Booze makes people pretty creative. As such, it’s possible it can stretch our imaginations. There are many legends associated with alcohol throughout history, from the mythical Stingy Jack, a drunkard who roamed the earth with a hollowed-out turnip filled with hellfire, to the very real Jack Daniel, who may or may not have died from trying to kick a safe open at his distillery.
With so many myths oft leading to misinformation (we believe in you, jack-o’-lantern!), and still others being shockingly true, we took a dive into the alleged fish guts, deer’s blood, and other bodily fluids of booze lore.
So are there really fish guts in wine and beer? Did a man suffer grievous injuries after an intense karaoke session involving hydrogen beer? Read on to find out.
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Legend: Corona employees urinated in the beer in the 1980s.
Verdict: Not true. A 1987 investigation led by Corona importer Michael J. Mazzoni, of Barton Beers, allegedly traced the rumor back to Luce & Son, Inc., a Heineken distributor based in Nevada. Barton Beers and Luce & Son reached a settlement, and the latter issued a public statement denying the toxic rumor. Still, the tall tale had a very real impact: Sales of Corona dropped nearly 80 percent in some towns that year.
Legend: Jägermeister is made with deer’s blood.
Verdict: Not true. Do you know how difficult it would be to source a continuous stream of deer’s blood into the liquor supply chain? Neither do we, but it sounds like a lot of extra work. Jägermeister is made with 56 herbs, blossoms, and roots, a recipe written in 1934.
Legend: Wine and beer are filtered with fish guts.
Verdict: True, in some cases (sorry, vegans). It’s called fining. The animal protein works as a filter, binding dead yeast cells, bits of grape, stems, and other possible byproducts into one mass that can then be removed from the liquid. The traditional method uses egg whites, milk, and, sometimes, dried fish bladders. Some vegan-friendly fining options include seaweed and volcanic clay.
In beer’s case, the fining practice was made famous by Guinness, which used isinglass to clarify its beer for more than 100 years. However, the brewery has since gone vegan. In any case, fining is used to filter out proteins that make beer cloudy — so it’s safe to say your NEIPA is A-OK.
Legend: Hydrogen beer sold at Japanese karaoke bars gives patrons the ability to sing soprano and breathe blue flames.
Verdict: A bunch of hot air. According to lore, Toshira Otama, a one-time patron of the Tike-Take karaoke bar in Tokyo, suffered grievous bodily harm and successfully sued the establishment after drinking Suiso, a hydrogen beer produced by Asaka Beer Corporation and sold at Japanese karaoke bars. There’s no Suiso beer, no Asaka Beer Corporation, and no lawsuit. Additionally, the names of the individuals involved in the “case” — bar manager and defendant, Takashi Nomura, and prosecutor and patron, Toshira Otoma — bear striking resemblance to the names of two Japanese actors, Takashi Nomura and Toshiro Mifune, and a director, Katsuhiro Otomo.
Legend: Alcohol companies sneak secret, sexy messages into their advertisements.
Verdict: All advertising is a mind game of sorts, isn’t it? Subliminal messaging is probably present in all sorts of marketing efforts, whether they’re selling booze or Coke or shampoo.
According to AdWeek, Seagram’s gin, Absolut vodka, Cutty Sark, and Miller Lite have used subliminal or hidden messages in their advertising. Some examples range from the word “sex” appearing in ice cubes for a Gilbey’s Gin ad to Heineken bottles that look like a lady’s buttocks. Absolut has also been slipping subtly supportive messages to the LGBTQ community since the 1980s, which is pretty cool.
Legend: People used to drink Champagne out of women’s shoes.
Verdict: True. The Roaring ’20s were a weird time. The practice supposedly originated in the late 1800s at Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, where spectators sipped vodka from ballerinas’ slippers. It got popular stateside at Chicago’s Everleigh Club, a high-end brothel, in 1902.
Legend: Jack Daniel died as a result of gangrene in his big toe, which he got by kicking a safe.
Verdict: Jack Daniel was a man who inspired many myths. Death by safe is one of them. According to Peter Krass, biographer and author of “Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel,” the infamous distiller did kick the safe in 1905 or 1906, but it was several years later that Daniel died from gangrene — or septicemia, blood poisoning caused by bacterial infection — in 1911. “That’s a long time for the gangrene to work its way up from his big toe,” Krass said.