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Alcohol in food at restaurants - Legal?

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I know that many ethnic foods use alcohol such as sake as one of the key ingredients for food. Some cook the alcohol and let the alcohol evaporate but some are left with fresh uncooked alcohol left in their food. Although it maybe such a small amount of alcohol in your food, I was wondering if restaurants can legally serve such food with alcohol in it without discriminating against minor customers. Does anybody know what FDA has any rules regarding such practice?

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  1. the amounts are so miniscule as not to matter

    2 Replies
    1. re: thew

      Right. There's probably a legal minimum -- I know some liqueur-filled chocolates can't be sold to minors, but those products usually are labeled as containing 4+ percent alcohol (and I can't imagine eating enough candy at 4 percent to get buzzed on something other than the sugar!). But most dishes where alcohol is used as a flavoring there isn't enough to make a difference. After all, vanilla extract contains a fairly high percentage of alcohol (I looked it up -- the FDA requires a minimum of 35 percent, which is 70 proof, to qualify as vanilla "extract") and is sometimes used in uncooked foods (whipped cream, for example).

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        OMG, total flashback to Utah when I was 20 trying to buy some nice truffles for my mom. Going to school in New Orleans, I found that to be a new low, even by Salt Lake standards. Diabetes would have been a more accurate concern than me getting wasted on $20 worth of champagne truffles.

    2. I've always thought alcohol laws were up to the states.

      1. Alcohol laws are state mandated, but jfood believes the Federal government has told the states if they do not enforce a 21 yo drinking age they will not receive federal road funding. The FDA will mandate whether something can or can not be sold (among other things).

        In jfood town the police have now come up with an ineresting interpretation. They are arresting <21 yo for "possession" of alcohol if it is in their system (breatherlizer confirmed) even if there is no bottle or can in sight. This is not a position agreed to by any other town in CT. Jfood guesses a good lawyer will now come up wih the Coq au Vin defense.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Sounds like since David Letterman's stalker was packed away, the New Canaan police have a lot of time on their hands....:)

          1. re: Veggo

            I second that emotion, Veggo. I will be visiting there next week, and I know they really had it out for me when I lived there growing up. I still can't speed down Weed Street without thinking of Letterman and the fact that he and I got tickets from the same cop (many years apart).

          2. re: jfood

            That seems an odd approach. Even if the test does not prove possession in the traditional sense, it certainly proves consumption, which is probably also part of the statute.

            Not sure how well the Coq au Vin defense would work, considering that they'd have to show the defendant consumed something like 48,271 plates of it within the previous four hours for there to be enough alcohol to show up on a breathalyzer test.

            1. re: BobB

              believe it or not the statute does not contain consumed and jfood's town is solo in this theory. An jfood assumes your 48k plates assumes a .08 type level on the breathalyzer. they are arresting the kids with 0.01 and 0.02 which is significantly less coqs.

              1. re: jfood

                Actually, my estimate of the number of plates required was based less on scientific accuracy than on its humor quotient - 48,271 plates of Coq au Vin being an inherently funnier concept than "dozens." But you knew that ;-)

                1. re: BobB

                  jfood calculated 48,272 but figured you and he just rounded differently. :-))

            2. re: jfood

              Actually, I've done a lot of work with drunk driving defense, and food is a fairly common defense (and the main reason behind the 15-minute waiting period before a breathalyzer). Since the breathalyzer measures based on metabolized and respirated alcohol, if you have even a miniscule amount of alcohol remaining in your mouth (from say a wine-soaked bit of food caught in dental work), you'll register sky-high.
              You'll also blow off the charts if you've been around wet paint and a myriad of other substances, but that's a bit off-topic.

              1. re: jfood

                Human bodies naturally produce alcohol. Even someone who has never had a sip of booze in their life could blow over 0.0 on a breathalizer. There has to be a threshold over which they can charge a minor with having alcohol in their system.

              2. I would say most cuisines incorporate alcohol in certain dishes. Red wine in red sauce. Champagne vinaigrette. Bourbon marinated steak. Not to mention cooking wines and sherries, vanilla or almond extracts, etc. I'd venture that most restaurants have something on the dinner menu prepared with alcohol.

                These cooked meals have so little alcohol remaining that it is not illegal to serve underage folks in most parts of the country. I do know some restaurants that do not allow young'uns to have certain desserts, however, where the alcohol isn't cooked out and is a major part of the flavoring.

                10 Replies
                1. re: mojoeater

                  This is probably a dumb question, but do wine vinegars actually have any alcohol left in them?

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    No. All of the alcohol has been converted to acetic acid.

                    1. re: stilton

                      Thanks - I suspected there was no alcohol left, but didn't know the 'technical' term.

                  2. re: mojoeater

                    Where did you get your information from mojoeater? Also is it illegal in AZ?

                    1. re: pShrum

                      Whatever knowledge I have is from working in restaurants in DC, VA, MI & CA. Never worked in AZ.

                      1. re: mojoeater

                        So its company policy and not a state law in the states you've worked at?

                        1. re: pShrum

                          To what do you refer? Alcohol in desserts? Yes, certain restaurants would not serve, for example, a flambe dessert to underage folks. They also would not serve "non-alcoholic" beers since they do indeed have some alcohol content.

                          1. re: mojoeater

                            <<These cooked meals have so little alcohol remaining that it is not illegal to serve underage folks in most parts of the country.>>

                            Much more alcohol remains than previously thought, even though it may not be illegal to serve it. For example, the bourbon-marinated steak you mentioned retains 40% of the alcohol after cooking. That's a lot. 75% of the alcohol remains after flambéing.

                            (See the stats below in my Jul 25, 2008 12:27PM post.) While I'm fine with children having a sip of wine, or a glass of water with a splash of wine, dishes prepared with spirits, especially à la minute dishes, are unwise to serve to children. A bite of a dish, I'm fine with.

                            1. re: mojoeater

                              I'm sorry, I was reffering to minors consuming any type of food prepared with alcohol. I was trying to find out if it was illegal as a state law or if it was just company policy not to serve minors that type food.

                      2. re: mojoeater

                        I remember when I was in college that I was out to dinner with my father once and had a dessert with a brownie and ice cream. The waitress asked if I wanted it with the liquor on it (I can't remember now, maybe Kaluha?). It was delicious. This was even in DC when the beer and wine drinking age was 18.

                        When I was at the same restaurant a month or so later with friends, they did not allow us to have it. I guess being with my dad gave them the "cover" to serve it to me once.

                      3. You may be interested in this article where they performed breathalizer tests on people after consuming foods with alcohol, including those liqueur-filled chocolates (36 of them, to be exact). Everybody clocked in at 0.0.


                        That said, I was once having dinner with somebody who was a former alcoholic who asked me if I wanted his flan/custard as he said it tasted too much of alcohol.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          But from what I know about alcoholics, with alcohol in food it's not the amount of alcohol they're worried about, but that the taste/perception of alcohol will trigger alcoholic cravings.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Yes, you're correct. I didn't mean to imply that the former alcoholic was getting drunk from his dessert. Just meant to say that there was enough alcohol in that dish for him to stop. He hasn't with other dishes like tiramisu. With some desserts, alcohol is very noticeable. With others you may not feel a thing. When I first started drinking alcohol in my teens (when I wasn't as used to the taste of it), I got totally drunk off of a creamsicle made with ice cream because I couldn't taste the booze.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              My understanding of the risk is different, after reading a handful of scientific articles. It's not that the alcoholic will taste alcohol, because sometimes the alcohol level is below the level of taste perception, but that the body will recognize the molecule alcohol, and the addiction cycle/craving will kick in as a result from that.

                        2. I knew I had recently read something on this topic - in New York, there's a bill to specifically allow wine/liquor in ice cream without requiring a liquor license. It does prohibit sale to anyone under 21. I know that at Ciao Bella, they label the flavors that contain alcohol.

                          This was the first article I found on the topic -http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wir...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cyberroo

                            Gov. Paterson signed it into law yesterday (as reported in today's Times). I thought they could sell it before -- I've purchased the wine sorbets at Vintage NY (and they're terrific).

                          2. What about flaming desserts like Cherries Jubilee? I would think the alcohol is burned off and on occasion have ordered it and shared when children were younger.

                            1. On a tour of the C.I.A. in Hyde park NY they have a special dispensation for the students to be able to drink and cook with alcohol as part of their culinary training. Must be fun to study for the practical in wine.

                              1. Where I work, we have a couple dishes that are made with alcohol (like marsala wine or bailey's in the desserts), but the amount of alcohol in an actual serving ends up being minescule once the dish is portioned out, and we have no rules against serving it to minors. I can't imagine that anyone has ever gotten drunk off chicken marsala.

                                1. Alcohol evaporates somewhere between 170-180°f. What is left is the flavour and depending on how long your dish has been cooking, the ability for the wine/booze to bring out the other flavours in your sauce/dish. That is also the same temp that is considered simmering. So depending on how long you simmer most if not all the alcohol will be gone. If brought to a boil, well then the alcohol is long gone.

                                  Regarding desserts, well your sponge cake will hold alcohol within the cell structure, but to a point. Too much and the cake will turn to mush and fall apart, and in most bakeries they use a concentrated forum of the liquor, which is more flavour than alcohol.

                                  If you’re to bake or make a dessert with alcohol in it, you can only place so much alcohol in the dessert. You will dilute your recipe and the final product will not have the same consistency, or even be able to stand. Baking/desserts is part science and part art and the art part may want more booze but the science part will not allow this to happen.

                                  Also, liquors are not cheap, so not to add to the food cost, some places will try to limit the amount of liquor in a dish.

                                  At Christmas I make trifle and instead of using jam, I take 1.5 liters of sherry and reduce it to the point that it is the consistency of jam. I try to take my time in reducing the sherry; I was taught that a slow reduction is better than a quick reduction. Anyway what I’m left with is about 300ml of thick sweet sherry, not unlike jam. Needless to say there is no alcohol left. But the flavour is out of this world.

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: Pastryrocks


                                    jfood learned something over the last years from these boards and research on the web. Like you, jfood thought all the alcohol evaporated. but it appears that is not the case and there is still a trace amount left even after cooking or flambeeing. A couple of articles got very detailed. Give it a go on google. close to all evaporated but not all.


                                    1. re: Pastryrocks

                                      << If brought to a boil, well then the alcohol is long gone.>>

                                      Sorry, Pastryrocks, this is incorrect. Jfood is correct.

                                      This is an important issue -- accuracy is important here..
                                      Foods containing alcohol contain far more residual alcohol even after cooking than previously thought.

                                      Alcohol remains in a dish chemically, even when its taste in undetectable – a very important consideration for someone in sobriety or for those cooking for someone in sobriety.

                                      Or for those taking medication. Or children.

                                      Which means,
                                      Don't serve food made with alcohol ever to someone in sobriety.
                                      Don't serve food made with alcohol to children, within reason.

                                      The thread here on Chowhound was titled:
                                      Truth or Fiction: Does alcohol burn off in food?

                                      Perhaps most interesting,
                                      75% of the alcohol remains after flambe-ing.
                                      35% of alcohol remains even after a dish has been simmered 30 minutes.

                                      USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, Release 5 (2003

                                      This is the info from the
                                      Table from USDA Showing Percent of Alcohol Retained After Cooking

                                      Preparation Method Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat -- 85% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      alcohol flamed -- 75% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      no heat, stored overnight -- 70% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture -- 45% Percent of Alcohol Retained

                                      When baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
                                      15 minutes -- 40% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      30 minutes -- 35% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      1 hour -- 25% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      1.5 hours -- 20% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      2 hours -- 10% Percent of Alcohol Retained
                                      2.5 hours -- 5% Percent of Alcohol Retained

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Thanks to maria lorraine for all the info and links.

                                        Very interesting subject, I was taught in cooking school a number of years ago that alcohol evaporates at somewhere around 175°f. It would appear from the links above that this is not necessarily the case.

                                        If indeed this is the case, that there is somewhat of a large percentage of alcohol remaining in the dish, then this is problematic for those who are sensitive to alcohol.
                                        I always assumed that depending on how the booze was heated up that there could be some alcohol residual.

                                        My work experience is in pastry, but I’ve been on line more than a few times. The few places that I was on line we always reduced the wine/liquor by more than half. This is done in a 6-8 inch pan with maybe 3-4 tbs. of wine/liquor that is placed into a very hot pan, which just came out of a 400-500°f oven. The reduction would start right away, the wine would bubble up and spatter all about the pan. The meat is sitting on a plate resting while the pan sauce is made. The booze is added to pick up any fond that is in the bottom of the pan. This very hot pan is place over high flame and since the wine/liquor is boiling down very, very quickly, I ‘assume’ that there would be less alcohol left over if any, than from simmering.

                                        Since simmering is about 40°f cooling than boiling, and since most restaurants that make a pan sauce with wine/liquor, stock, some flavoring, and hopefully some butter in a small pan that the meat was cooked in. Under these conditions I wonder how much alcohol is left behind, if any.

                                        In the pastry kitchen, when I worked wholesale we used many different concentrated types of liquor to flavour simple syrup, which taste just horrible on their own. If you drank a bottle of this stuff you’ll more than likely go blind (I can think of better ways to go blind!). So I would assume that based on the above links and info that with the more expensive patisserie’s, that there would be some alcohol reside in the booze flavored simple syrup that would moisten the sponge. When I worked in restaurants doing pastry I just used the booze from the bar, which is not concentrated.

                                        Now depending on the type of vanilla extract, you would often have to add more if the product was to be baked. The general consensus was that the vanilla extract would evaporate due to the alcohol when baking; now I’m unsure of this. What I am sure of is that when you taste the batter before baking there is enough vanilla flavour, but after baking the vanilla flavour is less. Please don’t say anything about Nelson Massy, been there done that, it works the same. Unsure how this would affect people who are sensitive to alcohol?

                                        However, I’ve been very fortunate to work in places that the food cost could afford the use of vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract (how do you make any type of custard without vanilla bean!?). There is no comparison between vanilla extract and vanilla bean. But there are times when vanilla extract is easier or better than vanilla bean.

                                        Here is a link to an alcohol burn off chart http://homecooking.about.com/library/... I’ve yet to find a study that measured the remaining amount alcohol in a pan sauce described the way I mentioned above, but I’m looking!

                                        1. re: Pastryrocks

                                          Thanks for your response. I had to research this issue about 8 years ago, and remember seeing sources about boiling also. You'll be able to find them too, if you look long enough. Perhaps this source, cited in the other thread, can point you to some other info. By the way, it's rather easy to write the author of a study and request more info -- go to the college or university website, click on staff directory, find your person and email them. The articles I found years ago were all scientific studies. Also go to IFIC.

                                          From the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, April, 2002, by Eleese Cunningham:

                                          "The extent of loss depends on the severity of the heat application, or any other factor favoring evaporation. Cooking time had the greatest impact on alcohol retention. Flaming a dish results in much smaller losses of alcohol than cooking. Uncooked and briefly cooked dishes had the highest alcohol retention. Alcohol retention during cooking was also greatly affected by the size of the cooking vessel used. The smaller the cooking utensil the greater the amount alcohol retained. This was likely due to the smaller surface area for evaporation."

                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                          There may be some validity to you restrictions for alcoholics, although I've never heard of alcoholics refusing to eat, for example, a cookie made with vanilla extract that undoubtedly has at least one molecule of alcohol residual alcohol.

                                          But I think the other restrictions are kinda of silly. People have been cooking with alcohol and feeding the results to their children for hundreds if not thousands of years without any perceptible detrimental effect. Yes, the science says that there is (or may be) some residual alcohol, but I'll base my choices on billions of examples of real world experience as to whether that's something to be concerned about.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            I researched this issue about 15 years ago, in regards to children,
                                            and again about 8 years ago, in regards to persons in recovery.

                                            The scientific articles were very clear about not serving anything prepared with alcohol in any form to a person in recovery. This was a molecular-based advisement, since addictions are addictions to molecules, not based on the flavor of any residual alcohol triggering a relapse.

                                            In regards to children and alcohol consumption, even that in a residual form after cooking, my research is dated, and perhaps there is more recent research that corroborates or supercedes what the scientific literature said 17 years ago: Even small amounts of alcohol had a deleterious effect on new neuronal pathways in children, and played a role in kindling addiction later on in those genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction. So there were detrimental effects, unknowable at the time of consumption, especially in children with genetic vulnerabilities.

                                            So more or less where I draw the line is
                                            -- no alcohol whatsoever in food prepared for persons in recovery
                                            -- limited wine sampling for children, and no spirits.

                                            I'm fine with children having a sip of wine, or drinking diluted wine, under a parent's supervision, especially since i work in the wine business. Spirits are different, with a much more powerful effect on the child's body and brain. That means I draw the line at young children having things like flambeed steaks, or more than a couple of bites of rum cake or bananas foster. Small children, obviously, are a different from adolescents.

                                            In contrast to your experience, I've been around a handful of persons in recovery who declined desserts made with vanilla extract. From what I understand, this is standard recovery behavior now. I don't worry about vanilla extract in desserts served to children. I can't imagine children's desserts without vanilla extract, actually!

                                            I'd like to be current on this, but unfortunately I cannot squeeze in another, even small, research project. If someone else would like to pick up the charge, I'd be happy to read what they unearth.

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              Alcohol is alcohol. It doesn't matter whether it comes from "spirits" or wine, it matters how much alcohol is actually consumed. You've decided that wine is okay because you're in the wine business, but you haven't provided any evidence that consuming a serving of a steak flambeed with a couple of tablespoons of spirits actually has more alcohol than diluted wine (nor, for that matter, just how diluted wine has to be to pass your muster).

                                              Just because something is "standard recovery behavior" doesn't mean it has any basis in reality. Again, look at real world experience. If one molecule of alcohol could send a recovering alcoholic into an alcoholic spiral, then there would be no alcoholics in recovery, because small numbers of alcohol molecules can occur naturally in all kinds of foods. The statement "there is no proven safe amount of alcohol" is not the same as "there is no safe amount of alcohol." I'm not saying that recovering alcoholics shouldn't avoid even trace amounts of alcohol whenever possible -- with something as critical as that, better safe than sorry. But these kinds of strictures are really just another example of magical thinking: if somehow we can eliminate all possible risks, then everyone will be perfectly healthy and live forever, with the corollary being that if you get sick, it's your fault because you did something wrong to cause it (an idea dear to the heart of insurance companies).

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                The alcohol proof and quantity are givens in this discussion..

                                                Spirits have 5-8 times as much alcohol as wine, and the quantity of any alcohol is key in determining consumption.

                                                I don't need to provide evidence that one has more alcohol than the other -- it should be obvious. About an ounce of 160-proof brandy (80% alcohol) for the steak compared to an ounce of 13% alcohol wine.

                                                If not obvious, the math is easy:
                                                2-4 ounces of 160 proof / 80% alcohol brandy or cognac per steak (I checked recipes). 25% of the alcohol burns off in the flambe, 75% remains; divided by the number of portions.

                                                The only undefined quantity is how much the wine is diluted in water; a 1:4 ratio is typical. 1-1/2 ounces of wine at 13% alcohol.

                                                The difference is a minimum of 5 TIMES AS MUCH ALCOHOL in the steak to MORE THAN 16 TIMES AS MUCH.

                                                (The range comes from the amount of brandy used, from 2 to 4 ounces; and the number of portions per steak, either 2 or 3.

                                                You say that the reason that I think diluted wine is OK but flambeed steak is not
                                                is "because I'm in the wine business," and that I am imposing silly strictures
                                                on alcohol consumption, in *children* no less.

                                                Nope, it's sheer quantity. 1/5th to 1/16th the amount of alcohol in the diluted wine.

                                                What you're saying is that it's OK for a 70-pound kid to consume anywhere from a half-an-ounce to one-and-a-half ounces of 160-proof brandy at a sitting, the amount per serving after flambeing. Really? That's OK in your mind?

                                                Re: Recovery programs
                                                I researched the guidelines of several recovery programs online before I wrote my post above yours, so your comment that, "Just because that something is "standard recovery behavior" doesn't mean it has any basis in reality" couldn't be more wrong.

                                                Recovery guidelines are harshly reality-based: what the individual alcoholic needs to do to break his/her addiction and avoid a relapse. Alcohol recovery is gritty reality, messy with relapses.

                                                The relapse threshold is different for each person in recovery, and not only physiological but psychological. None of us can say what amount of alcohol is
                                                OK for the person in recovery.

                                                But no one is talking about one molecule of alcohol. That's absurd.

                                                Some of your statements in your second paragraph -- if addressed to me -- bear no relation to what I have written or believe. I certainly am not advocating the avoidance of all risk, the adherence to silly or arbitrarily imposed strictures, or any belief in magical thinking. That should be obvious.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  You were talking about one molecule: "This was a molecular-based advisement, since addictions are addictions to molecules..." If you're addicted to a molecule, then you're addicted to just one.

                                                  And you're the one who is being absurd when you say "What you're saying is that it's OK for a 70-pound kid to consume anywhere from a half-an-ounce to one-and-a-half ounces of 160-proof brandy at a sitting."

                                                  That's just wrong on so many levels! First, most spirits are around 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol. I had a recipe that called for 100 proof vodka (for making liqueur) and it was damn hard to find. Even the highest alcohol rum (called 151 for its alcohol content) isn't 160 proof. Wine isn't measured by proof, but by percentage, which makes direct comparisons confusing. However, if you listed the alcohol content of wine in proof, instead of percentage, most California wines would be between 25 and 30 proof, which makes the standard 80 proof for spirits about 3 times the average wine, not 5-8.

                                                  Then how does 80 proof brandy turn into 160 proof brandy after removing 25 percent of the alcohol? What recipe has one-and-a-half ounces of 160-proof brandy (if there were such a thing, which there isn't) per serving? I just checked a recipe for steak Diane. It calls for one ounce of brandy for two servings. So that's half an ounce per serving assuming that every drop that goes into the pan is actually consumed. Half an ounce of 30 percent alcohol (using standard 80 proof brandy and accepting your figure that 25 percent burned off) is the same amount of alcohol as one ounce of 15 percent alcohol wine (or the same as said one ounce of wine diluted by four ounces of water to make a standard 5 ounce serving).

                                                  Your faulty math aside, what I am saying is that there's no real world evidence that the millions of children who over the years have consumed said steak and other foods prepared with alcohol have been harmed in any measurable way. People are tough, and there's a huge difference between theoretical risk and real risk.

                                                  You may not believe in magical thinking (or you may not think you do), but there's really no other reason to worry to such an extent about such minimal risks unless you believe that by eliminating all possible risks you can eliminate all possible negative outcomes.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    There are 1 or 2 160 proof vodkas on the market; Devil Springs comes to mind. Basically 160 represents roughly the upper limit of proof for beverage alcohol, you can't actually get much higher by normal distllation (this is because at 160 proof the boiling point of the alcohol and the water in the mixture will equalize so that the vapor you are drawing off and distilling will have just as much water as the orginal liquid. Alcohol above 160 requires other mor complicated methods, and is largely reserved for the scientific market.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      <<People have been cooking with alcohol and feeding the results to their children for hundreds if not thousands of years without any perceptible detrimental effect.>>

                                                      You cannot know this. A casual observer cannot detect the effect alcohol has on the child’s brain and body, or the cumulative effect that small amounts of regular alcohol consumption have on the child's brain or biochemistry.

                                                      The latest scientific studies refute what you say. And what I myself believed. I’m no prude about alcohol. I’m fine with children having a diluted glass of wine on a special occasion or a sip of Champagne, and with children learning responsible consumption. Giving children small amounts of wine is common outside the US.

                                                      The most striking new information? Early drinking turns on the genes for alcoholism.

                                                      Apparently, the genes for alcoholism are more vulnerable to being switched on when a child consumes alcohol. This is according to a late-2009 study of 6200 children. “The age at which a person takes a first drink may influence genes linked to alcoholism, making the youngest drinkers the most susceptible to severe problems,” the study said. “Those who were 15 or younger when they started drinking tended to have a greater genetic risk for alcohol dependence.” In the youngest drinkers, the genetic risk was as high as 90%.

                                                      Those who began drinking later had less genetic susceptibility to developing alcoholism.
                                                      Age of first drink linked to alcoholism:

                                                      There’s no question that alcohol is not good for developing brains. That’s been extensively studied and is my biggest concern about alcohol and kids.

                                                      The American Medical Association made a compilation of two decades of comprehensive research on the damage to children’s brains by alcohol. Their report found that “Alcohol can seriously damage long- and short-term growth processes. Frontal lobe development and the refinement of pathways and connections continue until age 16, and a high rate of energy is used as the brain matures until age 20. Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible.”

                                                      So, how much alcohol is OK to give a child, and how much causes damage to the developing brain? What amount, how often, turns on the genes for alcoholism? Is the amount different for each child? Sadly, I don’t know.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        << You were talking about one molecule: "This was a molecular-based advisement, since addictions are addictions to molecules..." If you're addicted to a molecule, then you're addicted to just one.>>

                                                        <<If one molecule of alcohol could send a recovering alcoholic into an alcoholic spiral...>>

                                                        Molecular is an adjective, not a reference to a number. When someone has an addiction to a molecule, like ethyl alcohol, nicotine, or methamphetamine, they have an addiction to the molecule ETOH, 3-[(2S)-1-methylpyrrolidin-2-yl]pyridine, or N-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amin, respectively. It doesn’t mean a single molecule of the addictive substance.


                                                        As it turns out, both of our calculations are incorrect.
                                                        My sleepy head did interchange proof with ABV, so let’s try this again.
                                                        I hope I’m correct now.

                                                        For my calculations above,
                                                        I searched on Google for Steak Flambe to get the amount of brandy per steak:

                                                        The first recipe listed in the Google Search for Steak Flambé uses 2- 4 ounces of brandy per steak:
                                                        Peppered Steak with Brandy Flambe

                                                        The Cooks.com’s recipe, just down the seach page, calls for 1/3 cup (5-1/3 ounces) brandy for 2 steaks. http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1926,...

                                                        Other recipes on the first search page use the same amount or less:
                                                        two ounces per steak, one ounce, one-half ounce.

                                                        Here’s the math using the original amount of brandy, which is (I double-checked) 80 proof or 40% ABV:

                                                        Using the low end: 2 oz. brandy in recipe = .8 oz. ethyl alcohol
                                                        After flambéing, 75% remains = .6 oz. ethyl alcohol
                                                        Divided into two portions = .3 oz. ethyl alcohol per serving

                                                        Using the high end: 4 oz. brandy in recipe = 1.6 oz. ethyl alcohol
                                                        After flambéing, 75% remains = 1.2 oz. ethyl alcohol
                                                        Divided into two portions = .6 oz ethyl alcohol per serving

                                                        Compared to one ounce wine (1.5 oz. is too much) diluted with 4 oz. water:
                                                        1 oz. of 13% alcohol wine = .13 oz. ethyl alcohol

                                                        The Steak Flambé has 2.3 to nearly 4.6 times as much alcohol as the wine.

                                                        Or, the brandy in the Steak Flambé has a little 2.3 to 4.6 ounces of wine.

                                                        That’s too much to give a kid at dinner.

                                                        Math for Wine Equivalents:
                                                        .3 oz ethyl alcohol per serving using 2 oz. Brandy in recipe ÷ .13 ethyl alcohol per ounce in wine = 2.30 ounces of wine
                                                        .6 oz ethyl alcohol per serving using 4 oz. Brandy in recipe ÷ .13 oz. ethyl alcohol per ounce in wine = 4.61 ounces of wine

                                                        As you state, if you use less brandy in the recipe, the child consumes less alcohol. Using only one ounce of brandy per steak (but that quantity does seem low for the recipe) in the recipe equals nearly an ounce of wine for the child. That’s where the two are nearly equal, as you point out.

                                                        I’m not comfortable serving a child a dish that has with any more alcohol than that. With the new medical info, I’m even a little hesitant about that, or the glass of diluted wine. And we each must draw the line where we think is best.

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          Unless I'm missing something, one ounce of 13% ABV wine = .13 oz of ethyl alcohol, not .077 oz.

                                                          1. re: mpjmph

                                                            Right. It's the same amount of total alcohol, no matter how much water you add to it. The percentage of alcohol per ounce changes when you add water, but if you started with .13 ounces of alcohol you still have .13 ounces of alcohol.

                                                            1. re: mpjmph

                                                              Yup. Fixed it above, with help from the mods, and rephrased. Thanks for the heads up. I used the fraction 1/13 instead of 13/100. My addled brain (I'm taking some powerful drugs for an illness -- that's my excuse!) shouldn't be doing math now.

                                                              Anyway, for the low-normal amount of brandy per steak (2 oz.), the child is ingesting the equivalent of 2.3 ounces wine. (The amount of water wasn't the reason for my error.)

                                                              Thanks again.

                                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            An article in the New York Times, published today, about kids drinking gives the opinion of a number of experts. Several experts espouse the opinion of Ruth Lafler (who I usually always agree with); other experts offer differing opinions.

                                                            David Jernigan, a professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins, writes a piece called, "The Myth of How Europeans Drink." In it, he cites three medical studies that say that the European model of parents drinking with children causes drinking problems:

                                                            "Many parents feel that young people will be safer if we keep them at home and supervise their drinking, or teach them to drink by having them drink with us. They shore up this conviction with a mental image of drinking patterns in European countries, where they assume that younger drinking ages and drinking with parents decreases youth drinking problems.

                                                            "In fact, the most recent research suggests that the opposite is true. Researchers...found that young people whose parents permitted drinking at home were more likely to drink more, to drink out of the home, and to develop alcohol problems over time."

                                                            The New York Times article is found here:

                                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                                        I cook with alcohol quite frequently, but would add to your list of where to draw the line: No alcohol whatsoever in dishes intended for persons with religious convictions against drinking. My daughter, who is Muslim, will skip those dishes unless I skip the alcohol.

                                                  2. re: Pastryrocks

                                                    The chemical phenomenon is called an "azeotrope"-- basically, some of the ethanol molecules associate with some of the water molecules and form a complex that behaves like water (with the higher boiling point), so the ethanol never evaporates completely. Never thought I would use anything I learned in chemistry class, but there you go...

                                                  3. It is legal as long as it does not violate the society's regulation. If alcohol also became an ingredient to food them that how the cook designed. As long as it did not sell poisonous food, then I think it is legal. As long as it pass pass also the FDA standards. By: <strong><a href="http://hubpages.com/hub/reliable-t1-i..."> internet </a></strong>

                                                    1. Had to start giving verbal disclaimer when alcohol-containing dishes are served when a guy turned bright red and had trouble breathing. His wife called for the ambulance. Turned out he was on the medication Antabuse and even the small amount of alcohol in his order choked him up (part of the reaction). We have low-sodium soy sauces that use alcohol instead of the salt and sodium benzoate used in the regular stuff.

                                                      One of our dishes, Grand Marnier Prawns, contains at least two ounces of Grand Marnier that's heated to nowhere near a heavy evaporation point...

                                                      And don't get me started on desserts... I've always preferred a boozy dessert to something simply cloyingly sweet.

                                                      1. My then 17 year old snuck out of the house to meet his girlfriend, and was caught by the police (we have an 11 o'clock curfew in our town - which is ridiculous for an almost 18 year old, but that's another topic entirely). When he was caught, he had only been out of the house for about 10 minutes, as they caught him right on our street. They gave him a breathlyzer test, in our driveway, and tried to give him an underage alcohol charge for blowing a .002 - which is almost nothing. I realized what it was right away - he had been eating the rum cake before we went to bed, and in combination with a quick mouthwash rinse, was enough to be detected on the sensor. When I mentioned that he was eating rum cake, which was soaked in almost a cup of rum, they threatened to charge US with serving a minor. In the end, no one was charged with anything, but there were a few anxious minutes there. At least in my county ANY detectable alcohol in a minor, can result in an alcohol charge. So while the FDA may not have specific rules, my local law enforcement apparently does!

                                                        10 Replies
                                                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                          Is there actually a law against giving small amounts of alcohol to your own child, in your own home? Unless you've served him/her enough for it to be considered child abuse I think not (or maybe I just live in a more enlightened state).

                                                          As others have said, it's a common (and civilized) practice in many countries to introduce children to responsible alcohol consumption at a young age. I myself first tasted wine at a Passover seder after I turned 13, and I think that sort of thing is probably true in many, if not most, Jewish families.

                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                            "Is there actually a law against giving small amounts of alcohol to your own child, in your own home?"

                                                            Certainly not in the UK and, I suspect, similar applies in most if not all European countries. We have never refused an alcoholic drink to visiting young people if they asked for one and our nephew has certainly enjoyed the occasional beer here since his early teens.

                                                            By the by, I've also never seen a "disclaimer" on a menu saying that a dish may not be served to children.

                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                              For the Virginia ABC website: "it is against state law to allow (aid or abet) underage persons to possess or consume alcohol. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine."

                                                              Giving underage people, including your own kids, alcohol is considered "contributing to the delinquency of a minor." Obviously there's no way cops would know what you did in your own home, but there was a well-publicized case a couple years ago where a VA couple did jail time for hosting a party where their kids had something to drink.

                                                              1. re: mojoeater

                                                                Aha! I found this chart that shows underage drinking laws by state: http://drinkingage.procon.org/view.re...

                                                                Looks like VA allows parents to serve their own kids. The parents who went to jail had allowed other kids to drink at the same party...

                                                                1. re: mojoeater

                                                                  Interesting chart. I must admit, category F caught my attention - states where underage consumption of alcohol is permitted "for educational purposes.' But then I read the header, where it specifically mentions students in culinary school. Can't learn to make a good coq au vin without tasting it!

                                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                                    That's a good link, mojoeater.

                                                                    Also, just today, the New York Times published an article on this very topic, with several experts weighing in on the problems with both unsupervised and supervised drinking:
                                                                    "Should Parents Be Jailed When Kids Drink?"

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                      I swear to you they threatened to charge us. Don't know if it would have happened or not, but we started throwing around names, and they backed off of us, and didn't charge our son for alcohol, either. But, they did charge him with a curfew violation (50 hrs community service).

                                                                  2. re: mojoeater

                                                                    Then that's a silly law.

                                                                    A young person drinking a beer or a glass of wine with dinner under adult supervision is not a delinquent in any normal person's interpretation. Surely?

                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                      the law isn't made by normal people. Laws like that are made for fearful people. as are most laws about victimless crimes

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        A lot of the alcohol regulations in the US are silly.

                                                                2. I realize that this is a relatively old thread, however i have recently studied this subject and find it fascinating. Though many of the responses to this thread treat this as a social or ethical issue, to the resturanteer it is an operations and legal question. This being said i would like to point out that i am not an attorney and legal questions should be asked of a qualified barrister or your states alcohol control board.

                                                                  The laws of your state govern whether or not you are taxed on alcohol that is used in cooking. Here in Texas our laws are very definite on this matter. If you have a mixed beverage permit like i do (meaning i sell liquor in addition to beer and wine) then all alcohol that is used on premises must be bought from a liquor distributor and is taxed just like alcohol that is to be drunk. If however you are using alcohol for cooking only, and do not have a permit to sell alcohol, and it is in the kitchen and marked with a sharpie "for cooking only" then you may buy it wherever you want and bring it into your restaurant.

                                                                  As to whether or not you can serve your food products to minors the answer should in all cases be yes. The reason is that the law of what constitutes an alcoholic beverage is set by the state. Texas has one of the most stringent laws of any state (because they want thier taxes) which states that a beverage is considered alcoholic when it is one half of one percent by volume.

                                                                  Taking this definition over to cooking, the one ounce shot of jack daniels that i mix with a ladel of clarified butter and use on my 12 ounce kc strips would end up being less by weight than the legal definition of an alcoholic beverage once the steak is prepared. Can i scientifically back up this claim? No, but your local ABC wont ever question you about it, as it is common knowledge (even if it is false) that alcohol cooks out when you cook something.

                                                                  If i was ever questioned and had to get one of my college student bartenders to start crunching numbers on the calculator i would have them also look at the USDA's alcohol burnoff chart. Which i found a link to here: http://homecooking.about.com/library/...

                                                                  The most important thing to me is that my dram shop insurance agent told me to not worry about it, and he worries about everything.

                                                                  1. Lots of restaurants use alcohol in food. If you've ever gone to an Italian or French restaurant, you've had either a sauce or a dessert with a little alcohol in it. The FDA isn't the governing body for restaurant code, that is set by state and local governments. For those bodies, the presence of a little alcohol in food is a not an issue because it really is such a small amount.