Do these boozy treats put you over the drink-driving limit?

Ever wondered if liqueurs or drink-laced Christmas puddings might put you over the drink-driving limit? Pat Fitzpatrick picks up a breathalyser and puts six sweet treats to the test

Do these boozy treats put you over the drink-driving limit?

Ever wondered if liqueurs or drink-laced Christmas puddings might put you over the drink-driving limit? Pat Fitzpatrick picks up a breathalyser and puts six sweet treats to the test

I kick off with a Hot Buttered Rum Bombe from Aldi’s Specially Selected collection (€2.49). The label suggests I might want to strap myself in — the cake bit is 3% rum, with an oozy rum toffee sauce in the middle.

The label is right — none of your ‘I had no idea there was alcohol in it your honour’ defence here — this one is proper boozy.

It’s also a bit rich for my taste and I’m not a huge fan of rum. So I set it aside for a while and crack open the Merry Toddies from Aldi (€6.99), a collection of liqueurs offering me a shot of gin, whiskey, port or champagne.

There are no details on the box of the alcohol percentage they contain. I have three and wait 10 minutes, as recommended in the manual for my Alcosense Excel Digital Breathalyser.

This is a leading-edge breathalyser, which you can calibrate for Irish driving rules, and it promises to give you a more accurate reading than cheaper versions.

Available online for around €145, It’s easy to use, ideal for morning-after tests, and seeing as the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Ireland is now 20mg for drivers, it’s nearly a must-have if your job or lifestyle relies on a car.

I blow into it, a long sigh as they say in the manual. The testing I’ve done for this article is the first time I’ve been breathalysed — I hope it’s the last.

The reading is 0.88%, enough to get me a €400 fine and six-month driving ban if I was stopped by the Gardaí while driving, and this result was confirmed in the station.

That said, the manual suggests the reading can vary wildly if you test very soon after consuming alcohol. (Breathalysers, including those used by the police, are calibrated to measure alcohol absorbed into your bloodstream, not drops of alcohol in your mouth. This is why it is common practise for a guard to wait at least 20 minutes from the time of arrest at the roadside to taking a second test in the station.)

So I wait 10 minutes and blow again — now I’m back down to 0%.

I’m pacing around the kitchen aimlessly, chocolate and sugar and little shots of alcohol will do that to a man.

I drive on with my research and double down with three Mini Mince Pies with Courvoisier Cognac from the Tesco Finest Range (€2.75).

The label says the cognac is only 1% of each pie, with port and additional brandy in there as well, so these are like a low-alcohol beer compared to regular mince pies.

Ten minutes after the 0% reading, I test again, and now it’s 0.18%, worryingly close to the 0.2% limit for learner and professional drivers.

And it confirms what the manual says — your reading can rise for 90 minutes after you consume alcohol, as the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.

My reading might be low at 0.18%, but I’m a bit all over the place. I try and put two dish-washing tablets into the dishwasher; I also struggle to operate the breathalyser. (If you are having problems working this user-friendly breathalyser, I suggest you get the bus.)

Ten minutes later, the reading is still 0.18%

I pop three M&S Cocktail Party Liqueurs (€6). There’s no alcohol percentage listed on the box so I can’t compare like with like but I find they’re fairly lively.

At this point, I consider going all in and cracking open a bottle of gin.

I take a reading five minutes after these liqueurs, even though I’m not supposed to.

It comes back at a whopping 0.73% — a €200 fine and three-month ban if it was reliable, which of course it isn’t, so soon after consuming the alcohol. I take another reading 10 minutes later, and I’m back down to 0%.

My stomach can’t take any more. I put away the booze-food for the night and watch some Young Offenders. It seems funnier than usual.

The following morning, I struggle with the Dunnes Stores Rich Fruit Espresso Martini Pudding (€2.49).

There’s nothing wrong with it — in fact, it’s delicious — it’s just I still have enough Catholic guilt to feel guilty about putting something boozy into my mouth at 9am.

This pudding is 5.5% vodka, 2.2% coffee liqueur according to the label.

I’ve already polished off the SuperValu 6 Month Matured Pudding (€3, 6% Armagnac brandy, 5.1% stout, and 2% Cognac).

I plough on, eating two more M&S Cocktail Party Liqueurs in the interests of investigative journalism and getting half-cut before 10 in the morning.

It works. I feel foolish, in a good way, and wonder should I give my wife a shout to see if she wants to go halves on another Hot Buttered Rum Bomb from Aldi.

I resist.

It’s 9.55am.

Time for another breathalyser test. I’m at 0% — I can drive out and stock up with some more liqueurs and boozy pies if that takes my fancy. (By the way, from what I can make out, they’ll sell you boozy food products before the off-license opens in most supermarkets. Not saying you need to do this, just putting it out there.)

Alternatively, I still have half a box of Tesco Finest Mini Mince Pies with Courvoisier, winking away at me on my desk.

I don’t think I’m up to it though — not after last night. It isn’t my head, it’s my stomach. Alcohol in food is usually delivered in chocolate, toffee, cake, and pudding form.

My sweet tooth isn’t that sweet.

Thankfully, there is no real hangover. The Espresso Martini and Christmas pudding I had at 9am gave me a nice little buzz. Two hours afterwards, I felt surprisingly good.

I was never ‘you’re my best friend in the whole world’ drunk during my booze-food mini-party, but a liqueur or two will definitely put some pep in your step.

As for getting behind the wheel? The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is that a breathalyser is a good way to check if you are fit to drive the morning after a boozy night before.

But now I’ve seen how the readings can fluctuate, I’d wait a good 90 minutes after my last drink to take a reading I could trust, before getting behind the wheel.

And in the end, whether it’s liqueurs, pudding, beer or wine, your best bet is to stick with the old slogan — never ever drink and drive.

    Drinking and driving

  • It takes an hour for your body to process a standard drink (half pint of beer, 100ml glass of wine, a 35.5 ml pub measure of spirits.) For example, a bottle of wine takes eight hours.The Medical Bureau of Road Safety advises that one pint of beer or glass of wine can put you over the limit.There is no way to be sure, so it is always best to avoid drink when you have the car.An ordinary driver faces a €200 fine and three-month ban for 50 to 80mg, rising to €400 and six-month ban for 80 to 100mg.For learner, novice and professional drivers, the lower limit is 20mg.While most festive foods are quite low in alcohol content, if taken with alcoholic drinks this could push you over the limit. Alcohol is a factor in 38% of fatal crashes.

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