When Christmas Cocktails Meet Gadgets

Written by guest author Will Francis

Christmas has once again been and gone but don’t worry New Year’s Eve 2016 is fast approaching. gadgetbuddy.com have invited me to create two cocktails, before testing out two of the digital breathalysers currently on the market.

Sure it’s the season to be jolly, busy with family get-togethers, parties and trips to the local, but we must also remember to stick to our limits to remain safe. With this in mind read on for two ideas for cocktails, perfect for seeing in 2016 and my review of two breathalysers you could use to monitor your alcohol intake whilst partying the night away.

Note on measures: roughly speaking 1 oz = 30 ml = 1 shot

A Festive Old Fashioned

The first cocktail is one which could only be more festive if garnished with left-over turkey, and I wouldn’t recommend that. It fuses two bottles your home will probably have lying around - dark rum for that rum sauce, and a good port - with Angostura bitters, sugar and maraschino cherries to make a festive take on the Old Fashioned, the favoured tipple of Mad Men’s Don Draper, so you can feel incredibly suave and sophisticated when making and drinking this.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 3/4 oz tawny port
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1/3 oz sugar syrup
  • Maraschino cherries

Method

Stir the liquid ingredients with ice in a mixing glass if you have one, if not stir in a tumbler. Old Fashioneds are renowned for their need to be stirred properly. Stir for a full minute to ensure dilution and cooling. Fill your Old Fashioned glass (a rocks glass or tumbler is perfect) with ice and strain the mixture in. Top up with ice if possible. Spear 3 cherries with a cocktail stick and rest on the rim.

A Midnight Martini

Our second NYE-themed cocktail is another classic with a yuletide twist. The vodka martini gets a burst of warm, ruby flavours from a good port, and a wonderfully spicy nose from the floating star anise. This is a fantastic drink but dangerously easy to slurp and very strong!

Ingredients

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz tawny port
  • 1 star anise

Method

Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 with ice and pour in your liquid ingredients. If you’ve ever wondered which order to pour your ingredients in, many bartenders agree that they go in order of expense, cheapest first, so if you spoil it for any reason you’re least likely to waste the expensive booze! For this cocktail that very much depends on how much you splashed out on each ingredient.

Shake for half a minute until the shaker starts to frost on the outside and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Gently float a star anise on the surface and serve.

Have you thought about a personal breathalyser?

With lots of us driving to family dinners and parties this Christmas, it’s really important to be aware of the safe limits, and of course the legal ones. Every unit you drink raises your blood alcohol by 20 mg per 100ml (or 0.02 BAC). The legal limit for driving in England is 0.08 BAC, in Scotland it is 0.05 BAC. Given that your chance of being in a car accident is increased four-fold if your blood alcohol content is 0.08 it’s always best to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum if you’re the designated driver (or better yet not drink at all).

Once I’d enjoyed those two delicious cocktails, I certainly felt a little tipsy, but where did I stand in terms of blood alcohol content? And how would that change as the effects wore off? I tested out two very different portable breathalysers - a cheap keyring breath tester costing just £4.99, and a more sophisticated smartphone-integrated unit costing £79.99.

Smartphone breathalyser with app

First up is a type of breathalyser you can plug into your smartphone’s audio jack to interact with and record readings in an app. We also happened to find out that this specific device is comparable to professional grade law enforcement alcohol screening devices.

The design is very neat, a small box little bigger than a car remote, and with a keyring attachment should you want to ensure you always have it with you. In the box you get the unit, a USB charging cable and eight spare mouthpieces which are sturdy and re-usable. To use these smartphone reliant breathalysers you’ll need to download an app. The one we’re testing here is compatible with iOS and Android phones, and I tested it on my iPhone 6.

On sliding out the jack plug, you switch the device on, and a few seconds later its lights blink to indicate it’s ready. Opening the app will give you the status of the device and confirm it’s ready. I found this to be quite unreliable, presumably because of how highly sensitive the alcohol sensor is. On average it worked around half the time for me, and re-plugging it in always seemed to work so wasn’t a big issue.

Starting the test is as simple as pressing the large ‘Start’ button in the app, and waiting for the prompt to blow a deep, consistent breath into the mouthpiece. After around five seconds, the app starts to calculate the result. Again, this worked around half the time so it’s clearly quite a fallible process, but once the results came in they seemed very consistent and in line with the theory behind how much I had drunk.

Conclusion

Great if you like to track your BAC over time and understand how the levels of alcohol in your blood change as you drink, and afterwards.

Pros

  • Accurate, specific results
  • Records results over time
  • Integrated with Apple Health

Cons

  • Often doesn’t work first time
  • Slightly fiddly to use, and certainly not something you could do discreetly

Keyring breath tester

Now to the budget keyring tester. This is a very compact unit, and comes with nothing else, no mouthpieces and not even batteries so requires two AAA batteries (not included) to get started. It boasts a completely unnecessary LED torch which is inexplicably yellow-coloured, dim and fiddly to turn on and off. But who knows, I might really appreciate that one night when stumbling to my car. Oh, hang on… Anyway, operating this breathalyser is incredibly simple, you just press and hold the power button until the green light comes on. The red and yellow lights are illuminated whilst it readies itself and the first unit I tried never successfully became ready so I had to replace it.

Gripes aside, once it did work it was simply a case of press and hold the button and blow on the sensor for a simple result - you were either green (below 0.02 BAC), yellow (0.02 BAC - 0.05 BAC) or red (0.05 BAC or above). I was really impressed with the fact that this never disagreed with the more sophisticated readings given by the smartphone breathalyser costing 16 times as much, so it does work. The only downside of course is that the readings don’t give you any more granular information and don’t help you work out if you’re under the English (and American) limit of 0.08 BAC.

Conclusion

If you’re not willing to fork out more than a fiver for a breathalyser then you really must buy one of these, they’re clearly accurate and worth having on you for basic readings.

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Easy and discreet to use

Cons

  • Lack of detail in tests
  • No record of previous tests

The Readings

My results were as follows:

20 minutes after drinking both cocktails I took the first reading.

**Time** **Smartphone Breathalyser** **Keyring breath tester**
7:30pm 0.082 BAC Red
8:30pm 0.058 BAC Red
9:30pm 0.045 BAC Yellow
10:30pm 0.031 BAC Yellow
11:30pm 0.014 BAC Green
12:30am 0.000 BAC Green

Final Thoughts

Both devices agreed on these results which was reassuring. Overall these are great gadgets to help us be more aware of how alcohol consumption affects us, and I’ll certainly consider keeping one in my pocket from now on. Overall however if you are choosing to drink the best idea is probably to leave the car at home all together.

If you’ve read the above and your curious about just how much alcohol the UK consumed over the festive season please click the following link to take a look at a study we recently commissioned: UK Christmas Drinking Habits.