So: there’s a microtrend of liquor companies releasing extremely high-proof beverages, and Slate‘s Kara Newman doesn’t get it. Vodka that’s fifty percent alcohol is “too darn hot,” Newman writes, which is a very nice way of saying “tastes disgusting.” So why on Earth would anyone want 116-proof whiskey, which is now a real thing, courtesy of Redbreast?
Maybe it’s because boozier whiskey is more “aromatic and flavorful”:
To be fair, many of them are, particularly whiskeys and other spirits that are aged in barrels. During that resting period, the evaporation of water from the barrels raises the alcohol concentration of what’s left inside. For this reason, the longer a spirit is aged, the more concentrated the alcohol levels become, and the more flavors the spirit absorbs from the barrel.
Or maybe it’s because bartenders (also known as “mixologists,” also known as…”producers”?) want to make awkward anatomical metaphors about their drinks:
Many producers insist they are creating more “muscular” versions of spirits for the express purpose of mixing into cocktails. Some mixologists say they prefer the weight and intensity of these ultra-potent potables—even though they require dilution with juices and lower proof products like vermouth.
Newman’s final, most out-there conspiracy theory is that bartenders buy higher-proof liquor to set drinks on fire. There’s just one, slightly more plausible explanation that Newman leaves out entirely: if you’re the kind of customer who’s buying alcohol specifically because it’s got a higher alcohol content, you’re probably not the kind of person who pays a lot of attention to things like “aromatics” or “flavor compounds.” It’s more likely you’re looking for the most efficient stuff to pour into your Camelbak on the way to the homecoming tailgate.