7 Surprising Uses for Vodka

iStock/igorr1
iStock/igorr1

As versatile a liquid as vodka is in a glass—pairing just as well with tomato juice as it does orange juice—it’s equally multipurpose in a non-drinking setting. In honor of National Vodka Day, here are some surprising uses for the popular spirit.

1. ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSER

No Windex? No problem. As a natural disinfectant, all it takes is a quick transfer from liquor bottle to spray bottle to turn vodka into an amazingly powerful all-purpose cleanser that tackles everything from windows and mirrors to countertops and cabinets.

2. DEODORIZER

Typically, spilling a cocktail on yourself would be a good indicator that it’s time to switch to water. But a spritz of vodka on your clothing, be it a musty old sweater or your favorite pair of gym shoes, can actually help freshen you up as it kills odor-causing bacteria on the spot (without leaving any chemical-like scent).

3. MOLD AND MILDEW REMOVER

Vodka’s antimicrobial properties make it a worthy opponent against mold and mildew. The best part? The cheaper the bottle, the less filtered it’s likely to be, which is good news when it comes to killing mold (but not so great when it comes to potential hangovers).

4. INSECT REPELLENT

While several studies have shown that drinking beer can make you more prone to mosquito bites, a quick way to help repel those pesky insects is by spraying yourself with vodka. Just make sure it’s not one a flavored (read: sugary) kind. Though straight-up is the most effective method, because it can leave a scent that lingers, there are a variety of recipes online to make this repellent more palatable to the nose.

5. WEED KILLER

Vodka can help to eliminate garden weeds, but it needs the assistance of the sun. Reader’s Digest suggests mixing one ounce of vodka with two cups of water and a few drops of dish soap, to be applied “at midday on a sunny day to weeds growing in direct sunlight, because the alcohol breaks down the waxy cuticle covering on leaves, leaving them susceptible to dehydration in sunlight. It won’t work in shade.”

6. FLOWER LIFE-EXTENDER

A shot of vodka can be a vase full of fresh flowers’ best friend. According to North Carolina State University horticulture professor John Dole, adding some vodka in with water can help flowers stay fresher longer, most likely as a result of inhibiting ethylene production. As with your own vodka consumption, just don’t overdo it: “Plants—like many people—can only tolerate small concentrations of alcohol,” according to Scientific American.

7. DANDRUFF REMOVER

From frizz to dandruff, vodka has become a go-to solution for a variety of hair care problems. “Vodka has a low pH level and is naturally acidic, which when added to conditioner can help maintain and lower a high pH level found in the hair,” hairstylist Marc Mena said. “[It] has the ability to seal the hair cuticle which will manage and reduce the appearance of frizz, resulting in softer and shinier strands.” Adding a shot of vodka to your bottle of shampoo can also help in relieving itchy scalps, thus reducing dandruff.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2015.

What's the Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal?

iStock.com/mediaphotos
iStock.com/mediaphotos

Aside from tacos, enchiladas, and other tasty tortilla-wrapped treats, tequila and mezcal are among some of Mexico’s best-known offerings in the food and beverage category. These tipples, made from the agave plant, are so embedded in the country’s culture that Mexico City even has a museum dedicated to the two drinks, and Jose Cuervo operates a "tequila train" to none other than the city of Tequila. These beverages can be used to make a variety of cocktails, from the tequila sunrise to the mezcalita, but unless you’re a bartender or a connoisseur of spirits, you might not know the difference between the two. Is mezcal just fancier tequila?

Not exactly. Tequila is a type of mezcal, but the reverse isn’t always true. It’s similar to the distinction between champagne and sparkling wine, in which the name of the beverage depends on whether it was produced in the Champagne region of France or elsewhere. While mezcal can be produced anywhere in Mexico, tequila is made in the Mexican state of Jalisco (though a few exceptions do apply).

Tequila and mezcal also differ in the ingredients from which they are derived. Mezcal can come from any of the dozens of agave plants—a type of desert succulent—that are grown throughout Mexico. Tequila is made specifically from blue agave and, depending on the variety and brand, a bottle will contain between 51 percent and 100 percent of the plant-based nectar. According to The Tierra Group, a wholesaler of agave products, blue agave nectar is especially sweet because it’s 80 percent fructose, per Mexico’s regulations.

Lastly, tequila and mezcal taste different because of the ways in which they are prepared. Mezcal tends to have a savory, smoky, earthy flavor because the agave hearts (or piñas) are left cooking for several days in a fire pit that has been lined with volcanic rock and covered with agave leaves and earth. The piñas destined to end up in tequila, on the other hand, are often cooked in a brick oven, then crushed up to extract the juice.

If you ever feel adventurous at the liquor store and decide to bring home a bottle of mezcal, just keep in mind that there’s a particular way to drink it. “The first mistake many people make is pouring mezcal in a shot glass and pouring it down their throat,” Chris Reyes, a mixologist at New York City’s Temerario bar and restaurant told Liquor.com. Instead, the spirit is best sipped in a clay cup known as a jicarita.

Some words of advice if you do go shopping for mezcal: If you ever see a worm at the bottom of the bottle, that means it’s probably not a very good mezcal, according to Reyes. By contrast, tequila bottles should never have worms in them (despite the common misconception). So if you’re looking to avoid invertebrate-infused concoctions at all costs, tequila is your best bet.

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All Aboard! Mexico Is Now Home to an All-You-Can-Drink Tequila Train

iStock.com/Clicknique
iStock.com/Clicknique

If you like the idea of taking a booze cruise or imbibing while flying (on a craft beer flight, that is), then you may enjoy the hooch caboose. As Delish reports, the latest in luxury, alcohol-packed travel comes from Jose Cuervo, which is now operating an all-you-can-drink tequila train.

That’s right: You can now hop aboard the Jose Cuervo Express and slam shots or sip tequila sunrises while traveling in style from Guadalajara in western Mexico to—where else?—the city of Tequila. The deal includes round-trip train transportation and bottomless drinks at the open tequila bar, plus snacks. Guests will also get to join a separate tequila tasting with experts, take a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery in Tequila (the oldest one in the Americas), and take in a Mexican cultural show.

The Jose Cuervo Express has been around a while, but the round-trip, all-you-can-drink tequila experience is new. Since 2012, the train has been operating regular “sunrise” and “sunset” hours, offering guests a morning train ride to Tequila with an evening bus ride back to Guadalajara, and vice versa.

Prices for the new experience start from $111 on the Travel Pirates website, but the cost depends on the exact package you choose. If tequila isn’t your cup of tea, you might prefer the Mayan train line that’s slated to connect some of Mexico’s most famous pyramids and sites. Those plans are still a work in progress, though.

[h/t Delish]

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