Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It's Cold Out?

Joe Robbins / Getty
Joe Robbins / Getty

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Here's something tailgaters, ice skaters, skiers and other cold weather fans might want to keep in mind: Drinking boozy beverages will make you feel warmer, but it doesn't actually keep you warm or prevent hypothermia. Instead, drinking alcohol lowers the core temperature of your body.

According to Dr. William Haynes, director of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Iowa, “Consumption of alcohol undoes many of the human body’s healthy reflexes, one of which is keeping the core body temperature warm in cold weather.” It doesn’t even take that much for this effect to kick in—just one alcoholic drink will start the process that results in a lowered core body temperature.

How does alcohol do this, and why does drinking alcohol make you feel warmer, even though you actually are getting colder?

You Booze, You Lose (Heat)

Alcohol is a vasodilator. It causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries just under the surface of your skin. When you have a drink, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warm. (That dilation is why slightly or exceedingly intoxicated people look flushed.) This overrides one of your body’s defenses against cold temperatures: Constricting your blood vessels, thereby minimizing blood flow to your skin in order to keep your core body temperature up.

Someone enjoying a drink in the cold may feel warmer from the extra blood warming his skin, but that blood will rapidly cool thanks to the chill in the air. Plus, the warmth caused by blood rushing to the skin will also make him sweat, decreasing his core temperature even further. The rapid drop often occurs without the drinker realizing it, because his skin will still feel fairly warm, which makes it doubly dangerous to drink alcohol in extremely cold weather. (You might want to put down the coffee, too; caffeine has a similar effect.)

The Big Chill

This isn’t the only bad thing about drinking alcohol in the cold. According to a study done by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, drinking alcohol in chilly weather also reduces the body’s ability and tendency to shiver, taking away yet another method your body uses to help keep warm when it is cold.

Bottom line? The age-old practice of drinking alcoholic beverages to keep the body warm in cold weather is the exact opposite of what you should do.

Blue Point Brewing Company's New Bubble Gum Beer Has a Garbage Pail Kids Twist

Blue Point Brewing Company
Blue Point Brewing Company

Craving the taste of 1980s nostalgia? Long Island-based Blue Point Brewing Company's new bubble gum-flavored IPA, Bubble Brain, smells like Bazooka Joe but tastes more like a less-sweet fruity brew, with a tart and bitter finish. Even those who aren’t keen on IPAs might like it, as the deep rose-hued drink looks like wine and doesn’t taste as hoppy as some IPAs and pale ales.

To give the beer an added throwback vibe, Blue Point (an Anheuser-Busch InBev company) tapped Garbage Pail Kids illustrator Brent Engstrom to design the label, which features a rendering of Blue Point’s brewmaster Mike "Stoney" Stoneburg, who came up with the beer.

"It’s a small batch, bubble gum beer, driven by fruit, spices, and yeast,” Barry McLaughlin, Blue Point Brewing’s marketing director, told Forbes. “It’s all inspired by a visit to a dusty novelty store on the west side of town and finding a bit of lost nostalgia of our ‘80s youth.”

“The juicy New England and milkshake IPA styles have become extremely popular, as well as fruited, kettle sours," McLaughin said of the beer's IPA-meets-sour flavor. "As brewers, we wanted to highlight the things we love about all of these styles but also take some risks and push the drinker’s experience further in a new, sub-style of IPA."

According to the beer review site Untapped, some drinkers have described the 6.5 percent ABV Bubble Brain as “weird,” “wild,” and “tastes just like bubble gum.”

You can find the beer—and a sip of yesterday—in pastel-colored tall boy four-packs at select retail outlets in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and at Blue Point’s brewpub in Patchogue, New York.

You Can Now Enjoy a Vodka Made in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone … If You Dare

igorr1/iStock via Getty Images
igorr1/iStock via Getty Images

The HBO limited series Chernobyl has brought renewed attention to the 1986 nuclear accident that occurred in what was then the Soviet Union, which ranks among the worst man-made disasters in world history. The accidental explosion of the nuclear core irradiated a huge swath of land 1000 square miles in size and is believed to have killed thousands.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now apparently safe enough for tourists, who flock to the site to get a glimpse of what amounts to a ghost town. But would you drink a vodka made from grains and water found there?

Scientists and researchers who have worked in the zone believe some people will. They’ve founded the Chernobyl Spirit Company and are now marketing Atomik, an artisan vodka made with rye grains and water from the area. Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at England's University of Portsmouth, led the exploration of land near the Opachichi settlement, which is believed to be one of the zone's least contaminated areas.

Rye grain grown on the site demonstrated levels of radioactivity that were slightly above safe thresholds. After being distilled, the spirit was submitted to experts at Southampton University for additional testing. The distillation seemed to virtually eliminate all but the naturally occurring levels of carbon-14 found in most any spirit. The water, which comes from an aquifer six miles south of the reactor, was found to be safe. The company also says that the soil poses no health issues for workers.

Researchers say the vodka accomplishes two goals: First, it makes use of land that would otherwise be abandoned. Second, proceeds from sales of the vodka will be put back into communities near the Exclusion Zone, which have struggled to improve their economic conditions in the years since the accident.

For now, the Chernobyl Spirit Company has only produced one bottle of Atomik. The goal is to make 500 bottles this year and sell them primarily to tourists to the site. If nothing else, having some Chernobyl moonshine will make for a conversation piece.

[h/t BBC]

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