Can you really eat yourself drunk at Christmas?
We all know that some foods contain alcohol, and traditional dishes are often the worst offenders. Sometimes the alcohol is obvious, like in tiramisu, while in other dishes the alcoholic origins are a little more subtle.
Because of this, urban myths spread about booze-infused dishes and how you can be over the limit from eating too much Christmas pudding or Baileys cheesecake. So, in the hope of debunking these myths, we looked at the recipes and tested them out to see how much you would really have to eat before being over the drink-drive limit.
Good news – it’s quite a lot. If you’re trying this at home, however, make sure the cook knows what they’re doing and hasn’t doubled – or tripled – up on the doses!
Which foods will take me over the drink-drive limit?
In short, you’d struggle. As alcohol burns off through cooking, we found that each portion tended to have only a fraction of the original units. To show just how little actually remains, we calculated the amount of drink consumed with each dish and stacked the number of servings it’d take to top the UK’s legal limits.
Even the most potent on our list, a rum & raisin rice pudding made with more than half a cup of rum, would take nearly two kilos’ worth to put you on the wrong side of a breathalyser test. Or one and a half in Scotland, where the rules are stricter.
Despite its alcoholic title and 400ml of brown ale, the steak & ale pie comes in at the other end of the spectrum, taking a mind-bending 170 portions.
Considering some of the more common desserts are made with drink, it’s little surprise to see them occupying four of the top five places on the overall table. But still, the amount you’d need to eat is, if even possible, a one-way ticket to A&E and a stomach pump.
The tiramisu and rum & raisin rice pudding, made with marsala wine and spiced rum, retain the most alcohol, but not enough to make you merry after one or two servings.
Even the brandy-packed Christmas pudding would take a two-kilo serving, or nearly one a half kilos in Scotland. After turkey, pigs in blankets and any number of Celebrations, you’ve got absolutely no chance. Mind you, the mulled wine and sloe gin should make up for that.
Boozy by name, not nature
Despite being named after alcoholic drinks and sharing nearly a litre and a half of wine, lager, ale and brandy between them, three of the four dishes above sit in the bottom half of our table.
The coq au vin, translating as ‘chicken with wine’, loses most of its units to the one-hour cooking time. That means thirteen portions are needed to fail a breathalyser test, or eight in Scotland – with just under 50 grams of protein per serving, that’s not happening.
At the other end of the graph is the beer-battered fish and chips. Even with a cooking time of only eight minutes, only a small fraction of the lager’s units remain and it’d take a ridiculous 44 portions (28 in Scotland) to take you over the edge – that’s nine kilo of cod.
But, all of those are dwarfed by the number of steak & ale pie servings needed to break the breathalyser’s threshold. After two hours of cooking, it’s left with less units per portion than any of the other dishes – an incomprehensible 170 portions, or 107 in Scotland, required to even break the breathalyser’s threshold.
Units on units
Let’s be honest with ourselves – the food-based booze isn’t the only kind we’ll be consuming at Christmas. Although many of the dishes we’ve looked at are relatively low on alcohol by the time they’re served, it’s worth bearing in mind the bottled stuff you’re topping it up with.
Just two glasses of ruby port, a popular festive drink, and you’re well on your way to the drink-drive limit – add two servings of Christmas pudding and you’ll break it. Surprisingly, the same goes for eggnog. Despite its innocent name and appearance, only one glass and two puddings will land you with a failed breathalyser test.
Even the leftover Cognac from the cooking, at 40% alcohol, isn’t as potent – two small glasses of that and you’re still as many as seven puddings from the limit. That said, the at-home measures are unlikely to match the official counts, so it’s always best to play it safe. And if you’re in Scotland, the limits are even stricter.
Know your limits
Although our research highlights the amount of alcohol lost through cooking, it’s important to note that the actual figures are subject to other variables. We’ve calculated portions using BBC Good Food recipes against gender and average weights, but height, age and even stress are among the other factors that can impact the rate of processing alcohol.
Also, for foods with up to 0.5% content, alcohol is processed quicker than it accumulates in your system, so even the designated drivers are safe with a pint of orange juice and fish and chips.
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