Wouldn’t You Like To Know What’s Actually In That Bottle?

When I go to the supermarket, I’m one of those shoppers that actually reads the labels. I typically peruse the list of ingredients first, and then move on to check out the number of grams of fat and fiber.

I’ve never given much thought to the notion of labels on alcoholic beverages, but the gift of information would be nice. For the time being, however, the federal government continues to delay a proposal to provide consumers with basic nutrition and alcohol facts on containers of beer, wine and spirits.

“Alcoholic beverages can contribute a significant amount of calories to the diet,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America (CFA). “Unfortunately for consumers wanting to watch their weight, they aren’t able to turn to the label to get the information they need, like they can with other food products.”

Alcoholic beverages are the only major category of consumable products not required to be labeled with information about even their basic characteristics. According to the CFA, labeling information can serve as a tool to help reduce alcohol abuse, drunk driving, obesity, and the many diseases attributable to excessive alcohol intake.

Because there hasn’t been any government action on labeling of alcoholic beverages, the CFA released a useful chart in 2008, comparing the calorie and alcohol content of several major brands of beer, wine and distilled spirits.

“Consumers need basic information about alcohol content to help them drink in moderation as recommended by the federal government and numerous health groups,” Waldrop said. “For example, consumers need to know that a 12 ounce bottle of beer has generally the same amount of alcohol as a 5 ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.”

In 2007, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposed a rule to require a standardized “Alcohol Facts” panel on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products. Four years later, TTB has yet to finalize that proposal. CFA and other public interest groups have called on TTB to mandate alcohol information on a standardized label, including the serving size, number of servings per container, percentage alcohol by volume and the amount of alcohol (in fl oz) per serving, as well as calorie information. CFA has also urged TTB to require that alcoholic beverage labels contain a statement defining “moderate” drinking, derived from the U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the definition of a standard drink.

The CFA advises consumers to remember the following:

1. It’s not what you drink, it’s how much that counts. Don’t be fooled into thinking that beer or wine is safer or less potent than the “hard stuff.” Remember, 12 ounces of beer has the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

2. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Eat food while you drink and alternate water or other nonalcoholic drinks with your alcoholic beverage.

3. In many cases, alcohol and medications don’t mix. Always read the label to determine if the prescription medicine or over-the-counter drug carries a specific warning about consuming alcohol.

4. If you’re going to be drinking when you go out, plan ahead of time how you will get home. Designate a driver, have a taxi number, and money ready to pay the taxi. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive.

5. If you are hosting a party, keep an eye out for those who may have had too much to drink and planning to drive home. If necessary, take their keys and call a taxi.

6. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, don’t serve to or buy alcohol for people under 21.

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The WineRack (Sports Bra) for Women?!

winerack sports braNot sure about you, but I’ve been frisked going into concerts and football stadiums and it’s not fun. Why would anyone sneak booze in when you can buy it inside, right?

Well, it seems that enough people would to demand a new sort of product on the market–an alternative route for women–and it’s called the WineRack.

This is no joke–the website selling the WineRack ($30) boasts that that “the advantages are obvious.” It is actually a black sports bra (fits sizes 34C-D, 36A-D and 38A-C) that lets you carryup to 750ml (equal to the contents of one bottle of wine, or 25 oz.) of any beverage. The bra sports a polyurethane  bladder and a drinking tube long enough to route as you wish, along with an easy-to-use on/off valve to control the flow.

The big question: If the frisker feels the tube, what will she ask you to do–spill out its contents or remove your bra?


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Who loves whiskey more–women or men?

Whiskey has been in the press a lot these days, and all stories seem to focus on its increasingly devoted buyer: women.

The liquor industry is seeing a surge in women buying alcoholic drinks traditionally marketed toward men, reported a recent piece on msnbc.com titled, ‘Mad Men’ effect? More women get a taste for whiskey. The whiskey industry acknowledges that “women make 65 to 70 percent of the alcohol-purchasing decisions for at-home consumption,” according to New England Consulting Group, so its now-finally–concentrating on the female buyer. As a result, a number of companies have added different styles and a wide range of flavors and aromas.

In fact, there’s even a non-alcoholic version of whiskey on the market–ideal for those who like the flavor of whiskey and who are either pregnant or prefer to abstain from alcohol. As promoted on its website, ArKay is “the world’s first alcohol-free ,whiskey-flavored drink…a perfect beverage that anyone can consume.”

Jameson whiskey ad

There is some controversy about Arkay, however–so don’t throw out the O’Doul’s just yet. According to the Scotch Whiskey Association, ArKay is just a “soft drink with artificial flavorings.”

Historically known as a masculine drink, whiskey advertisements have almost exclusively been directed at men (exhibit right). This sparked an interesting debate, addressed in Brooke Carey’s Huffington Post piece, Women and Whiskey Advertising. After researching whiskey’s advertising past, Carey uncovered that the question “isn’t why don’t whiskey makers pay the ladies any attention but, rather, why do women respond to masculine ads while the reverse doesn’t appear to be true?”

It’s an interesting question. So what do you think about the advertising focus? And who buys the booze in your house?

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The College Focus on Women & Alcohol on Campus

drinking cupsIt seems that the Lehigh University Women’s Center  is taking an important stand, opening up a much-needed conversation about the pressures college-aged women sometimes feel surrounding alcohol, according to an article on the Lehigh Valley Live website.

A part of the university’s Women and Health Speakers & Events Series–and as a follow-up to the screening of the documentary Miss Representation, which addressed the pressures surrounding the ideal of successful women–the event focused on issues such as body image, the prominence of alcohol on campus, and why women are now choosing to consume hard liquor instead of beer.

Rita Jones, the Director of the Women’s Center, said the event was meant to offer a space for conversation, and that it did, as students and faculty in attendance spoke candidly about the pressures and effects of alcohol on women in Lehigh’s community.

Apparently, many women are opting to drink hard liquor because it has fewer calories, validating that body image and calorie counting are affecting women’s choices. Most students at the event agreed that the “loudest social voice on campus is often one advocating partying,” and that alcohol has become a “social crutch since “there’s there is nothingcollege girls drinking to do at a party but drink.”

Some students suggested they’d like to see more non-alcohol activities on campus and explained that when libraries closes early, “it practically encourages students to go out and consume alcohol on the weekends.”

For student-athletes, those at the event said that their team’s longest meetings focused on discussions of dry policies, which determine the times athletes cannot consume alcohol before and after sporting events.

Kudos to Lehigh for bringing these issues about women and alcohol to light and offering students a chance to speak out. Let’s hope that other colleges and universities follow suit.


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Flying to Mexico–Water? Coca? Tequila?

On a recent Aeromexico flight from New York to Mexico City, I sat cozily in my window seat, devouring my newspaper, magazines and book, respectively. The Mexican man to my left sported a navy Red Sox cap, Aeropostale blue jeans and some very shiny black patent leather shoes. He talked to no one, read nothing, watched nothing, and listened to nothing. And then, suddenly, I heard him speak when the flight attendant approached with her cart full of beverages.

While I replied to her beverage inquiry with my best “agua con gaz,” she then asked my Mexican neighbor what he’d like. “Agua? Coca? Tequila?” she asked. “Tequila,” he answered. She then gave him a list of choices for how he can have it, which I understood to be straight up, on ice, or with Coke or Sprite.

I kept my eyes on her as she traveled to the next row and then the next, watching that tall, thin Cuervo bottle lifted and poured more than any other beverage. No money changed hands.

Wondering about the time I looked at my watch. Yep, just as I’d thought, it was 12:00 in the afternoon and these imbibers comfortably sipped their Tequila way above the clouds. If this were a U.S. airline, they’d have to pay at least five bucks, would receive a teeny little twist-off bottle, and would probably get some funky looks from nosy neighbors–like me.

On the way back home from Mexico, again on Aeromexico, I sat next to a middle aged Mexican couple. The woman, directly to my left, seemed a nervous flier, gripping her husband’s hand during take off and closing her eyes through the flight listening to the music of a latin singer named Diego Verdaguer (I only know this because his crooning figure kept on showing up on her Ipad). When the post-meal beverage cart arrived and she asked for her tequila on ice, it was old hat for me.

I turned back to my book and thought: Viva La Diferencia!


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