Mansplain Happy Hour With This Video On the Science of Whiskey

Image: ACS Reactions
Image: ACS Reactions

There’s no feeling more rewarding than being the smartest person in the room. Sure, your friends might think it’s annoying. But just imagine the sheer joy of going to the bar, hearing what drink they ordered, and explaining it to them. Try doing it on a date!


I myself have a phobia of explaining things to people I don’t know. But if your friend orders a whisky at the bar, this new video from the American Chemical Society and PBS’ Reactions channel is sure to help you enlighten them.

“What do you recommend,” your poor, uneducated companion might ask the bartender. “I can make you a nice whiskey drink,” the bartender would respond.

Enlightening time. “Actually, whiskey is a very interesting beverage,” you might say. “Like other adult beverages, it begins with yeast eating up sugar in grains of wheat, corn, and barley, and turning those grains into alcohols, including the ethanol that gets you drunk.” Does the friend know what ethanol is? “Ethanol is the good alcohol.”

“Whiskey sounds good,” the dumb idiot friend says. Good? Please. Armed with the knowledge of a YouTube video, it’s time to give the friend a schooling.

“Whiskey is basically just distilled beer,” you proclaim. “After fermentation, whiskey is only around five to ten percent alcohol by volume. Distillation helps separate the water, ethanol and methanol out based on their boiling points—ethanol has a boiling point of 173.1 degrees Fahrenheit, and methanol has a boiling point of 148.5 degrees Fahrenheit.” You chuckle softly, impressed with how you sound recalling those numbers from the video. “Are you familiar with the boiling point of water? It’s 212 degrees Fahrenheit.”

The bartender crosses her arms and gives a side eye. “We have bourbon, rye, and scotch,” she says. Pour soul. Does she know nothing of the spirit’s splendor?


“Well, there’s a big difference between those. Bourbon is 51 percent corn. Rye is 51 percent, well, rye. Scotch comes from malted barley—barley that has started sprouting in water, then dried to stop the germination process. Single malt comes from a single distillery. Blended whiskey comes from mixing several whiskeys. And—”

“I’ll take whatever rail whiskey you have, mixed with coke,” the simpleminded friend utters. Oh no, they’re slipping away. No way. Better fix this.


“The flavor of whiskey is surprisingly complex, and comes from the distilling and aging process,” Why won’t anyone pay attention? “The distillers are made from copper, which can remove some of the bad-tasting compounds. The ethanol and flavor chemicals move through the chambers and condense.” Will someone please look over here? “Brewers place the distillate into barrels, toasted or charred on the inside, where the whiskey picks up flavor molecules and develops its signature finish,” Please pay attention! “Everyone’s distillation process is a little different, and you’ve got to try lots of different whiskeys to really see how the flavors change.”

An eye roll from the friend makes the bartender laugh. “What are you laughing at?” “Nothing,” the so-called friend responds. “I’ll take a beer.”



Former Gizmodo physics writer and founder of Birdmodo, now a science communicator specializing in quantum computing and birds


I don’t... I mean... are you going to do this with every educational video you find? Set up some convoluted scenario in which a man learns something and then regurgitates it rudely to a woman who knows more about the subject than he does?

Because that’s what mansplaining is, right? When a man condescends to a woman on a topic that the woman is more knowledgable about? It’s not a word used to describe just any situation in which any man teaches any person about any topic... right?

Because otherwise every male teacher in every classroom in the world is guilty. And that can’t be the point of the word.

The video was quite nice. Educational. I learned something. I don’t understand why you had to bring mansplaining into it.