The Cost of a Bottle of Sutter Home at the Times Square Olive Garden + More Booze Facts

If you combined Harper’s Index with its Findings section and dramatically lowered the research quality of both, you would get my mind after a good Internet k-hole. Here are all the things I learned this week.

Beer jugs from the Stone Age suggest that humans have been intentionally producing alcohol since at least 10,000 B.C. As the first intoxication was likely an accident, we’ve probably been drinking booze for even longer. Recently, researchers theorized that the human ability to metabolize ethanol evolved when our primate ancestors became less tree-dwelling and more terrestrial, eating fruits that fermented after falling to the ground.

In ancient Egypt, the dead were buried with items thought necessary to lead them through the afterlife: spells and instructions, combs and pottery, masks, money, and alcohol. When they excavated King Tut’s tomb, archaeologists found 26 clay jars of wine, each marked with name, year and vineyard; in an arrangement suggesting the idea of rebirth, the white wine was placed to the east, the red to the west.

Wine by the glass accounts for around 75% of all wine purchases and usually carries a greater markup than wine sold by the bottle. The standard markup for a bottle of wine is three times the wholesale cost, but cheap wine tends to be marked up more than expensive wine; a bottle of Sutter Home at the Times Square Olive Garden costs six times its retail price. Over the next few years, Olive Garden franchises will open all over the Middle East, including Egypt. In Cairo, you can already eat at Applebee’s and Chili’s, but the drink menus are endangered; last week, the Egyptian government ruled that they would no longer issue or renew alcohol permits in cities. “The sale of alcohol leads to problems, including attacking women and randomly ringing doorbells of people’s homes,” stated the vice president of NUCA, the agency responsible for the temperance initiative. This month, the Islamist government has also temporarily banned YouTube and ordered a belly-dancing TV channel off the air for being too arousing.

In Europe, people drink three to six times as much wine as we do in America, but they tend to spend less money; Germans pay $1.79 on average for a bottle of wine. One team of neuroscientists measured pleasure responses while study subjects tested a variety of wines labeled with arbitrary prices. They found that the higher prices led to higher taste expectations, which led to a heightened pleasure response in the brain regardless of the actual cost or quality of the wine. So: get someone to tell you your wine is expensive and it will taste amazing.

During Prohibition, vineyards sold bricks of grape jelly called VINE-GLO, warning consumers not to mix the jelly with water and let it sit, or else it would turn into wine in twenty days. Around the same time, bootleggers birthed stock-car racing when they modified their cars to better facilitate fast moonshine deliveries on twisty mountain roads. The sport stuck around, and in 1949 became NASCAR. Last Saturday, flying debris from a 10-car crash injured 28 fans at the Daytona Speedway; Sunday’s race continued as usual. “Anywhere you go, you run the risk of being injured,” said one spectator from New York City. Another said, “We come for the thrill, the excitement. We can feel the heat, the tire rubber in our eyes.”

There is a parasite that affects rodent brains, causing them to be attracted to cats that will kill them. Many animals will drink alcohol when they find it. When I lived in Kyrgyzstan, I drank moonshine made by someone who was already blind. A primatologist at U.C. Berkeley hasproposed that human subjectivity—our greatest evolutionary asset—may be the source of our species’ uniquely fraught entanglement with drink. “Humans might be the only animals that wish to escape from their consciousness,” she said.

 

Jia Tolentino lives in Ann Arbor. And has been known to spend some time on the internet

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11 Comments / Post A Comment

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

“More wine!” – Me (and Cersei)

I’m surprised Americans drink any wine at all, it’s such a terrible deal.

Also when I read the headline I was wondering if this column had taken its first foray into field research…

Weasley (#1,419)

@stuffisthings

It’s because it’s delicious.

@Weasley The only two drinks I’ll buy at a bar are “your cheapest beer and a shot of rail whiskey, please,” and really fancy rye-based cocktails.

Weasley (#1,419)

@stuffisthings

I usually get whiskeys on the rocks or gin martinis. Wine is mostly an at-home drink. But, I should say, I’m not a big drinker. I maybe go out to a bar once a month (or couple of months) and my at-home drinking as dropped down to almost nothing in the last couple of years.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@stuffisthings I adore wine, and nobody will ever convince me not to drink it. BUT I do not drink out ever, because ALL drinks out are bad deals generally (or at least you can drink it for far cheaper at home or parties, pouring and mixing your own). I tend to buy box wines for around $20, or the equivalent of $1/drink, which for me is a great deal.

lizard (#2,615)

@stuffisthings i have found some great deals on wine. and its cheaper than beer sometimes because its higher in alcohol and i dont usually want to sip on whiskey all night

@Blondsak I think maybe what annoys me about wine at bars is that getting it by the glass is usually more expensive than getting a bottle, which in turn is more expensive than buying it at the store. If you could get beer at a bar by the six pack for cheaper, I might be reluctant to buy individual beers, too.

j-i-a (#746)

@stuffisthings OH I’LL DO IT WHAT SHOULD I DO

@j-i-a Drink one bottle of Sutter Home at each place you can find that sells it, then take a taxi home and immediately try to write up the results.

OR, find a period-appropriate recreation of VINE-GLO and tell us what it tastes like and where we can buy it.

(ETA: Or just keep doin’ what you’re doin’ because it’s great)

“Germans pay $1.79 on average for a bottle of wine.”
Former very heavy drinker of cheap wine in Germany here!

$1.79 is roughly €1.30: you cannot buy drinkable wine, even in Germany, for that price. As the poorest of the poor students quite a few years ago, I drank my way through most every bottle of cheap swill. There are lots of perfectly drinkable wines at €3, but that is the basement of cheap wine. Really. Truly. I drank a lot. Like a bottle a day, frequently alone, mostly in my bathtub, and I truly had no money (I would buy food with the money from redeeming the deposits on my water & beer bottles at the end of the month). And even I didn’t go below €3 a bottle, after trying out ALL of the bottom shelf. And this cuts across most grocery stores, from Spar all the way down to Lidl, Aldi, and Penny.

There was ONE exception, and it involved a bottle of Italian Verdicchio from this weird Italian-importer in Vienna, that retailed for €1.80 (this was in 2005, mind you). I could drink that stuff like water, and, honestly, I kind of did. No other sub-€2.50 wine ever got purchased twice, and many of them got dumped undrunk down the drain (that’s how bad they were… they would have ruined sauces).

(One of my better stories, that I tell mostly at social situations with strangers that requires ridiculous small talk, involves a “how low can you go” with wine tale. I stand firmly by my €3 rule. And I will not drink with those who also don’t follow it!)

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