Ask Your Bartender: Gin Blindness

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Hey Bartender

I was wondering if you know anything about the myth (or not) that if you drink too much gin, you could go blind? Thanks!


Hey Ashley

It’s – kinda – a myth. But not entirely.

Let’s start at the very beginning. There are basically two types of alcohol: ethanol and methanol (ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol). Ethanol is what you’ll find in your bottle of Maker’s Mark, methanol is an industrial solvent. Ethanol is drinkable, methanol is not.

During Prohibition, liquor bootlegging was common, but government oversight into the production methods was not. Things can get pretty scary when you’ve got people making drugs in their bathtubs.

So, as with most unscrupulous drug production, the good stuff was often cut with the bad stuff. It’s cheaper to make. And what happens to you if you drink the bad stuff? Well, let’s Ask a Scientist:

Methyl alcohol is highly toxic. Ingestion, or exposition to vapors of even small quantities of methyl alcohol can cause blindness.

There you have it. If that’s not a great reason to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, then I don’t know what is.

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