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Serve non-drinkers food that has alcohol in it?

My New Year's resolution is to throw more diner parties, or at least invite people over for dinner more often. I plan to have my first one next month, and while perusing recipes, I'm gravitating toward dishes that have wine as an ingredient, such as coq au vin, or braised short ribs. However, there are a couple people that I want to invite who don't drink. Would such a dish be in violation of their "no alcohol" policy?

I understand why you wouldn't serve a vegetarian a dish that had chicken stock, but unless it's for religious reasons or if the person is a recovering alcoholic (neither of which is the case), would it be disrespectful to serve a dish with alcohol in it? It's not like you would get drunk from eating it. Should I give my prospective guests a heads up, or find something else to cook?

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  1. I would maybe ask them ahead of tme. I would imagine it would be fine with them since you say it's not due to religious reasons or that they are recovering alcoholics. My folks don't drink but I've served them dishes with alcohol in them and they were fine with it.

    1. If these people are friends, I might ask. Then again, you can make dishes similar to those you mentioned without using alcohol. Coq au vin could become be changed to Chicken braised with apples and cream or Chicken Cacciatore (sp?) and short ribs can be braised in water/stock along with caramelized onions and other flavorings.

      1. Not unless your invitee tells you when invited that they will/can not eat anything with any alcohol in it, cook and serve what you choose.

        It is up to people with dietary restrictions to publicize them to the host before dinner.

        Keep a jar of olives on hand incase someone tells you at the last minute.

        1. When issuing an invitation, I always ask about any allergies or preferences, alcohol-in-food being one. Even if the person doesn't have religious or addiction issues, it's just polite to inquire.

          1. I am a recovering alcoholic, but I am also very open about it ~~ not all alcohol burns off, and the fact is it can set up the pehenomena of craving. Not everyone is open about their recovery, please be very careful.

            I have had to leave the room when a well-intentioned (former) friend insisted on sauteeing mushrooms w/wine ~~ telling me it burns off the alcohol. (He thought he knew everything)

            Just the smell of those mushrooms was intoxicating to me, that was in the early years when I was very very sensitive.

            8 Replies
            1. re: laliz

              I've heard about the cravings that come up when presented with food with alcohol in it, that's why I wanted to make sure. I know the couple well enough whereI can just ask. I've been out to dinner with them and I've never seen either of them with a drink, whereas I've been out to bars with the rest of my prospective guests. I'll just discreetly bring it up and see what they say - thanks everyone!

              1. re: laliz

                I don't understand this altho I read it all over. Alcohol (ethanol in wine) boils at around 175 F, water at 212 F.

                Alcohol almost never makes up more than 1/5 of the volume of wine, almost all of the remainder is water. If I reduce by boiling a quantity of wine by half , how does alcohol remain.

                Alcohol does vaporize at 175 F. Again, if I heat some wine to 180F and its volume reduces by 1/5 why is it the liquid that doesn't vaporize until 212 that is gone, but not the alcohol?

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  "A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Data Laboratory showed that it can take longer than two and a half hours for all the alcohol to be cooked out of food to which wine or some other alcoholic beverage has been added."


                2. re: laliz

                  That's fascinating. I knew very well that all of the alcohol would not cook off. Most of it does if you cook it long enough, but there is a residual amount. However, I never thought the amount left over could trigger cravings. Good to know!

                  1. re: cacio e pepe

                    "I knew very well that all of the alcohol would not cook off."

                    If you "know very well", perhaps you could ansswer my question of why not?

                    A pan full of water boils at 212 F. If you set it to boiling will all the water boil off? Ethanol boils at 175 F. Why isn't the same true for that?

                    1. re: FrankJBN

                      Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen did a segment on this. Basically it's because the alcohol forms a solution/lightly bonds with the water, so even at above 175 it doesn't all vaporize.

                      A quick google brought this up: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p...

                      1. re: FrankJBN

                        I can't tell if you're honestly asking for a scientific explanation or if you are questioning the science of the studies that have proven that some alcohol is left behind in the cooked dish.

                        The simple, and therefore incomplete, answer is that the boiling point numbers that you cite are for pure substances. By adding the the alcohol to the water, you are actually changing the boiling point of both substances. In other words, the substances no longer behave in solution as they would behave in isolation. There is a wide enough gap between the temperature at which the water in solution and the ethanol in solution boil to exploit in distillation.

                        So you're absolutely right that cooking will *reduce* the alcohol content of the cooking liquid, it just won't eliminate it. Thought of another way, that means that a distiller won't ever get all of the alcohol to boil off the wort used in the distillation process.

                        To be fair though, it is possible to reduce alcohol in a lot of dishes to a legal. "non-alcoholic" concentration.

                        1. re: FrankJBN

                          I don't think you are trying to be difficult just curious. I've never understood it either, but it has come up in various discussions over the years, and it's true. Not all the alcohol will cook off. I've just learned to accept that at face value. Cooks illustrated tested it as mentioned somewhere here, etc.

                    2. I would simply omit alcohol in the dish or do something else that is not alcohol based.

                      Same apply for a vegetarian, i don't want to know if it's because he can digest meat, does it to save animal from cruelty, religious purpose or simply because he doesn't like it, if I know in advance, i'll adapt my menu.

                      1. Are you sure none of them are recovering alcoholics? They may not wish to tell you something like that. There are so many other dishes to make, I'd avoid serving something with alcohol to people who you know specifically don't drink.

                        1. Perhaps give them a heads-up.

                          I choose not to drink alcohol but am happy to eat food that contains it. But that's me. Others may well want to make different choices.

                          That said, where does one draw the line about this sort of thing. With good friends and family, I would generally know their food restrictions but with someone less well known, I'd generally rely on them to tell me about it, rather than me having to set out the evening's menu for everyone's prior approval

                          1. I'd simply ask if they're okay with alcohol in food.If they're not, they certainly don't have to tell you why.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Terrieltr

                              Yes. This is the easiest and most straightforward way to proceed. Just ask.

                            2. There are other reasons beside religious or alcoholic abstinence, so I would ask them if the dishes you'd like to make for them are OK.

                              Those who have liver disease (Hep C, for example) cannot drink alcohol simply for health reasons. There is enough residue of the components from the alcohol left in the food that it could be an issue in some cases.
                              When we entertain, I try to always ask about dietary restrictions. Last time I forgot to ask, we were having chicken and burgers on the grill...and I totally had forgotten that my cousin's wife and daughter had switched to a vegetarian diet a year before. Fortunately I had prepared lots of really good salads.

                              1. It depends why the people don't drink. I don't drink simply because I don't like to. No religious, medical, or ethical reasons involved, it's just a personal preference. I do, however, keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet to use in cooking. I happily cook and bake with all types of wines, liquors, and liqueurs and certainly would not object to being served a dish cooked with alcohol. I'd find it odd if someone "warned" me about the presence of alcohol in a dish.
                                On the other hand, if you know someone has a religious or medical reason for avoiding alcohol then by all means do not use it in your meal. There are plenty of great recipes out there that do not need the alcohol.

                                1. It depends on the person, so you should ask. I don't drink, but I wouldn't have a problem eating coq au vin. I would, however, be skittish about a dessert with "raw" alcohol in it.

                                  1. I hate to alter my host's menu to suit my particular preferences, and I tend to assume that other people might be similarly shy about saying "I don't eat that." Therefore, if I think there might be an issue with something, I tend to propose two dishes to my guest in advance, one with and one without the potential offense. This way a person can simply say "I think the chicken piccatta sounds more interesting than the chicken parmigiana" instead of them having to say "I tend to get really gassy if I eat dairy and would rather not be in that position at a dinner party."
                                    That you said, you do have to be willing to make either dish, depending on their preference.

                                    1. ATK also did an article on cooking with non-alcoholic wines. I don't remember the exact wording, but I think the basic results were that it didn't make much difference. I still think it would be thoughtful to ask ahead of time though.

                                      1. A few people I know don't consume alcohol for a variety of reasons:

                                        FRIEND 1 turns bright red every time he even has a sip of alcohol. Not uncommon among many asians, it's a form of allergic reaction. He is unusually sensitive and I have seen him flush slightly when I used some red wine in spaghetti sauce. It makes him (understandably) very self conscious.

                                        FRIEND 2 just can't stand the flavor/taste of alcohol and can taste it in very small quantities. It totally obliterates the other flavors in food for him. All he tastes is booze.

                                        FRIEND 3 was raised with an alcoholic family member. When his son came along he promised himself the boy would never come home to find his dad passed out drunk on the couch or stumbling around the kitchen, etc. He didn't touch a drop of alcohol for over 20 years. He appreciates it not being in food because it remindes him of how much he likes it.

                                        FRIEND 4 has a highly addictive personality. He figures alcohol is just something he is better off avoiding. I'm pretty sure there are family history issues there, but its really none of my business.

                                        None of them would be offended if I asked them if I could cook with alcohol, and all of them would say, "of course, go ahead", but all of them are also happier when I don't.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          This. Everyone has their reasons; not everyone feels obligated to shout it from the rooftops.

                                          In my experience, those with the gravest reasons not to eat something tend to be the most reserved about it.

                                          So as a frequent host, I always ask new guests up-front, when I issue the invitation, if they have any dietary issues I need to know about -- and I usually throw out dairy, alcohol, seafood...anything you just can't stand?

                                          Then it's phrased in a non-intrusive manner, and they can just tell me the things to avoid, without being obligated to tell me they're recovering, they're allergic, or they just recoil in horror to find it on their plate. I've found that those with genuine medical allergies will tell me that it's an allergy, and to what level (some just can't eat the food; others are sensitive to cross-contamination and even just the smell of their trigger food)

                                          This has served me well through allergies of multiple categories, addictions, vegan, vegetarian, and food laws in several major religions, as well as a near-phobic aversion to mushrooms.

                                          If you're close enough to them to invite them into your home, you're close enough to them to ask about foods to avoid.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Ok. I see where you're coming from, and I generally ask new guests, whose dietary choices/restrictions I'm not aware of, what they cannot or will not eat, but it has never occurred to me if I should ask them whether I shouldn't cook with alcohol. I don't feel like I should send out a survey everytime I host a dinner party...

                                            1. re: MonMauler

                                              you don't have to ask people more than once...I keep my list in my head, but make notes if you need to.

                                              But the first time someone comes to your home for a meal, you should ask.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                I tend to come up with a menu and then ask the guests their preferences. " Gee, I was thinking about making roast lamb, but I know some folks don't like it. Would you prefer that or roast chicken?" I usually get an honest answer, at least it seems so when they say yes to lamb since they eat their fair share.

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  Whatever works for you ... I just prefer to know the limitations *before* I spend time planning a menu.

                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                              While I thought I knew my friends' preferences and allergies, just invited several over, and happened to re-ask the "any issues..." question, stated much like sunshine's. Glad I did--found out one frequent diner at my house recently was put on a gluten-free diet. So, now I'll regularly ask if there's anything new...

                                          2. I posted this on another thread, but it applies here. There are substitutes for alcohol for cooking listed on this page: http://homecooking.about.com/library/...

                                            I love to cook, but as a recovering alcoholic, won't keep alcohol in the house. I also avoid it in dishes when dining away from home where it might trigger those unwanted cravings.

                                            1. I wondered about this earlier in the year, when I was making vodka sauce for penne, to serve at my son's birthday party. My sister and BIL are in recovery and as I was pouring in the vodka, I had a little anxiety. I asked my husband what he thought and he looked at me like I was nuts. That is the "alcohol burns off" mentality. I was still perplexed, but was serving many other dishes so I just did and didn't worry. I also realized had a I PURCHASED a tray of pasta in vodka sauce, I would not have thought twice - it was the act of pouring vodka into the pan that made me wonder. Sister and BIL loved the dish. That said, they are both in the vicinity of 20 years sober and will eat dishes that certainly have alcohol in them, while out, so maybe it isn't as much as an issue for them as those earlier in their sobriety. Oddly, thinking about them makes me feel like it would be more of an *absolute* issue for people who do not drink alcohol for religious reasons.

                                              P.S. - as on off- topic subject, I just finished a novel that partly took place in Calabria, so I just learned about Schylla. Your "name" caught my eye. :)

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Justpaula

                                                and how old was said son?

                                                i was surprised last year when someone brought a very rummy rum cake to a church christmas party a few days before christmas. we're whiskepalians, but usually we wouldn't put out a dish like that where children are very likely to start sampling it.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  OH MY GOD, you just made a bad memory from that day resurface!!! I must have buried it because "things have been good" with my MIL, but I was already pretty annoyed with her that day. AND, she insisted on baking a birthday cake and it was filled with rum whipped cream. This was no vodka sauce - it was very rummy tasting, obviously NOT cooked, whipped cream with rum in it. Nevermind that she is well aware that my sister is in recovery, but who the heck puts RUM in the whipped cream for her TWO YEAR OLD grandson's birthday cake???

                                                  And then she acted like I was being ridiculous for giving him (and my sister's kids) leftover froggy cupcakes I had made for our Mommy & Me class, instead.

                                                  1. re: Justpaula

                                                    in some thread in the distant past i made a comment about the futility of giving clues to the clueless . . . and we all take our turns in that camp.

                                              2. If it were me, I'd just make dishes without alcohol. Seems to me the simplest route to go. There's plenty of good recipes without alcohol out there, and then you avoid having to ask the question at all. If you know it could be an issue, why make it an issue?

                                                1. Replying to the questions about alcohol evaporating...

                                                  There are a couple of issues here.

                                                  1) Boiling is not an instantaneous process. If you heat a pot of water to 100 C, let it boil for ten minutes, and turn it off, there's still a lot of water in there. That's because it takes time for the water to boil - if you cook for long enough, it will all boil off, but it can take time. Same with any liquid.

                                                  2) Boiling is not an on/off switch. Water starts to evaporate well below 100 C - a pot at 80 C will still eventually go dry, even though it's not fully boiling.

                                                  3) The water and alcohol are mixed, so it doesn't behave the same way as two separate substances. So the alcohol will evaporate faster than the water, but not strictly before the water. If you add in other things (meat juice, salt, sugar, etc) the properties change more. The boiling point of a solution or mixture can be different than that of any of the substances that go into it, and the addition of things like salt can raise the boiling temperature.

                                                  4) The conditions of cooking can change things. If you're cooking in a covered dish, liquid can evaporate, hit the inside surface of the dish, condense and drop back on it (this is one reason for covering a dish when cooking - to keep it from drying out). In addition, covering a dish can change the pressure inside, which changes the boiling temperature. 100 C is the boiling temperature of water at standard atmospheric pressure (sea level, earth). At high altitudes the pressure is lower and the boiling temperature is too, in a pressure cooker the reverse happens.

                                                  So cooking for a long time in an uncovered dish will get rid of more alcohol than cooking for a short time, or cooking in a covered dish.