Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How not to drink vodka

My stepmother Elaine, who is from Texas, told me once about how, when she was a college student in the DFW area, she and two friends were off at a hotel once. They had a room and were talking about classes and drinking shots of vodka and getting quietly blasted.

This had been going on for a while when one of the guys said "Hey, let's drink vodka like the Russians do." How's that? the other two wanted to know. "We float cracked black pepper on the surface of the vodka shot." Well, that seemed like a good idea, so they start sprinkling pepper liberally on the surface of the vodka shot and knocking it down and, yes, it was really quite tasty.

Elaine woke up the next morning with a really rare hangover. As some of us know, the hangover you get from, say, a dozen shots of vodka is really quite spectacular by itself, but the... unpleasantness of the vodka hangover is actually secondary compared to the nuclear glow of Cerenkov radiation coming from the scant quarter cup of black pepper sitting in a pool of acid in one's stomach. And as Elaine lay there with her stomach glowing with pain, wishing she could just die and get it over with, she swore a mighty oath that if she ever saw this yahoo again, she would kill him on the spot for suggesting this idea in the first place.

When Elaine told me this story perhaps 35 years after the occurrence, a thought occurred to me and I asked if she had, in fact, ever seen this guy since. "No," she replied, "and that's a damn good thing, because an oath like that doesn't grow dim over time."


B. L. Gonzalez said...

(Albeit from a less-than-sterling source): Cherenkov radiation is electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle (such as an electron) passes through a dielectric medium at a speed greater than the phase velocity of light in that medium.

So unless I'm missing something, I'm going to need proof on black pepper being a radiation-inducing substance.

Sounds more chemical, actually.

John Hedtke said...

A fair enough quibble, Brian. What I would suggest is an experimental proof thereof, reproducing the criteria of the initially observed phenomenon:

1. Drink some quantity--for the sake of argument, postulate 4 shots--of vodka straight.
2. Drink another dozen shots or so with a scant teaspoon of black pepper on each.
3. Drink no water during this and consume no add'l foods. Although undocumented in the initial account, I know that these are an experimental criteria in this case.
4. Go to sleep.
5. Endeavor to wake up.

If at this time, your stomach is glowing with a bright blue glow, we can assume that there is a hitherto untapped resource of radiation to be harnessed in black pepper. If, however, you are simply feeling like your stomach is the biggest pool of hangover acid you've ever had, then we can safely say it's merely chemical.

Good question. Score 5 bonus points for careful observation.