Many people are taking a break from alcohol this month, a cultural moment that’s come to be known as Dry January. Beyond trends fueled by New Year’s resolutions, however, the de-alcoholized drink has been enjoying a boom. Beverage brands and fancy bartenders are crafting complex virgin cocktails and beers in an effort to tantalize the tastebuds of sober folks, temporary teetotalers, and the generally alcohol-averse. But how do they actually devise these drinks? And how well do they hold up to our cultural expectations of what “drinking” should be?
This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior correspondent Adam Rogers joins us to talk about the science of booze and not-booze.
Read Adam’s book Proof: The Science of Booze.
Adam recommends bitters, indulging your hobbies, and subscribing to WIRED. Lauren recommends Letiz’s Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Riesling nonalcoholic white wine. Mike recommends the free (and nonprofit) streaming service Radio is a Foreign Country.
Adam Rogers can be found on Twitter @jetjocko. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
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Michael Calore: Lauren.
Lauren Goode: Mike.
MC: Lauren, are you doing Dry January?
LG: I am, and I'm also doing something called Cry January.
MC: What is that?
LG: It's when you wake up every day and you just cry because you just can't figure out what the hell is going on. Are you doing Dry January or Cry January for that matter?
MC: No, but I am drinking a lot of alcohol.
LG: Oh, all right. I think we call that Try January, like try to get through it.
MC: Well, whatever you call it, we're going to talk about all of those things on this week's show, crying, trying, and drying.
LG: There's probably going to be some crying.
[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays.]
MC: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.
LG: And I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.
MC: And we are also joined this week by WIRED Senior Correspondent, Adam Rogers. Hi, Adam. Welcome back to the show.
Adam Rogers: Hi, Mike. Hi, Lauren. Nice of you to have me back. Hi.
LG: I hope that you plan on coming back in the future, Adam, but we're going to talk about that a little bit later in the show, but that's going to be the crying portion of the show.
MC: Well, right now we're going to talk about booze, or more accurately, the lack of it. A lot of people out there, including many of our listeners, are observing Dry January, which means they are abstaining from alcohol the entire month of January.
Overall, people's alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic, but Dry January is a pretty big movement, and it's been growing. According to polls from YouGov and Morning Consult, somewhere between 13 percent and 15 percent of American adults took a break from alcohol in January of last year. Where some people see Dry January as an opportunity to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol, liquor distributors and marketers see it as a way to entice you with non-alcoholic booze.
So in the second half of the show, we're going to talk about the cultural implications of Dry January and how it's led to growing interest in alcohol-free spirits, zero alcohol cocktails in a can, even non-alcoholic beer's getting a makeover.
But first, we want to talk about the science of non-alcoholic drinks because they're not always easy to craft, and this is why we have Adam Rogers on as our guest. Adam, in 2014, you wrote a great book on how alcohol is made and how it affects the human body. The book is called Proof: The Science of Booze. Everybody should read it. It's available wherever books are sold. Let's start with that same topic, but we'll make it the science of not booze.
So Adam, my big question to you, how difficult is it to get the spank out of my hooch?
LG: HR, HR!
AR: What? I beg your pardon?
LG: What does that mean?
AR: Oh, man. I'm about to say, it's pretty hard.
MC: I assume so. I assume it is.
AR: It is, because … well, for a bunch of different reasons, but just to lay down some of the … To pre-game this party a little bit, the way that you make booze is you take something that has particular kinds of sugar in it, that are available, which means that they can be eaten by yeast. The yeast eat the sugar. They excrete alcohol, ethanol, which has some flavor implications for human beings, and also some psychoactive effects that may be familiar to some of our listeners.
And you can then take that stuff and then run it through a machine called a still, which is kind of a way to separate out different sorts of molecules based on how heavy or light they are using heat. And using those sets of processes, you can make things like … if you start with grains, you can make beer. If you start with grapes, you can make wine. If you put the beer essentially into that still, and then distill it, you get whiskey. If you put the wine into the still and distill it, you get brandy.
And then you can use any substrate. They're usually fruit. Sometimes they're grain. Turned in, messed with in some way to make the sugar available to the yeast and you then get fermentation and distillation. Those are the ways that you make the things that we drink, if we're people who drink alcohol.
OK. So the question is, if you want to make something that tastes like one of those things, or is recognizably one of those specific things, a beer or a wine, or a whiskey, or a rum, or whatever, do you try to make it in a different way that doesn't involve the alcohol or do you make it, and then get the alcohol out? Those are sort of your choices.
And those both have challenges because the alcohol, in addition to the way it can make people feel, it also changes the flavor of things. Alcohol is an interesting molecule. It has both a hydrophilic side and a hydrophobic side. It has a side that'll repel water and water type molecules, and it'll attract those. And that has all sorts of implications for what sorts of flavors, what sorts of aromatic molecules can dissolve in it.
So you know about if things are water soluble or fat soluble, if they'll dissolve in water or dissolve in fat. Alcohol has kind of traits of both of those things. So a lot of the flavors that come through in a wine or a beer or whiskey, all those categories that you could name, those flavors are present because the alcohol's there. So how do you make those flavors still be there, but none of the alcohol in it?
OK. So that's the scope of the problem, right? So what can you do? Well, you could essentially redistill the product. So distillation is a way of concentrating. We use distillation now to concentrate the alcohol basically, because yeast will die at a certain high concentration of alcohol and a solution. So you can really only get to about 15 percent alcohol just using fermentation. And that's a, let's say, a-
MC: A very strong wine.
AR: Strong wine, exactly. California Cab. But if you want more alcohol, you use a still, because it concentrates out the alcohol and also carries even more intense flavors, those flavors that are soluble in the alcohol. So what you do is you heat it up, you turn things into vapor, and then you recondense those vapors on the other side, and those cool off. And then sometimes you put all that stuff in a barrel, then you age it for a long time, so it sucks some of the flavor out of the wood while it's aging too.
OK. So you can actually invert that process and you can distill it, get the alcohol out, and then take what's left behind instead of taking what goes over the top of the still. That has a problem because then you use heat to do that. Heat affects those molecules also, so that changes the flavor.
So then you can do this thing called vacuum distillation. You can put whatever you're trying to distill into a vacuum or a partial vacuum. And because of the way sort of the physics and chemistry of this work, because pressure times volume is equal to the temperature times the number of moles times a constant, that's the ideal gas law-
MC: Hang on, I'm taking notes.
AR: Yeah. You can tweak all of those variables. So if you have a vacuum, you can use a lower temperature to do the same distillation. So you don't have a temperature affecting the molecules that are making flavor. So that's vacuum distillation, that's one approach. And I think they use that with some of the beers and wine, especially now beers I think.
You could also just try a filter, that makes sense. You could come up with reverse osmosis, like you use to get salt out of sea water or something, and figure out the right kind of membrane so that it'll hold the … keep the alcohol on one side and let everything else through, or filter everything out, keep all the flavors on one side and then get some of the flavors out that are in the alcohol, but let the alcohol go away on the other side and put those flavors back in, you could try that.
Or you could do some sort of combination of everything. Let's say you want to take the flavor. You want the flavors, so you macerate that, you soak them in the alcohol, then filter the alcohol out, keep the flavors, and then add other stuff to that mix to try to capture some of the other organoleptic effects of the alcohol.
Alcohol, in addition to having flavor, alcohol can taste somewhat sweet. It can taste somewhat bitter, but it also has effects on the trigeminal nerve that goes down through your jaw and up through your tongue, and it's the thing that registers heat and cold and pain. So some of the people who make the alcohol-free spirits, especially will add other ingredients that have what they will argue are similar organoleptic effects, like ginger or capsaicin, like in hot pepper, or something that'll give you what people will think of as the sting or the burn of alcohol. But these are all subjective effects. I don't perceive alcohol as much that way as some people do.
And then you also have to think about things like the tannins that you taste from aging in wood, let's say, how do you evoke those? Those are pretty hard to get, but you can do it. You can soak stuff in wood and then pour that out like a tea. And then as you kind of professionalize this, and get more into the chemistry of it, there's a whole industry of flavors and aromas that works with both the perfume world and flavor chemistry.
So I think there are a couple of the beers, including one that I like, that's basically just beer flavored soda pop, where you essentially have carbonated water and maybe some sugar, and then the flavor, the artificial or the natural flavors that you then mix in there. And so it's beer flavored and it tastes like beer, but there's no alcohol in it.
So anyway, that's the sort of shape of it and how you might try it, if you were going to start one of these companies.
LG: Mike, did you get all that?
MC: Yes, I am actually going to start one of these companies right now.
LG: I have a question about GMO non-alcoholic drinks. How long before we're all just drinking something with genetically modified yeast, or something that effectively creates the same flavor, but without the alcohol.
AR: Yeah, that's a really good question. There were already … even when I wrote, when I wrote Proof just a few years back now, there were people who were starting to experiment with either engineering strains of yeast, or using traditional breeding methods where you know what gene you want, so you can just breed them together so that you don't have to scare people by saying, "Oh, it's genetically engineered," which there are still whole continents that don't allow those kind of products, to produce more of one kind of flavor or another, and maybe produce less alcohol. Probably hard to get them to produce no alcohol at all because that's sort of part of the process, but maybe less that you'd have to filter out.
You could also imagine the production of a … not using alcohol, but still having a psychoactive product in it, if the alcohol was the thing that somebody was worried about. So it really sort of depends on why people don't want to have … want to drink as much? What thing are they worried about? The psychoactive and addictive effects of alcohol? Are they worried about the physiological effects of drinking a lot of alcohol? What thing are they trying to avoid? And how do you accommodate that in terms of a … to be responsive to … not to be all gross about it, but to that market?
So I guess the question then is, what do you want to engineer there? Do you want to engineer a yeast to make less alcohol? That's definitely, that's something that people are working on and you could really think about that, to make sort of intensify some flavors and not make as much of the alcohol in the process, or to do it faster, let's say, so that the yeast are excreting a lot of those flavors at the very beginning, and less alcohol. So you take them out, or something like that.
Yeah. Those are all good strategies. It's just really hard, and now you're in the … You get into the world of, OK, well now you don't need a wine maker, or even an engineer who can build you a vacuum distiller. You need a biochemist, you need a geneticist, and you need the big, expensive fermentors where you can have the yeast and pull the yeast out, and extract the right molecules that you want.
And these are complicated problems in all of food science, and in pharmaceuticals as well, because there are places that are trying to use yeast to make all kinds of useful molecules for drugs and all sorts of stuff too.
LG: So you touched on the physiological element of alcohol or abstaining from alcohol, and we've heard a lot in recent years about how red wine supposedly has health benefits from people, right? That the polyphenols are actually good for you. And I think in some cases, people use that as justification for imbibing. And I'm wondering if non-alcoholic wines then have the same health benefits, or potentially are even more healthy as a result because you're stripping the alcohol from them, but the polyphenols presumably are still in it.
And I actually did some digging last night trying to find studies on this, and there were a lot of references online to this one study in 2012, that suggested that de-alcoholized red wine is better for you, but I couldn't find much since then. And I was wondering if you, as our Senior Correspondent in science guy, might know a little bit more about this?
AR: Have you found de-alcoholized wine that you found palatable?
LG: I'm trying one right now as part of Dry January/Cry January. It's called Luminara. It's a, "Napa Valley red," and it is completely de-alcoholized. And I thought it would just taste like grape juice basically, because that's what it is. And I don't particularly like grape juice and I don't particularly like grapes. I like my grapes, fermented and alcoholized typically, but I have found that if you chill this and you have it with a meal that you might typically have a glass of red wine with, it sort of satisfies a certain craving you might be having. It's not great. I'm not going to say it's great, but the mouth feel of it, the palette is a little bit different than just drinking grape juice.
AR: Well, you've touched on a lot of really important things in that answer. I'll give you my answer to the question of whether I've had a palatable de-alcoholized wine. The answer, no. I've had a lot of things that tasted pretty good that you could enjoy in lieu of a … not in lieu of, but you could enjoy at meal, that would be pleasant to drink at a meal.
But the important thing … To me, the important thing you just said there was how it fits into satisfy the craving of, how the drink fits into the theater. What I always think of as the theater of drinking, the pleasure that we've come to associate the bottle of wine with the good meal or the glass of … or the martini at the bar, or the glass of whiskey at the end of the evening. Trying to figure out for yourself, how much of the thing that you enjoy is the ritual of the pour from the beautiful bottle into the beautiful glass at the right moment, and how much of it is how it actually tastes and smells? And how much of it is the psychoactive effect of the alcohol?
LG: Oh, absolutely.
AR: And kind of disaggregating all those things is really very difficult.
LG: No, it's a good question. And I'll note too, that last year when I did Dry January, I ended up extending it for months, and I found plenty of other things that I enjoyed just as much, if not more so than alcohol, like coffee or tea in the evening, or this non-alcoholic beer brand that we've talked about a lot on this podcast that we really like.
Sometimes that would satisfy like the post-exercise with friends, people want to go grab a beer. I'll have the non-alcoholic beer. It just satisfied that need there. It's the ritual of it that I found was very easy to replace, and therefore it was very easy to go non-alcoholic.
AR: Now, you asked specifically about physiological health effects too-
AR: Which is a separate category, right? And an interesting one. I think that the health … Nutrition science is so … it's a mess. It's hard for people to operationalize because of how confusing and contradictory the actual field is. And that's why there's space for like diet fads and things like that, because we hope somebody else will operationalize nutrition science, and nobody really has, except for some very basic things like don't eat too much meat and get some exercise, and that sort of stuff.
I think that the health benefits of red wine are probably more in play than most people think. The so-called French paradox of like, "How come these countries that drink so much red wine are so healthy?" It's like, well, they have a lot of other healthy habits too, is probably the answer. And they also, we're not talking about … we're talking about a glass of wine with dinner. We're not talking about the things-
MC: A bottle of wine with breakfast.
AR: Right. The stuff you're trying to accommodate by having a Dry January.
AR: And I'm not exempting myself from any of that, by the way. So the question of whether if it's still kind of like wine, will it have the polyphenols or whatever we think is in the red wine that was helping people with some be more healthy? I guess it might. The question is whether those are more soluble in the alcohol? So if you take the alcohol out, if you're making it that way, if you take the alcohol or you're taking those out too. I'm not sure there's any way to know that.
Plus I don't know that anybody's really calibrated the amount of polyphenols in various kinds of wine, much less what the healthy pharmaceutical dose is of those. So it's very hard to answer those kind of questions, what that health benefit is.
Also, the vaccine problem here could be that the reason that alcohol has a health benefit is that one drink calms you down. And if you're stressed, then the psychoactive effects of alcohol, the depressive effects of alcohol, you get calmed down. So if you had a really hard day where you're pumping out cortisol all day, because you're super stressed out, because you can't vaccinate your children against a pandemic because they're too young or something, and they're home again because the schools are closed.
And so, you self-medicated with a glass of wine and you calmed down and you felt better, and then you were a better parent somehow. I don't know if that's all true, and it's different from person to person. And then we tend to abuse those things. If one glass of wine made you a better parent, two glasses of wine did not, or something like that. Right. I don't know, and it varies from person to person, and it's super highly contextual, which is why it's so tempting to take a month off, in addition to the other health benefits of not drinking as much as people, maybe because alcohol has an impact on your liver.
You can get fatty deposits that over time, built up and can have health implications. It has gastrointestinal effects. You can be uncomfortable, or worse, it can erode the esophagal lining in the GI tract. It has impact on the stomach down there as well. And these are just straight effects on the organs, much less what it does to your sense of habit forming, and what kind of fights you get into with your or partner, if you have one extra sip and it changes you, because it changes your psychology, and these are things maybe you don't want to do anymore. And it would make sense to take that month off and sort of evaluate, "Well, how much of that is me and how much of that is the martini before dinner?"
MC: Yeah. Hitting pause. Speaking of hitting pause, we're going to take a break and then come right back.
MC: So now that we know pretty much everything about how non-alcoholic beer and wine and booze is made, let's talk about how those things are being marketed. As we mentioned earlier, the alcohol free options are going to stay around on the shelves after Dry January is over. This is a really big cultural moment for zero alcohol drinks.
So Adam, we'd like to get your read on this since you hang out with a lot of bartenders and nerds in the mixology world. How are the boozerati embracing this trend of non-alcoholic drinks? Are they making new things? Are they poo-pooing, it? Are they abstaining?
AR: It really has been striking. A few well known, justly famous bartenders have even written books with low and no alcohol recipes that try to evoke the pleasures of a cocktail, and also the flavor complexity. One thing about the kind of professional drinking world is that this is one of the ways that there's a contrast to me, and I don't know as much about this as some folks do, the contrast between the professional drinking world and the legal marijuana world.
That world will talk about different kinds of high, will talk about different ways that it affects your mental state. But the professional drinking world is very touchy about it. They talk about flavor and aroma, and experience, and complexity, and mouth feel, and finishes, and structure, and stuff like that.
And almost never really admit like, "Wow, that one really packs a wall up too." They really don't do that as much, unless it's a super high proof whiskey, or overproof rum or something. So they spent a lot of time talking about the taste experience and the drinking experience, which means that you can make these recipes, these cocktail recipes that don't have alcohol in them, that have a lot of other ingredients.
And it'll be really hard to tell in fact, sometimes, that there's no alcohol in them at all, because there's all these other flavors and textures, and things going on. They're much more complicated often times, in a way that one of the parallels might be to high end vegetarian cooking, Mike, something that you know a lot about, right? Where a vegetarian chili will have many more ingredients and be much more complicated than a straight ahead Texas beef chili. Still tastes great, but-
AR: Because the question is, are you trying to mimic the full experience of the other thing, or are you trying to make something new? There's a big difference between a Beyond Burger or just Tofu.
MC: Yeah. And meatless dishes is a really good analogy because a lot of people, they don't like stuff like Beyond Burgers or Impossible Pork or whatever, because they don't want to replicate the feel and the experience of eating meat.
AR: Yeah, exactly.
MC: Right? So a lot of times they use that as a way to get people away from eating meat. So a non-alcoholic cocktail that tastes like it has alcohol in it, could be a good way to get people away from the habit of drinking an alcoholic cocktail. But once you're in that world, you're opened up to all of the different flavors and all of the new things that are available into that world instead of the same old, same old that you get from staying within those boundaries.
AR: Yeah. And here's a concrete example that to me, I think one of the most … a delicious thing that one could drink is a glass of Coca-Cola with lemon in it. That's a legitimately delicious drink.
MC: How much lemon?
AR: I would actually-
MC: Half a lemon?
AR: Like half a lemon.
MC: Half a lemon?
AR: Cut a lemon into two quarters of a lemon and squeeze both of those in there. Put that in there, ice on top of it. Coca-Cola from glass bottle, that's delicious. Partially it's delicious because Coca-Cola is already a lemon lime drink with spice flavors in it anyway, and caramel coloring. So you're just amping up a thing that's already in Coca-Cola. And then there's some just legitimately great soda pops out there. Bundaberg ginger beer is to me, a delicious just … that's fantastic, that stuff.
AR: So you're still having a drink and it's even got a little of that bite, that organoleptic thing from the ginger, let's say, and you're not trying to mimic the experience of a … It's not a non-alcoholic spirit. That said, so the bartending community is being very responsive to all that. They want people to still come to their bars.
And also, the bartending community has gotten very good in the past few years of recognizing some of its own health problems. Some of the high rates of suicide among bartenders, the high rates of alcohol, of addiction disorders among bar tenders, and other kinds of addiction disorders among bartenders. Just some really unhealthy things going on in that community because of what they do for a living.
So how do you respond to all that? You have to have different options for the people in the community, and also for the people who are the customers of it, because you want people to come and be safe when they leave. So they can come and have the social experience of a bar, but then also, because our communities, especially United States, are so bad at giving people options for transportation, other than driving cars, another bug bear of mine. Sorry, I'm flagging all of my stuff.
MC: That was last week.
AR: That was last week, right? How do you make sure that people can still be there with their friends and have a good time and then make it home safely?
AR: Or even all of the interpersonal things that happen in bars where people have their inhibitions reduced and have their judgment impaired, which leads to all kinds of behaviors that people either regret or genuinely unsafe. Well, can we not have that as much as well? That would be great.
And they've been very responsible, so what does that response mean? Coming up with recipes that are still delicious and still have a lot of the fun of watching a bartender make something, or still fizz and pop, and you put citrus in and have a lemon rind, and all that kind of fun.
And also, using the ingredients that are increasingly available. So not just the increasing number of non-alcoholic beers that are available, some of which are just delicious or legitimately delicious on their own. Not even just like, "Wow, that really does taste almost exactly not unlike a beer," but like, "No, that just tastes good." Or the couple of 100 non-alcoholic spirits. There's not really a good word to describe what those are, but non-alcoholic spirits seems to be what people are coalescing around.
So the cocktail and spirits writer, Camper English is based here in the Bay Area with us, has been keeping an ongoing list on his website. And it's a couple 100 of them now. And it's stochastic. Some of them are really good. Some of them are to my taste, really terrible. I've probably tasted a dozen maybe at this point.
So 10 percent of what's out there, less than that. Some of them are fine. Some of them would be more likely to appeal to Lauren or to Mike than to me, just depending on what kind of flavors you're looking for. I think many of them make a very specific mistake in how they're made, but that's just for me. Some people might like that flavor. I don't think that the flavor ginger or the flavor of hot pepper is the way to evoke the flavor of alcohol, but reasonable people could disagree.
LG: I'm curious what the truly sober crowd, those in recovery might make of this embrace of temporary abstinence, a.k.a Dry January? And we can't speak on behalf of those in that community, but I did notice when I told a sober friend that I was doing Dry January, they immediately said, "But those drinks still have alcohol in them." So can you drink some of these drinks if you're sober?
And I wonder how much of this is wrapped up in the panacea of, "Wellness," these days as opposed to, OK, you really need to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol and we need to evaluate sobriety?
AR: I think those are really important perspectives to try to assume here, and I'm not coming from those worlds either, so I wouldn't want to speak for them either. There're entire faith systems on this planet that say you shouldn't consume alcohol ever. And you'd like to have a sociocultural structure that respects those and is inclusive of them as well.
Tea is a really good example of all this to me, because tea has all of the finicky collector detail things like, "Oh, you think you like Oolong but you haven't really had the really important fermented kind," or whatever. There was a San Francisco bartender and blogger back in the mid 2000s, late 2000s, who was really influential on my work, who is now sober, and who is a tea obsessive, how it pours and what it's like on the second day, stuff like that.
LG: I'm drinking a fancy tea right now. Mike's wife made me a tea, a custom tea.
AR: Oh, yes.
LG: A blue flame, and it has lavender in it, and a little bit of black tea. And Mike, you initially told me it had catnip in it, which I was very excited about because I said, finally, Mike cat and I can share everything.
LG: But Hilery told me, actually, there is no catnip in it, and it's delicious.
AR: Hi no catnip.
MC: It does have butterfly pea flower in it.
MC: So when you brew it, it turns blue.
AR: That's cool.
MC: And that's-
LG: It's beautiful.
MC: It gets the heart of what we're talking about, which is that, what a lot of people miss is the experience, and the ritual of these things. I think the big thing that's happening now that needs to happen more is that options need to be presented for non-alcoholic drinks in all social settings. Like you have people over for a party and you get a whole bunch of liquor, and you get a whole bunch of beer, and then you get like a 12-pack of LACroix or something, and we could do better. There are so, so many amazing tasting and amazing looking, and just sort of fun, non-alcoholic options out there. It should be the same thing at restaurants and bars. They give you the 18-page list of all the different mescals and stuff.
They should have at least a page of virgin margaritas, and crazy things with tamarind and lime, and salt, and crickets, who knows? Make me something that is interesting, that is not boring. If we get better at that, I think we'll be in a better place as a society of non-drinkers.
AR: I totally agree with that, and I'd add, from the kind of a drinks making perspective, there are whole flavor profiles that we have come to equate with alcoholic drinks that we didn't, that don't have to be in an alcoholic drink. The whole kind of the universe of bitters is delicious and makes really interesting things to drink that are fun and cool, and don't just taste like soda pop, aren't kids drinks. Aren't super sweet. Aren't super gross for your health because you probably shouldn't drink that much soda pop for other health reasons, but that don't have to be alcoholic.
And that's the thing that I would think anybody who was trying to make an interesting food or drink for people, either in your house, or if you do that professionally, would be interested in. I would say separately, I always think that about the alternative proteins too, that people should be making new and different, weird stuff, not fake burgers and fake chicken nuggets. And I'm constantly told that there's no market, nobody wants those and it can't be done. So I maybe don't trust me. I don't know.
MC: Yeah. It's hard when it costs millions and millions of dollars to develop something, and then nobody buys it.
AR: It does suck, yes.
MC: So what we're talking about is taking flavors of the earth and putting them in water, and then putting them in bubbles and ice, and presenting it with a flower.
LG: Maybe a little umbrella.
MC: Just a little umbrella, a little slice of lime, slice of pineapple, and a cricket for the crunch. I'm serious, bugs and drinks, it's the new thing. This is 2022 right here, bugs and drinks.
LG: Maybe, actually, there could be a little umbrella, a cricket, and then one of those COVID swabs. So you can just kind of pluck it out of your drink, run it through your nose.
AR: Right, before you go in for the straw, you just stick it up into your nose-
LG: That's right.
AR: First, hand that back to your server.
LG: What a time to be alive.
MC: This conversation has had both the intellectual and psychoactive components that I was looking for, so thank you both. Let's take another break, and when we come back, we'll do our recommendations.
MC: Welcome back. So if we're being honest, this whole conversation about Dry January and booze, and yada, yada, science, science, it was just a thinly veiled excuse to get Adam on the show one last time.
MC: This is Adam's last week at WIRED, after 18 years of covering just about every bit of science and nerdy pop culture news and topic you can think of. So Adam, we're going to miss you and thank you for coming back on the show one last time. We appreciate it, and hopefully we'll have you back after you go off to your new thing somewhere that I don't care about because it's not WIRED.
AR: I'm forever at your service for this. I think you both know how much I not only enjoy doing the podcast with you, but how much I value you as colleagues, all three of you as colleagues and as friends. I've been privileged to be the part of many, many teams at WIRED over the years, and I feel in a small way, I've been part of this one, because I've been on a few times.
So Boone, and Mike, and Lauren, this is always a delight for me. And I'll just say that it's not just because you are all super cool and super smart, but that you do your jobs with a level of integrity and honesty, and transparency, and skill, that not many people in our field broadly and in the ones you focus on, especially really do ever get to, could hope to aspire to. So it really has been an honor. I mean that. To sit with you virtually and really to see you work, to learn from you, it's just been great.
MC: Oh, thanks.
LG: Thanks so much, Adam. We miss you tons already. Truly, it's been such a privilege working with you and learning from you, so thank you. And remember, at WIRED, we're fans of boomerangs. So if you ever want to just make a rapid comeback, get to your new place and just think, "Wow, I really miss those kind, smart folks at WIRED," we're here for you.
MC: Or even just come by for a drink.
LG: Just come by for a drink. And those of you who are listening to the podcast won't get to hear this, but because it's Dry January, we're not toasting Adam. We're roasting Adam, and that will be happening tomorrow, virtually on Zoom.
AR: Oh, man.
LG: Like I said, unfortunately, you won't be able to hear that, but we trust that it's going to be a good one.
MC: Yeah. That's not for attribution, on background.
AR: I'll tell you, I think we've mentioned maybe in the past, on this podcast that one of the traditions at WIRED for a long time has been something that we called The Start Lounge that was named after the Start Section, which is the front of book section years ago, that was Friday afternoon drinks at WIRED, and that was always one of my favorite things to have the sort of quiet place to talk to colleagues at the end of the week.
The deep, dark secret origin of that is that one of the reasons I helped start it is that I was sure that I had spent the rest of the week totally alienating my colleagues, and being a complete jerk, that they were all going to be so mad at me that the only way I could bring it back around was by having a nice drink with people at the end of the week, so I hope that worked.
MC: Yeah, it did. It fooled me.
MC: Please, give us your final recommendation on your appearances on the Gadget Lab show? Now's your chance, tell us all what we should do with the rest of our lives?
AR: OK. I have three recommendations, but I promise to go fast. First one, in keeping with the spirit, if you will, of the show this week, there are things … particular drinks called bitters that come in these little tiny bottles. They're carbonated, and you can get them at … A lot of them are Italian. So if you have an Italy in your town, they'll sell them. You can also get them on Amazon.
There's a Pellegrino one I think, and they taste delicious, and they have that bitter flavor profile. It is light. If you're the kind of person who likes a Campari or an Americano, or something like that, they taste like those. There's two that I really like. You can get these on Amazon, they're way too expensive, but you can get them.
One is called Crodino. Instead of being red, it's orange, cute, little orange bottles. Another one is called Giusto Sapore Italian red bitters. They come in little six packs. They're great, and you put them in a little glass with a little ice as you're cooking dinner, and they're wonderful.
MC: There was one that I had in Italy and it was a Sanpellegrino flavor. It was called Cocktail.
AR: Yeah. It's awesome.
MC: Yeah. I can't find it here.
AR: They're great. They're really, really good.
MC: So good.
AR: So there's that. My second recommendation is to indulge your hobbies. I have been very lucky to professionalize a lot of the things that I was interested in I've written about a lot of them at WIRED. If you have the opportunity to do that in your life, to get interested in stuff and chase it down, whether you're going to write about it for other people or not, I highly recommend that. It's a luxury. In a lot of different ways, it's a luxury.
My third recommendation is to subscribe to WIRED. It's a great publication. Some really terrific people work there and they write about a lot of fascinating stuff, so I can't recommend it enough.
MC: Are we still doing five bucks for a year?
LG: I think we are.
MC: 10 bucks?
AR: I got to subscribe. I've never had a subscription at WIRED before. I have to actually subscribe to WIRED. It's pretty cheap.
MC: Those are great. Those are great. Way to go out on a high note. Lauren, what are your recommendations? You can have just one, it's fine.
LG: OK. I'll just do one, except it has a really, really long name and it's in German, so I am definitely butchering this. It's called Leitz Eins Zwei Zero, zero, I get, sparkling Riesling, non-alcoholic white wine. How many words is that? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. It is 10 words for one product.
LG: However, it is a completely alcohol-free sparkling white wine. And it's, I think the best one I've tried of all the things I've been trying. It is a favorite at baby showers, which is how I first discovered it. And I recommend it if you're doing Dry January or just dry in general, and are looking for a nice sparkling wine. And we'll link to that, so you don't have to try to run a Google search …
MC: It's a clever name. It's Eins Zwei Zero, which is one, two, zero.
AR: Instead of …
MC: Instead of Eins Zwei Dry, because it's a dry white wine.
AR: That's funny.
LG: You explained that to me the other day, Mike. And I was like, "Yes, that makes sense." And also, you just pronounced it so much better. I should have just had you read the recommendation, but that's my recommendation.
MC: I'm sorry.
LG: That's OK. No, that was great. Mike, what's your recommendation?
MC: OK. So I have a recommendation that has nothing to do with drinking or baby showers, or anything like that. It's a streaming radio service. It's a free streaming radio station. It's called Radio Is A Foreign Country. It is a non-profit platform for streaming music that was captured on AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations around the world. So it has all kinds of stuff on it. It has speeches from West Africa. It has Greek music, it has native American music, and First Nations music. It has a lot of stuff from Southeast Asia, as you can imagine. And it's just this wild, eclectic, very bizarre sort of avantgarde, leaning radio station.
It's not something that is easy to find on a lot of the big platforms, like TuneIn. It's browser based, so you just go to radioasaforeigncountry.org, and there's a player on the page. I just leave it open in a tab all day and listen to it, and sometimes it's like someone walks into the room and they say, "What are you listening to?" And it's either because they're very excited or they're very annoyed. So it's that kind of experience.
Anyway, I just love it. I like weird stuff and it is just like a treasure trove of weird. So that's my recommendation, Radio Is A Foreign Country. I don't know. I grew up on radio and radio has always been a discovery mechanism for me, for music. And now that there's not really radio anymore, it's just kind of fun to have something that feels like radio, where you don't really know what it is, and you have to sort of do a little bit of research to find it. I like that.
AR: Got to have a ritual.
LG: That sounds really cool. I'll have to check it out. I do miss sometimes the serendipity of old school radio broadcast, and it sounds like this features a lot of good cut ups of different segments.
MC: Yeah, I agree. All right, well, that is our show for this week. Once again, thank you one last time to Adam Rogers for joining us.
AR: It is always a delight. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it, and I will miss you all.
LG: We miss you already, Adam.
MC: Yes. I'm going to cry into my NA beer later, so thank for everything. And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. This show is produced by Boone Ashworth. Goodbye. We will be back next week.
[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays.]
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