TIME consumer goods

This Is About to Become Your Favorite New Drink

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Chris Stein—Getty Images

Interest in premium brands is on the rise

Bacardi is jumping onto the bourbon bandwagon with its acquisition of a premium Kentucky distiller. But the bandwagon it has been riding since 1862 is picking up speed itself: Even as volume sales of rum are expected to decline, dollar sales are expected to grow, according to a new report, thanks mainly to rising interest in premium brands.

Bacardi on Monday announced it would acquire the maker of Angel’s Envy bourbon, giving the fourth-largest spirits maker its first foothold on the bourgeoning American bourbon market. The brand is owned by Angel’s Share Brands and Louisville Distilling Co. Its flagship port-finished bourbon is among the fastest-growing brands in a market that has seen eye-popping growth: total bourbon sales have increased 35% in the United States over the past five years, and 50% worldwide.

Bacardi is late to the party. It owns the staid, mainstream Dewar’s Scotch, and some whisky-based liqueurs, but until now has had no bourbon brands or any American whiskeys of any kind. But the bourbon trend doesn’t seem to be abating, and though Angel’s Envy is expected to move just 65,000 cases this year (not bad for a company launched in 2011), the company is building a new distillery in Louisville to be completed in 2016. That will take capacity to 800,000 cases.

Meanwhile, rum might be the new bourbon, as drinkers worldwide continue to seek out higher-end hooch. While total volume is expected to fall by about 1.7% between this year and 2014, most of that shrinkage will be at the low end of the market, according to a new report from just-drinks/IWSR Insights. Leaving the cheap stuff out of the equation, volumes will increase by more than 5.5 million cases, to 64.5 million, all of it premium priced.

Just as with premium and small-batch bourbons, “aspirational drinkers” are driving these trends. Rum has been somewhat late to the game because it has had to overcome its image as the booze of frat-boy party monsters and Jimmy Buffett fans. But the industry, most definitely including Bacardi itself, has been working to change that image through — and this is a word uttered entirely seriously by industry people — “premiumization.” Bacardi in 2013 vowed to “premiumitize” the whole rum category, with particular attention to premium brands as well as flavored varieties and spiced rums, all of which have seen sales take off over the past couple of years.

Not that rum will necessarily displace bourbon and other craft whiskeys in terms of cultural cachet. But drinkers are bolting for the high end across all categories. Still, rum has its work cut out for it. In 2014, Ed Pilkington, head of global marketing for Diageo’s vodka, rum, and gin brands, declared that rum had “lost its soul,” and had “fallen behind,” thanks to those aforementioned frat boys.

At the same time, rum was taking off in Europe, even as sales were slowing just about everywhere else. Those trends, according to the new report, are now spreading elsewhere, thanks in part to introductions of products like Bacardi’s high-end Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron, as well as flavored rum’s like its Bacardi Mango Fusion.

TIME Ireland

Irish PM Slams Tony Abbott for Offensive St. Patrick’s Day Video

Tony Abbott drew widespread scorn for comments such as "this is the one day of the year when it’s good to be green”

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny admits to being irked by a St. Patrick’s Day video posted by his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott, saying it perpetuates a “stage Irish perception.”

In an extremely cringeworthy clip, the Australian Prime Minister highlights his green tie, makes quips about “being green” and says how he wants to celebrate the day by drinking lots of Guinness.

“This is the one day of the year when it’s good to be green,” he says, in reference to his regressive environmental policies. “I’m sorry I can’t be there to share a Guinness or two, or maybe even three, but like you, I do rejoice in St Patrick’s Day.”

After attending a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Kenny told reporters that he didn’t agree with Abbott’s remarks.

“There has been a long-term view of a stage Irish perception. I reject that,” he said, reports the Irish Times.

He went on to say that people should enjoy St. Patrick’s Day celebrations responsibly.

“I think it’s really important that we understand that we have a national day that can be celebrated worldwide, St Patrick’s Day.”

Abbott drew widespread scorn for the video address, with members of the Irish community describing his comments as “patronizing.”

“It’s been said of us that the English made the laws, the Scots made the money and the Irish made the songs,” he said in the video.

TIME Research

Are YouTube Videos With Alcohol Dangerous?

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Getty Images

A new study shows popular YouTube videos make light of alcohol

Prior research has suggested that teen media exposure to alcohol, whether through TV shows or movies, could influence their drinking behaviors. Now, a new study suggests that online videos may also be a site for negative exposure.

In the new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, a team of researchers watched 70 of the most popular videos on YouTube related to intoxication in order to see what kinds of messages they were sending.

To do that, the researchers searched for the terms “drunk,” “buzzed,” “hammered,” “tipsy,” and “trashed” and chose the most popular and relevant videos in those categories. In order to characterize the videos, they coded each one for a variety of factors, like how much alcohol was depicted, who the characters were and whether the video showed consequences of binge drinking. Overall, the videos contained more men than women, and usually depicted a specific brand. Rarely did the videos show poor side effects like withdrawal.

The videos with the most “likes” tended to be funny, and the overall vibe of the video was upbeat and positive when a specific brand was mentioned. Hard alcohol was the most common beverage featured, even though beer is the most common alcoholic beverage consumed in the United States, the authors note.

In the study, the researchers didn’t make any connections between watching the videos and drinking more or drinking more dangerously. But their findings shed light on what alcohol-related content is available online. The findings are still preliminary, but online videos may be another way to target young people who might be susceptible to messaging.

Conversely, the researchers also view YouTube as a potential venue to reach young people with positive messages about drinking as well. Videos could educate teenagers about the potential consequences of behaviors like binge drinking. Either way, YouTube may be worth further consideration by public health experts, they note.

TIME

Here’s How Many Brits Don’t Drink Alcohol

London 2012 - Restaurants And Bars
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images Beer pumps in a pub on March 11, 2011 in London, England.

A new survey finds a surge of teetotallers, particularly among young adults

One in five British adults don’t fancy a pint, or even a drop, according to a national survey released Friday that finds drinking rates in decline across the nation and plummeting among certain age groups.

Young adults accounted for most of the change, according to survey results gathered by the Office for National Statistics. The proportion of teetotallers in this age group surged by 40% since 2005, news which health officials greeted with relief. The study notes that excessive drinking posed a chronic public health risk, causing as many as 7,000 alcohol-related deaths in 2013.

But health experts interviewed by the Guardian dismissed the celebrations as premature. They pointed to demographic shifts, such as a growing number of elderly and Muslim citizens, who tend to drink less than the wider population or abstain from drinking on religious grounds.

TIME universities

Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol on Campus For All

Dartmouth Advanced Placement
Jim Cole—AP Students walk across the Dartmouth College campus green in Hanover, N.H., on March 12, 2012. The school is banning hard alcohol on campus.

Fraternities need to reform or disband, says Dartmouth president

Dartmouth College plans to ban all hard alcohol on campus following a series of high-profile reports of sexual assaults at universities around the U.S.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said on Thursday that all students, regardless of age, would be banned from consuming and possessing hard alcohol on campus, while warning the college’s fraternities that they would need to reform or disband.

(MORE: Dartmouth’s President on Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention)

Several schools have taken similar steps to reform their alcohol policies since a Rolling Stone articlewas published about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. While that story has since been discredited, Brown University announced this month that it would ban alcohol at its fraternities, Swarthmore College has banned hard alcohol from events on campus, and U-Va. has banned mixed drinks and punches at its fraternity parties.

(MORE: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses)

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why You Might Not Want To Mix Alcohol and Energy Drinks

370699 02: A shot of vodka is poured into a "Red Bull" energy drink in this 1999 photo taken in Los Angeles, CA. The mixed drink keep club goers buzzed but wide awake while partying. They''re calling this beverage "ecstasy in a can." (Photo by Evan Kafka/Liaison)
Evan Kafka—Getty Images

Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation

For years, research has suggested that mixing alcohol and heavily-caffeinated energy drinks could have negative health effects. Combining the two seems to make you want to drink more and mask signs of inebriation.

The combo’s potential negative consequences aren’t just a personal risk, but a public health one, suggests a new paper in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

“When people mix energy drinks with alcohol, people drink more than they would if they had just consumed alcohol, which is associated with a cascade of problems,” says paper author Cecile Marczinski, associate professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University.

The increased likelihood of engaging in risky behavior, particularly drunk driving, is chief among the public health concerns, Marczinski says. The caffeine rush in energy drinks makes a drinker look and feel more balanced and coordinated than their drinking would suggest, leading some drinkers to believe they’re not actually drunk. In one study Marczinski cited, people who combined energy drinks and alcohol were four times more likely to think they could drive home than their counterparts who drank alcohol alone. The effects of the energy drink may also make it less obvious to police officers that a driver is drunk, making the officer less likely to breathalyze.

Other public health concerns that stem from mixing alcohol and energy drinks include adolescent brain damage, more emergency department visits and increased hospitalizations, the review says.

Even though the widespread popularization of energy drinks is a relatively new phenomenon, some jurisdictions have worked to address the growing public health issues, Marczinski says. Some parts of Australia ban the sale of energy drinks in bars after midnight. “You can have really dramatic solutions or minor steps in the right direction,” she says.

University of Connecticut Health Center researcher Steven Meredith, who has studied the health effects of the mixed drinks but was not involved in the review, says that more research is needed to fully understand how energy drinks and alcohol interact with the body together. Still, taking a more active approach to public policy makes sense, he says, given the reported risks.

“If you’re in public policy and health care, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.

TIME Addiction

Here’s Who’s Most Likely To Black Out While Drinking

passed out girl
Getty Images

Blacking out, or getting so drunk that you can’t remember anything that happened the night before, is all too common among underage drinkers, according to a new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

In the study, Marc Schuckit, professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and his colleagues looked at data on 1,402 drinking teenagers in England when they were 15, 16, 18 and 19. They discovered that by the time the teens reached 19, 90% of them had drank so much they experienced a blackout. About half of them had blacked out multiple times.

More than half of people reported having a blackout at every year of follow-up.

Teens who blacked out while drinking tended to be female—likely because they weigh less and have less body water to dilute the alcohol—to smoke, have sensation-seeking and impulsive behaviors, lack conscientiousness and have friends who also drank or used other substances. “It’s not as if a blackout in these kids was an isolated phenomenon,” says Schuckit. “Blackouts are unfortunately often considered to be a funny thing as opposed to dangerous. I am not sure the average person realizes the dangers associated with blackouts.”

A blackout can occur when someone drinks well over their limit. Alcohol is considered a depressant, and when the dose is high enough, depressants are known to impair memory acquisition. When someone blacks out, it means that while they appear to be awake, alert and intoxicated, their brain is actually not making long-term memories of what’s happening. If a person experiencing a blackout is asked what happened to them just 10 minutes ago, they will have no idea.

There are very few, if any, longitudinal studies that have looked at the impact of blacking out on the brain, but experts guess that it isn’t good. High blood alcohol levels are known to cause memory problems later in life, and blacking out is an indicator of drinking too much. Some people may hit that point with fewer drinks than others, and it’s possible that some have a genetically predisposed sensitivity to alcohol’s effects—but blacking out always means you’ve drank too much.

For young people, that behavior concerns experts. “When you really get drunk, literature shows you are opening yourself up to a huge number of problems,” says Schuckit, citing a greater likelihood of getting into accidents and fights, or doing things that one may later regret, including sex.

The study looked at British students, and prior data suggests that they drink more than American students. Still, Schuckit says it should be taken more seriously among young drinkers everywhere.

Read next: This is What Alcohol Does to Your Sleep

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

4 Health Excuses To Stay Sober At Your Holiday Party

After the Party
DNY59/Getty Images

It's not always easy to explain why you're turning down a drink, finds a new study

Staying sober at a holiday party—whether it’s out of commitment to the 12 steps, your health or your tastebuds—certainly has its merits. But it’s not always easy to explain why you’re turning down a hot toddy, finds a new study in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Consider that 65% of adults who work full-time say they regularly drink alcohol, and drinking after work is an ingrained part of many companies’ culture. That after-hours socializing may come with other benefits, too. One study found that among full-time employees, men who drink alcohol earn 19% more than those who don’t, and women who drink make 23% more. Another found that drinking after work with colleagues eased job dissatisfaction.

To find out how non-drinkers handle boozy events, researchers from North Carolina State University interviewed full-time workers who don’t drink alcohol. After analyzing their responses, the authors report that most non-drinkers feel like an outsider and felt like by not drinking, it was their job to put drinkers at ease. Some even said that felt they actually had to be better at their jobs in order to make up for the social points they lost for abstaining. Many said they accepted drinks they never touched, just to save face. “I’ve held a beer bottle for hours, to the point where it’s warm,” said one man who works in sales.

About 40% of nondrinkers abstained for reasons associated with health or not liking the taste, and 38% did so because they were recovering alcoholics. But almost all of them, when asked by coworkers why they weren’t drinking, tended to cite their own health.

No one should have to explain why they don’t drink, but until that day comes, here are five health-related excuses, all from the study participants, to forgo that next drink.

1. “Not drinking is my secret to weight loss.”

Ken, a 41-year-old man, has to woo big donors for his job at a university. “Sometimes they’re really fired up about getting drunk at a football game or something,” he said. In order to not alienate them, Ken told donors he sheds pounds by not drinking. “I don’t want the first thing that somebody thinks of about me to be that I don’t drink,” he said.

2. “It’s that pesky toe fungus again.”

Most recovering alcoholics surveyed gave a health reason for abstaining—in order to skirt stigma. Marshall, a 41-year-old engineer, wanted a legitimate medical excuse that wouldn’t threaten his reputation, so he blamed his toe fungus medication, which is contraindicated with booze—even though the drug had expired and he’d stopped using it.

3. “Sorry, I’ve got a marathon.”

People respect long-term goals and physical challenges, so 43-year-old Donna, a professor, said she didn’t drink because it got in the way of her marathon training. “That goes over really easily,” she said.

4. “Ugh, migraines.”

Instead of revealing that she took anti-anxiety medication and didn’t want to drink alcohol, website designer Maddie, 31, said she took migraine medication. “I’ve spread that lie all over town,” she said.

TIME Addiction

Most People Who Drink Too Much Aren’t Alcoholics

A new report shows that 90% of heavy drinkers are not addicted to alcohol

A new report shows that very few people who drink heavily are actually dependent on alcohol, contrary to some assumptions.

For men, excessive drinking means five drinks in a sitting or 15 over the course of the week; for women, four in a sitting or eight over the week. The survey found that 29% of the population met this criteria, but that 90% of heavy drinkers are not alcoholics.

Health officials believe this is good news for efforts to reduce excessive drinking. Instead of requiring treatment for an addiction, heavy drinkers could be deterred by measures like higher taxes. Excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.

[NYT]

TIME Addiction

The Genetic Reason Why Some Drinkers Can’t Stop

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Chris Clor—Getty Images/Blend Images

A new study in mice looks at the link between genetics, alcohol and the brain

Around 10% of people will develop alcohol disorders, and a new study in mice shows that having a specific genetic strand might be the reason some escalate from moderate to excessive drinkers.

Previously, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco showed that moderate drinking activates a protein in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which might protect against drinking too much.

In the new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, they study what happens when that threshold into excessive drinking is crossed. When mice consumed generous amounts of alcohol for a long period of time—mimicking the human act of binge drinking—their levels of the protective protein BDNF decreased significantly in a part of their brains where decision-making occurs. One possible reason for this decline, the scientists discovered, was a corresponding increase in genetic material microRNA, including miR-30a-5p.

When the researchers increased miR-30a-5p in the mice brains themselves, BDNF went down and mice wanted to drink more, preferring alcohol to water. When the scientists inhibited the miR-30a-5p, the brains returned to normal, and so did the drinking behaviors of the mice.

Though mice studies can’t translate directly to humans, the researchers think a similar situation may be happening in human brains during alcohol consumption, and that perhaps certain people are genetically susceptible, as other research has also suggested. The researchers hope their findings will provide better data for alcoholism therapies.

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