Wednesday, March 30, 2016

drinking, with science.

I was in Mexico for a few months once. It's a long story, involving a girl and a sailboat. The sailboat was neither mine nor the girl's, which was part of the problem, but not nearly so much as the lunatic combination of me and the girl.

Anyway. Mexico.

We were in Guanajuato--nowhere near a sailboat, I said it was a long story--wandering one evening, and we went into a bar.

6pm was far too early for Mexicans to be in a bar, but it was a pleasant place to sit, and practically shouted that it had been invaded by artists. The standard restaurant tables were brightly painted, and had matching curvy edges, so they would pair up in varied combinations.

It turned out to be run by some kid who was probably 19. He said his parents were opening a restaurant in the building, though that end of the space looked empty, so that may have been happening on Mexico Time (where mañana gets a range of new meanings, from its traditional "tomorrow" or "morning" all the way to "next week," "next month," and "I don't like you, stop asking").

We went back hours later, and it was all you could have hoped for, full of arty-cosmopolitan young Mexicans, and foreigners looking to avoid the "do any Mexicans actually live here?" vibe of nearby San Miguel de Allende. So we're hanging out with the manager kid, who speaks okay English, and some guy from Comfort, Texas who says it's a great place because a mob of Germans arrived in the 1800s and decided they would ban the practice of law inside town limits. The manager is pouring shots of tequila like there's no tomorrow: good stuff, and not charging us, just having fun. I watch him do the damnedest thing.

He says he's invented a drink, the Ráfago (which name surely resonates with Mexicans somehow).
1 tall skinny 2oz shotglass
1oz orange liqueur, chocolate liqueur, or both
1oz tequila
1 cigarette lighter
Drink half the shotglass, but do not swallow. Swish it around in your mouth.
Tilt your head back.
Dip lighter flame into your mouth until the alcohol vapor in your mouth ignites.
Enjoy the tickling sensation of the flames for a few seconds.
Close your mouth (make sure to seal your lips, to extinguish the flame) and swallow.
The main challenge here is that you can't see what you're doing, or whether you're getting the flame too close to your teeth (which have no external nerves). It's not rocket science, though, and it tastes much better with some of the alcohol burned off.

This worked more or less flawlessly at the time, and I was less able to reproduce it back home; but now that I am trying to find the burning temperature of alcohol vapor, I learn that an alcohol solution's flammability depends also on temperature and pressure, and Guanajuato is 6,600 feet above sea level, while the Bay Area is mostly at sea level.

It does sound nuts when I write it down, but I watched this other guy do it right in front of me, and he wasn't superhuman or anything. Also, delicious! With science!

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