Lest it be said that Shake, Stir, Muddle is a frivolous place with interest in nought but a tasty cocktail, we need to have a serious chat.
I was going to review the Mai Tai this week, on the back of having recently tried what was promoted as the World’s Best Mai Tai in Honolulu.
But while conducting the dry end of the SSM research, I came across some seriously dazzling stories of nightmares of the distilled variety that distracted me from the drink at hand like pickled red herrings just begging to be shared.
So let’s talk about alcohol and accidents and we’ll cover off the Mai Tai another day.
Firstly, the one where nobody died.
A bad day at the office…
In March 2013, the Chivas Brothers Distillery in Dumbarton, Scotland received a call from the local sewerage authorities, reporting a distinctly whisky-like odour.
Now in spite of what we all think when we throw a liberal slug of alcohol into the children’s dinner, New Scientist has confirmed (HERE) that we CAN actually get pissed beyond the legal limit for driving simply through eating dinner (whoops). However, these canny excrement experts knew that the whisky-water was not simply from a big night in old Dumbarton town.
Yep, by 11am it was clear that the night shift had pressed the wrong button when cleaning the tanks and instead of flushing away the wastewater, had turned the tap on some 23,000 litres of whisky.
Imagine how management and employees would have laughed and laughed and laughed together when they shared the story of this simple misunderstanding.
Of course not. We’re a TEAM.
Actually, here’s a handy tip – maybe share this post with your boss.
Just as a “hey, I’m a great employee who views you, my esteemed Manager, as a more than a cog in a heartless corporate machine. I see you as a complex human being with fine taste, and I think you’ll enjoy reading this.”
Then, next time you screw up, they might assess said screw up in a new light.
Did you flush 23,000 litres of whisky away? No. Then let’s just chalk this up to experience.
(Or, did you write “pubic meeting” instead of “public meeting” in an official work email to a former Prime Minister of Australia? No? Oh right, that was me).
Sage career advice is free at Shake, Stir, Muddle.
But even worse….
The other two stories are a lot sadder and have fewer tips for prepping for performance reviews.
History is littered with tales of moonshine-making hillbillies blowing themselves up.
Also of idiots who drink too much and do themselves in.
And it is relatively common in the distilling and brewing world for someone to die by falling into a vat of alcohol where they succumb to alcohol poisoning or drown.
Alcohol-related deaths are not uncommon.
But to die in a tsunami of booze? Seems unlikely.
In 1814 nearly half a million litres of Meux’s Brewery’s porter ale burst out of two vats in London, creating a wave of beer that ultimately led to the deaths of 8 people.
The first to die were those drowned by the initial wave.
Then, just to prove that stupidity pre-dates social media, others were crushed to death in the stampede as they threw themselves into the gutters to drink the free beer.
Then some who survived the crush died of alcohol poisoning.
But we’re not done yet.
Then there was a riot in the hospital when survivors arrived smelling of beer, prompting other patients to protest that some were clearly getting beer while they weren’t.
It gets weirder
A hundred years later an even more bizarre fate met 21 poor Bostonians.
On January 15, 1919 it was already clear that the 18th Amendment would receive the required votes to bring Prohibition into law. In fact, it was the very next day that Nebraska became the 36th State to sign on to the world’s worst policy idea.
But despite the stupid-writing being on the wall, Purity Distilling Company in Boston still had a license to manufacture alcohol for “industrial purposes” and had 900,000 litres of sweet Puerto Rican molasses in a hilltop tank.
Molasses is a key ingredient in rum (which is a key ingredient in the Mai Tai, hence we find ourselves in Boston in 1919 instead of Honolulu in 2016).
And, not surprising in a community dominated by ship-building and whaling, rum distilling was wide-spread in New England in the 1800s (before they wised up to grain alcohol).
Most was for the domestic market, but a small amount was sold overseas — some to African slave traders in what was known as the Triangle Trade.
In this charming set up, merchants sent rum to West Africa in exchange for slaves to be sold in the Caribbean; there, sugar and molasses were bought and shipped to New England for the making of rum.
But back to Boston.
It was an unseasonably warm day (hitting 4 °C in a rapid climb from previous day’s temperatures) and at lunch time, the tank collapsed, releasing a wave of molasses 8 metres high and moving at 56 kilometres per hour.
To help you picture this, here’s an 8m high climbing wall (from Lee Leisure in the UK which could possibly provide it for team building days at Chivas Brothers in years where they don’t have the belly laugh of the 23,000 litre flush to unite them).
Bad enough to be hit by a wave of water like that, but molasses does not behave like a wave of water.
Time to get a bit sciency.
Don’t panic, I can handle this.
For while it is true that I am an Arts graduate, here is photographic evidence of me successfully extracting DNA from a strawberry so a little Physics talk is not beyond me. Or you.
Molasses is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means that its viscosity depends on the forces applied to it, like tomato sauce (ketchup to my international Muddlers).
In a stationary bottle, it is thick and doesn’t move much, won’t slosh around like say, rum. Or beer. Or whisky going down a drain.
But when you squeeze or smack the bottle, the fluids suddenly flow and then stop again.
In 1919 the dense wall of molasses initially moved fast enough to sweep people up and destroy buildings, but then settled into a more gelatinous state that kept people trapped.
That’s it, I’m out.
Anything else I write on the matter would need to be entirely plagiarised.
So read THIS excellent article from Scientific American if you want to understand why swimming in molasses is virtually impossible.
But there we go. Our lesson today is that alcohol can be dangerous.
But not for us, dear Reader.
For we understand and revere the Cocktail Hour, as a time for genial conversation and moderate appreciation of high quality hooch.
We would not lie down to drink beer in the street, nor would we flush whisky into the sewer (possible exceptions to this rule do exist in the blended whisky section of the bottle shop).
We should, however, use our good fortune and wit (and where applicable, our versatile Arts degrees) to raise a glass in a poetic toast to those first on the scene to help with the Boston rescue operations.
Sailors (who in Shake, Stir, Muddle land we always refer to as sea-men) from a US Navy ship docked nearby. The USS Nantucket.
Guess it’ll have to be a limerick then.