ll go to absurd lengths to justify the ban on sales:

“It wasn’t so much that we were trying to give Fentimans a black eye,” he said. “We just want to make parents aware it contains alcohol. I’ve never had it; it’s probably very good, but their Web site says it can be used for mixed drinks.”

He pointed out that nonalcoholic beers with similar residual alcohol content cannot be dispensed to minors under Maine law.

The police chief is also concerned because a Google search of Victorian lemonade turned up recipes calling for it to be made with gin. He fears young people will read those recipes and add gin to their Fentimans.

You know what else you can make mixed drinks with? Milk. Orange juice. Coca-Cola. Anything that’s liquid and tastes good, really. But we mustn’t alert minors to these possibilities until they turn 21.

Anyway, Fentiman’s makes an excellent line of products that’s worth checking out. I’m a huge fan of their sodas — with or without alcohol added — and I’m glad they’re treating this panic with the derision it deserves. Hopefully they’ll get some good publicity out of it and end up boosting their sales.

Don’t even think about clicking if you’re under 21, but here’s a tasty cocktail using Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola.


Way too much information

An article about how the recession is causing more men to apply to sperm banks includes this reference to an unfortunately named program:

Donors at Biogenetics can earn as much as $500 per sample if they enroll in a new program called Open ID that allows sperm recipients to meet the donors face to face.

Just to clarify, when this blog’s comment form says the website is “OpenID enabled” that’s not what it’s referring to.

[Via Hit & Run.]