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Scotland's Four Loko? This Monk-Made Wine May Be Banned from the U.K.

Back in 2010, the FDA took action against Four Loko and other caffeinated alcoholic beverages, after many states, cities, and colleges enacted their own sanctions against the allegedly dangerous combo. Caffeine, they argued, masked some of the effects of alcohol, causing people to drink to excess and engage in risky behavior. In the U.K., however, caffeinated adult beverages are still technically legal—although they may not be for long, thanks to one in particular product that has stirred up controversy. 

It doesn’t have the candy flavors or spring break-esque branding that Four Loko does—if anything, the drink in question is the anti-Four Loko. The so-called tonic wine, which tastes a little sweet and a little spiced, has been brewed for more than a century at Buckfast Abbey in southwestern England. But while the Benedictine monks who brought the recipe with them from France in the 1880s had purely innocent intentions—originally, they sold the fortified wine as a medicinal product—modern teens have found it to be the perfect accompaniment to a night of hard partying. The problem is particularly rampant in Scotland, where the wine is so popular that last month Glasgow celebrated its inaugural National Buckfast Day "dedicated to the World's Greatest Wine."

The plan is to make the event an annual tradition—unless some new legislation banning Buckfast succeeds, that is. 

The problem isn't necessarily the drink itself, argues Dr. Richard Simpson, the member of Scotland's Parliament responsible for introducing the ban on caffeinated alcohol. "It is a perfectly good drink if consumed modestly as a tonic wine," Simpson told the New York Times. "It is a pity that it has become what it has become." Detailing some of the risks that caffeinated wine consumption entails, he explained that caffeine-alcohol hybrids "make wide-awake drunks. You are more likely to drive, and there is much more of a sexual risk. If you drink enough alcohol you eventually become comatose, but if you combine it with caffeine you can go through a fairly aggressive phase before you become comatose."

He and other opponents have reason to think that the monk-made beverage is cause for concern. A 2009 report for the Scottish prison service found that four in 10 respondents listed Buckfast as their favorite drink; 43.3 percent even admitted to consuming Buckfast before committing a crime.

The Abbey's members have declined to comment, but the sales manager for Buckfast’s distributor, Stewart Wilson, called the criticism of the wine "religious bigotry."

Buckfast Abbey also happens to be a popular tourist attraction, and is currently gearing up for its 2018 millennium anniversary. Locals worry that the controversy could cost the area valuable jobs. Although the Abbey has not made information about its income available to the public, reports say that it received about £6.6 million, or more than $10 million, from its business interests in 2012—the majority of which came from sales of tonic wine. Profits are used to pay employee salaries, although the Abbey also reportedly gives a sizable amount of cash back to the community. 

It's not clear yet what the fate of the notorious beverage will be, so if you find yourself in Scotland in the near future, give it a try—it may be your last chance to do so. Just remember to drink responsibly.

[h/t New York Times]

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A Restaurant In Australia Is Garnishing Its Margaritas With Frozen Eyeballs
Jesse Hunniford/MONA
Jesse Hunniford/MONA

A cocktail special at a new restaurant in Australia has fallen under the global gaze thanks to its floating gaze. As Nerdist reports, Faro Tapas, a new Spanish eatery at Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), offers a black margarita garnished with a frozen bull eyeball.

The frosty drink contains tequila, mezcal, lime, and charcoal (presumably for color). It's served in a glass with a black salted rim and the aforementioned toothpick-skewered peeper.

Gourmet Traveller recommends that those brave enough to sample Faro Tapas's bovine booze drink it quickly, as the eyeball's ice casing melts. (If you're willing to risk brain freeze to avoid eye mush, this sounds like a smart move.)

That said, adventurous drinkers with stomachs of steel might find Faro Tapas's eyeball-garnished margarita tame compared to the Yukon Territory's Sourtoe cocktail (it contains a dehydrated human toe) and countless other weird and wacky cocktails served up around the world. Bottoms (and eyeballs) up!

[h/t Nerdist]

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Health
Drink Up: New Study Concludes Wine Can Offset Dementia
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iStock

The health benefits of wine can sometimes be overstated by people who are a few glasses deep and slurring their words. Should you ever find yourself in a position to defend your moderate imbibing, you have supporting evidence: A new study says two glasses of wine daily can potentially reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's.

The study, which appears in Scientific Reports, shows that wine has an effect on one's glymphatic function, or the way the brain removes toxins. To clear itself of damaging and accumulated proteins like tau and beta amyloid, which are often linked with dementia, the brain pumps in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) to act as a flushing solution. All sorts of variables can influence the glymphatic system's operation, including trauma, stroke, and excessive alcohol intake.

But when researchers dosed the mice in the study with moderate alcohol—amounting to 2.6 drinks daily—the glymphatic system was more efficient, removing more waste and exhibiting less inflammation than the teetotaling control mice.

As is usually the case when it comes to booze, you can have too much of a good thing. When mice got the equivalent of 7.9 drinks daily, their glymphatic system grew sluggish until the overindulging was terminated.

"Studies have shown that low-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lesser risk of dementia, while heavy drinking for many years confers an increased risk of cognitive decline," lead study author Maiken Nedergaard, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a press statement. "This study may help explain why this occurs. Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to improve overall brain health."

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