hot alcoholic drinks

When the weather gets frightful, nothing goes down better than a hot alcoholic beverage. For one, the hot liquid is warming. Second, the alcohol makes you feel warmer and helps you forget that you can’t go outside without putting on half of your closet. But heating alcohol does have an unfortunate side effect: It causes some of it to evaporate. With the goal of consuming the alcohol, any evaporated alcohol is a small affront to the holiday season. But fear not, hot cider, hot toddy, and mulled wine lovers: Around 85 percent of your beloved alcohol will survive the heating process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did a study in 2007 that nailed down the numbers with the magic of the scientific method. Preparation of hot alcoholic beverages is a dream job for some, and the daily grind for others. The lucky scientists, paid with America’s hard-earned tax dollars, tested how much alcohol was lost in four types of food preparation: no heat, alcohol in boiling liquid, flaming alcohol, and baked alcohol at various times.

Feel free to test out the percentages yourself in a less scientific way. It’s your prerogative. For the rest of us, here is the breakdown of how much alcohol your drink loses based on how you made it (we’re not sure who is baking their stirred alcoholic beverages, but the more you know the better, right?):

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Preparation Percent of alcohol that stays in the drink
Not heated, but stored open overnight 70
Stirred into a hot liquid 85
Flamed, like in a flaming shot 75
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 15 minutes 40
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 30 minutes 35
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 1 hour 25
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 1.5 hours 20
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 2 hours 10
Stirred, baked, then simmered for 2.5 hours 5

So go off and heat up those festive drinks. And if you’re worried about that lost 15 percent of alcohol, it’s the perfect excuse to add a little extra into your cup.