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Can you count on booze to kill the bugs in egg nog?

A perennial holiday dilemma: will alcohol kill the bacteria in homemade eggnog? Microbiologists Vince Fischetti and Raymond Schuch, from The Rockefeller University, ran an experiment in the lab to see whether salmonella can survive in a vat of spiked eggnog. Dr. Rebecca Lancefield’s Eggnog Recipe.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. justDIY says:

    So, as we’re taught that alcohol kills just about everything, why is isn’t it killing the salmonella instantly? A quart plus a pint of high proof alcohol for 2 quarts of cream, holy cow!

    1. Zach C. says:

      I suspect that the alcohol may be eating away at the bacteria’s cell walls, or some compound produced by the bacteria reacts with the alcohol to produce an antiseptic of some sort. It would help explain the slowness of the action.

  2. Maha says:

    I don’t have sound on this computer, does the booze kill the bugs? Is the reason the eggnog (in that recepie) sits in the fridge for weeks, to kill harmful bacteria?

    My housemate has some (way too strong) bourbon eggnog in the fridge. I’ve been able to sip one shot at a time, not enough to fill that craving for eggnog. I’ll try cutting it with cream or even milk later tonight.

    /me just watched the video (without sound)

    I am slightly scared of foods not doused in booze now.

  3. Sam N. Ella says:

    Funny (or sad) how the Scientists don’t trust their own science enough to drink the Nog after the results say the Salmonella is gone.

    Happy Holidays!

    1. blubrick says:

      @Sam N. Ella
      Nah, it’s probably a wise decision not to drink the potion. There may not be any viable Salmonella bacteria in it, but while they have been dying for three weeks, they have also been living for most of that time. That concoction contains up to 3 weeks’ production of Salmonella toxins (Saltox?) which could easily make a person quite ill indeed.

      @Zach C.
      Seeing as cell membranes are largely made of lipids which are alcohol-soluble, that may well be the case. My suspicion is that the alcohol does not actually kill them but interrupts some stage of their reproductive processes (mitosis, sporification etc.) so that they get to die of “old age” without multiplying.