Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Dec 12, 2012 12:04 PM

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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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:

                      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.