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7 Surprising Uses for Vodka

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It’s National Vodka Day! While your first inclination might be to break out the cocktail shaker in order to celebrate the beloved spirit, you could just as easily whip out a spray bottle and start scrubbing your countertops. Because as versatile a liquid as vodka is in a glass—pairing as well with tomato juice as it does orange juice—it’s equally multipurpose in a non-drinking setting.

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 of the 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. North Carolina State University horticulture professor John Dole says that 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,” says Warren-Tricomi stylist Marc Mena. “[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.

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Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid Is Like a Keurig for Cocktails—and You Can Buy It Now
Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid

To make great-tasting cocktails at home, you could take a bartending class, or you could just buy a fancy gadget that does all the work for you. Imbibers interested in the hands-off approach should check out Bibo Barmaid, a cocktail maker that works like a Keurig machine for booze.

According to Supercall, all you need to turn the Bibo Barmaid system into your personal mixologist is a pouch of liquor and a pouch of cocktail flavoring. Bibo's liquor options include vodka, whiskey, rum, and agave spirit (think tequila), which can be paired with flavors like cucumber melon, rum punch, appletini, margarita, tangerine paloma, and mai tai.

After choosing your liquor and flavor packets, insert them into the machine, press the button, and watch as it dilutes the mixture and pours a perfect single portion of your favorite drink into your glass—no muddlers or bar spoons required.

Making cocktails at home usually means investing in a lot of equipment and ingredients, which isn't always worth it if you're preparing a drink for just yourself or you and a friend. With Bibo, whipping up a cocktail isn't much harder than pouring yourself a glass of wine.

Bibo Barmaid is now available on Amazon for $240, and cocktail mixes are available on Bibo's website starting at $35 for 18 pouches. The company is working on rolling out its liquor pouches in liquor stores and other alcohol retailers across the U.S.

[h/t Supercall]

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Is There Any Point in Letting Red Wine Breathe?
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by Aliya Whiteley

At the end of a long day, few things beat simple pleasures like watching a good film, eating a bar of chocolate the size of your head, or drinking a big glass of red wine.

By this point in the evening, most people don’t want to be told that they need to uncork the bottle and let the wine sit for at least 30 minutes before it becomes pleasantly drinkable. Yet that's (by the letter of the unwritten law) what you're supposed to do.

But why? Well, let's start with the assorted historical reasons.

Red wine has been around since the Stone Age. In fact, in 2011 a cave was uncovered in Armenia where the remains of a wine press, drinking and fermentation vessels, and withered grape vines were uncovered; the remains were dated at 5500 years old. Early winemaking often had a ritualistic aspect: Wine jars were found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and wine appears in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

The concept of letting wine "breathe" is, historically speaking, relatively new and probably has its roots in the way wine was once bottled and stored.

Traditionally, sulfur is added to wine in order to preserve it for longer, and if too much is added the wine might well have an ... interesting aroma when first opened—the kind of "interesting aroma" that bears more than a passing resemblance to rotten eggs. Contact with the air may have helped to remove the smell, so decanting wine may once have been a way of removing unwelcome odors, as well as getting rid of the sediment that built up in the bottom of bottles.

It’s also possible that the concept springs from the early 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III asked Louis Pasteur to investigate why so much French wine was spoiling in transit. Pasteur published his results, which concluded that wine coming into contact with air led to the growth of bacteria, thus ruining the vino. However, small amounts of air improved the flavor of the wine by "aging" it. In bottles, with a cork stopper, the wine still came into contact with a small amount of oxygen, and by storing it for years the wine was thought to develop a deeper flavor.

However, how much of that actually matters today?

Many experts agree that there is no point in simply pulling out the cork and letting the wine sit in an open bottle for any period of time; the wine won’t come into enough contact with oxygen to make any difference to the taste.

However, decanting wine might still be a useful activity. The truth is this: It entirely depends on the wine.

Nowadays we don’t really age wine anymore; we make it with the aim of drinking it quickly, within a year or so. But some types of wine that are rich in tannins (compounds that come from the grape skins and seeds) can benefit from a period of time in a decanter, to soften the astringent taste. These include wines from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, for instance.

If you really want to know if a particular wine would benefit from being given time to breathe, try your own experiment at home. Buy two bottles, decant one, and let it breathe for an hour. Do you notice a difference in the taste? Even if you don’t, it's an experiment that justifies opening two bottles of wine.

One word of warning: No matter where a wine comes from, it is possible to overexpose it to oxygen. So remember Pasteur’s experiments and don’t leave your wine out of the bottle for days. That, friends, would be one hell of a waste.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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