Surprising Uses For Vodka (And They Don’t Involve Drinking It)

Vodka always seemed to me like the chameleon of drinks: flavorless and odorless, taking on the taste of whatever mixer was splashed in. In the January/February issue of Health magazine, I learned that this versatile spirit can be used for a myriad of tasks. Pie-crust helper, facial astringent?  Who knew?

Good Housekeeping‘s Daily Green site had even more practical uses for vodka:

1. Treat poison ivy: After coming into contact with poison ivy, immediately pour vodka on skin. Caveat: Some say that the vodka needs to be at least 100 proof to work.

2. Freshen up your laundry: Spritz your clothes with vodka. The spirit kills odor-causing bacteria. Don’t worry: you won’t smell like a distillery: vodka doesn’t leave a smell when it dries.

3. Make your knobs and fixtures shine: Spritz some vodka on a soft, clean cloth and polish chrome, glass and porcelain with it.

4. Keep flowers fresh: Add a few drops of vodka and a teaspoon of sugar to the water in the vase. Repeat every day.

5. Repel insects:  Put some vodka in a spray bottle and squirt those mosquitoes away, or squirt it on your skin.

6. Soothe Jellyfish Stings: Vodka disinfects and alleviates some of the pain from a jellyfish sting.

7. Get Healthy Hair: Add vodka to your shampoo for shiny, luscious hair.

8. Banish Mold: Fill a spray bottle with some bottom-shelf vodka. Spritz on the affected area, and let sit 15 minutes. Scrub clean with an old toothbrush.

9. Make a soothing tincture: Fill a clean glass jar with fresh lavender flowers, then top off with vodka. Seal the lid tightly and place in the sun for three days. Strain the resulting liquid through a coffee filter. Rub the tincture into achy areas.

10. Ease a Toothache: Swish a shot of vodka over the affected area. It should numb some of the pain in your gums (Of course, if you’re in incredible pain, you could always just take a few shots, but then you’d be in lala land).

You can find even more uses for vodka here.

And here are some unusual uses for beer.

Of course, if you can’t drink vodka or beer, you probably shouldn’t tempt fate by spritzing it all over your house and your clothing.

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Trick and Treat: Vodka-Infused Gummi Bears

Gummi bears soak in vodka
Gummi bears soaking in vodka

What will teens come up with next? From Detroit to Dallas, the latest effort to sneak booze into their system is via gummi candy–bears, worms, or Halloween rats–the shape is of little importance. What matters is that this is a way to “drink” straight vodka, which is absorbed by the Gummis after soaking them in a glass or bowl of vodka. And presto–the Gummi Bears are now “Boozy Bears.”

Difficult for parents, teachers and even cops to detect, the Gummis pack a potent punch of booze, which can be dangerous. How-to sites and You Tube videos provide simple instructions for kids seeking to concoct these alcohol-infused treats. So parents beware–if you have a teen who is suddenly craving lots of Gummi bears, you may want to taste one first.


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Who Has the Buying Power? Women, of course.

We always knew who wore the pants in the relationship, and now alcohol producers and entrepreneurs have come to the same realization. As a result, they are finally trying to deliver what they think women want.

According to recent articles in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, women are closing the drinking gap, consuming more alcohol at restaurants and making most of the purchasing decisions for home.

Last week, Deerfield-based Beam Global Spirits & Wine, a unit of Fortune Brands, announced that it acquired Skinnygirl Margarita, a low-calorie, ready-to-drink cocktail sweetened with agave syrup.

“Women tend to be smarter customers in general,” said Michael Binstein, owner of Binny’s Beverage Depot. “They understand value, and they’re adventurous in terms of what they like to try and experiment with.”

Adult Chocolate Milk–a sweet, vodka-infused drink–and another fast-selling product, said Binstein, is developed by Tracy Reinhardt and Nikki Halbur in a home kitchen and sold in 28 states.

“The fact of the matter is that women in this country constitute the majority of vodka consumers, and they’ve been ignored,” said Adam Kamenstein, chief executive of privately-held Voli Spirits LLC, which a year ago rolled out Voli Light vodkas with the tagline “stay sexy.”

So, who chooses what alcohol to buy in your world?


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How Not To Act Old: “#137: Don’t Drink Vodka”


by Pamela Redmond Satran

You there, with the coffee mug full of clear liquid, sipping vodka because you think it won’t make you reek of alcohol at your 9 a.m. meeting: I’m not actually talking to you.

No, this directive is aimed at all you casual Cosmo lovers, you Saturday night vodka martini drinkers, you Bloody Mary and vodka tonic tipplers.

You probably developed your taste for vodka way back before you really knew much about drinking, precisely because vodka didn’t have much taste.  You could mix it with anything — Gatorade, say — and manage to get efficiently wasted without gagging on any of those overly adult flavors.

Plus, vodka was the new liquor, freshly risen from the Russian gulag, the people’s poison.  Drinking it was revolutionary, almost.  In 1968.

Which is exactly why the Evil Young have turned their backs on vodka, which is now officially The Liquor of The 52-Year-Old.  So what, if you want not to act old, are you supposed to drink instead?

Gin is always groovy.  Likewise, most brown liquors, especially Woodford Reserve bourbon or rye, like your Uncle Stanley used to drink.  Tequila, not so much.  Basically, anything you’ve been drinking all these years is bad, and anything your parents served in the early 60s is good.

If you’ve been to a hipster bar recently, you know that mixology is the thing: Precious cocktails concocted from a drop of this and a dram of that.  Last week I went to the most uber-hipster of them all, Freemans Restaurant on the Lower East Side, and happily settled into the hunting lodge-style atmosphere — from before even I was born! –  and ordered a Freemans Cocktail.

Never mind that the bartender had, as the New York Times’ Frank Bruni put it, all the charisma of Cujo.  The glimmering gold cocktail standing atop the zinc bar beneath the stuffed deer’s head looked so poetic, I was moved to hop off my barstool to take a photo to send to my friends Hugh and Kim, who were supposed to meet us that night but had to go out of town.  “See what splendor you missed?” I was going to say.

But when I sat back down, Cujo said to me, “I can’t have you taking pictures of the product.”


“You can take pictures of yourself and your friends enjoying the place,” she continued.  “But you can’t take pictures of the product.”

Whether the “product” was the drink or the animal head or just the whole gestalt, I wasn’t sure, but of course from that moment on all I wanted to do was photograph the stupid place, which I immediately loathed, plus watch Cujo concoct my next Freemans Cocktail so I could broadcast its recipe.  So here’s the product:


Although you can find the recipe online in a more refined version, this is how the bartender actually made mine:

1 tsp pomegranate molasses (thanks to my son Joe, this is an item we actually have in our refrigerator)

1 jigger lemon juice

1 jigger simple syrup

2 jiggers rye

a dash of orange bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass.  Take a liquor soaked orange peel and set it aflame so closely under the nose of an unsuspecting guest that she screams.  Sip and feel instantly 20 years younger.  Or is it older?

(*This post appeared originally on the blog How Not To Act Old.)

Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of the New York Times bestselling humor book, How Not to Act Old, based on her blog of the same name.  She is also the author of five novels, including Younger and The Man I Should Have Married, and the coauthor of ten baby name books that she’s developed into the website  Her latest project is an online serialized novel called Ho Springs, at


The Sweet Smell of Excess

By Sari Botton

mickey rourkeAl-Anon sucked. If I hadn’t been too broke for therapy, I’d never have taken a friend’s advice to attend those awful meetings.

They were worse than the AA meetings I’d been to in support of my string of alcoholic boyfriends over the years – three, if you’re keeping count.  The AA people, when they finally hit bottom, were brave, copped to shit, took responsibility for all the nasty things they’d done when they were trashed. The Al-Anonics were victimy and whiny.  Everything was someone else’s fault.

They were addict-addicts, people who NEEDed people in the worst possible way, and yet would counter-intuitively go for only the most unavailable, most uninterested, meanest people around. I, of course, did not see myself that way – she who was addicted to alcohol not by mouth, but on the breath of a difficult man.

Eric, my friend in AA, suggested I try his meetings instead.

“I’m not an alcoholic,” I protested.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Go lock yourself in a room with a case of Jack Daniels and don’t come out until it’s all gone. Then, go directly to AA. Do not pass Go.”

I thought about it. While I was at it, I might try writing, too. I’d always wanted to try writing drunk. I imagined it would free me from my crippling good-girl inhibitions.

I couldn’t though. I’d sworn off drinking nearly four years before, initially for Steve. I kept my vow of sobriety as I moved on to Bill, and then to Evan. How, oh how, pray tell, would these poor, poor men stay on the wagon without the support of little ole me? That right there is what kept me hooked. Look at how all-important I was to another human’s well being. What power I could have. All while appearing saintly. Trade that in for the occasional glass of wine? No way. This was much more intoxicating.

Except that the buzz never lasted long. In a matter of time, each boyfriend would return to drinking, and I’d feel like the ultimate failure. The relationship would bust apart, maybe for a while, maybe for good.

Evan and I went back and forth a few times. He had the hardest time of all staying sober, and I had the hardest time walking away from him. A hot, long-haired musician always surrounded by women, he also had difficulty keeping it in his pants. He reminded me of my grandfather, the original drunk in my life, alternately affectionate and icy, and unfaithful to my grandmother.

Pappa could put away a fifth of Johnny Walker Red Label a day.  I knew because I worked for him at his Seventh Avenue garmento firm. When my cousins heard I’d started working there, they joked, “What do you do, pour scotch all day?” Well, that was one of my jobs. It started at 10:30 a.m. He’d ask me to wash a glass, grab some ice, and pour some Johhny. I did that over and over until it was time to catch the train home. I knew that smooth, perfumey, malty smell so well. I had been breathing it in since I first sat on Pappa’s lap as a little girl. It simultaneously tantalized and lulled me, from the first.

Evan’s breath was infused with Vodka rather than Scotch, but it worked. My last go-round with him could have been avoided. I thought I had finally learned my lesson, and was ready to move on, not just from him, but from the Land of the Twelve Steppers. But he begged.

“I need to do this – I need to get sober for you,” he pleaded.

“But they say it never works when you get sober for someone,” I reasoned. I also instinctively knew he wasn’t ready, and doubted whether he ever would be. There were too many other women around him who were eager to do whatever he wanted in exchange for him making them feel important and powerful, too.

“Please.” He was serious. “You just have to promise you won’t leave me if I fall off the wagon. You have to stick around and help me back on.” It was the opposite of the frequently advised tough love, but I signed on anyway.

Things were great for a few weeks. Evan was so eager to try, and he’d replaced his fixation on alcohol with a fixation on me. He wrote songs about me, wrote me love letters, thanked me for having the courage to insist he go to meetings. I was higher than a kite, strung out on his complete adoration. It was so perfect.

But right on schedule, he fell. Hard. He’d never made it longer than a month, and we were rounding three weeks. Just in time, his last girlfriend, Melissa, sent him a Christmas card. He met her for a “friendly” dinner. He called me that night, and tried to hide his slurring, unsuccessfully.

“I can’t talk to you like this,” I said. “I have to get off.”

“But you promised you wouldn’t leave me if I fell. You’d stay and help me get up.”

And so I did. I went to Al-Anon, bristling as people whined. Evan was supposed to go to AA. When he stopped doing that, I started dragging him there myself, sitting with him through meetings. Then he’d sneak off. He always had to be somewhere. I knew where, although I didn’t want to know. He’d call from payphones, and the names of the bars they were situated in would come up on my caller I.D.

The drinking got worse. Now I was the enemy.

“At least Melissa will drink with me,” he argued on the phone one evening. “You’re. No. Fun.” He had this way of punctuating his word when he was sloshed, in what seemed like an effort not to seem sloshed. “If you’d just come with me to the bar…” He fell asleep mid-sentence.

Okay. I’d go with him to the bar. Maybe sitting there, sober, across from him, I could somehow appeal to him. And get him to go back to AA. And change his ways. And save his life! And save our love! Because I am just that awesome and powerful.

For a guy who clung to the mid-90s grunge look, Evan had weird taste in bars. He liked these shiny mid-town tourist traps on the ground floors of hotels that especially appealed to high-class hookers and their business-men-in-from-out-of-town clientele. One well-dressed flight attendant type came back with three different men in the course of an evening as I sat there and watched Evan down six pints of draught beer, each one followed by a shot of chilled Stoli.

I stared as he pounded, wondering what it felt like inside his brain. I was fascinated with the idea of being blissfully anesthetized, but not quite tempted to go there myself. I found myself torn between wanting to be fun like Melissa, and wanting to get serious and save him. One minute I was laughing at his stupid jokes, positioning myself just so to receive his sloppy, fragrant, Vodka-flavored kisses, and the next, I was crying, pleading, “When will you be ready to get sober again?”

“This is just a bender, babe,” he said holding me tight, alcohol fumes wafting out his mouth and off his skin, enveloping me, caressing me. “I just have to go all the way through it to get to the other side. Stay with me. We’ll get there.”

More drinking. More dragging him to meetings, after which he’d run off. Then came the confession.

He’d cheated.

I punched him in the stomach. I stopped taking his calls.

“What about me?!” He shouted into my answering machine.“I want to jump out the window and kill myself, and you won’t even pick up the phone. Would you even cry if I died?” Imagine that. With just one phone call, I could save his life. I was getting tired of being so important and powerful.

That didn’t stop me from going back and forth with him a few more times. The night he chose to stay at Melissa’s and drink instead of coming to see me, sober, it was over for me. Well, almost. First, I needed to see what all the fuss was about. I needed to know what he and Melissa felt when they were knocking back shots. It never looked fun from the outside, but if he kept wanting to do it so badly, there had to be something to it.

I went to Detour, the jazz bar across the street from my East Village tenement. I hadn’t had a vodka drink since my 18th birthday, when a single screwdriver had yielded bed spins and a terrible hangover. But now I wanted vodka. I knew the smell. Now I wanted to know the taste. And, hey, this might be my chance to write drunk.

There was a woman singing old standards accompanied by a guitar and bass. I ordered a vodka martini. After four years of not a drop of alcohol, I sat at the bar and sipped it slowly. It went right to my head. I felt like there was a bubble on it. The edges on the sounds got softer. People seemed to be moving more slowly.

A man at the other end of the bar sent over another one for me. I smiled at him, not feeling the least bit flirtatious or amorous. This made people want each other? Sip. Sip. Sip. I felt…out of it. Removed. Numb. The appeal was lost on me.

I stumbled back across the street to my apartment. As I lay down on the couch, exhausted, I noticed my journal on the coffee table. This was my chance. Inhibitions be damned!

The next morning I woke with a crushing headache. The notebook was on the floor. I picked it up. There were only two lines:

“I drank vodka tonight,” I wrote. “I can’t feel my face.”

Sari Botton’s articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, The Village Voice, MORE, Marie Claire, Self, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and many other publications, as well as on WAMC radio and NPR. Her website is she blogs at