Does Alcohol Make You a Better Billiards Player? | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Does Alcohol Make You a Better Billiards Player?

Does alcohol make you better at pool? (maxpixel)

L’Chaim answers your pressing alcohol-related questions

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It’s time once again to check my email bag for your wine and spirits questions. You can always reach me at

Q: I’m convinced that alcohol improves my pool, but my wife says I’m deluding myself—is it possible that I’m right and drinking makes me play better?

A: Whether you play better while drinking should be objectively observable by a disinterested party; it is, alas, not possible for me to discern your comparative performance from this vantage point. The idea that one’s performance at such games as billiards or even darts may be enhanced by moderate consumption is, however, a legitimate notion.

In a 1985 study on the effects of alcohol on professional archers, for example, and in a later 1993 study of darts players, Dr. Thomas Reilly, the founding editor of the Journal of Sports Sciences and a leading researcher in the UK of sports and exercise physiology, determined that blood alcohol levels (BAC) of 0.02 percent and 0.05 percent, when contrasted against sober and placebo conditions, actually reduced muscle tremors thereby improving performance.

He determined, in fact, that archers and darts players seemed to perform best at 0.02 percent BAC. While mixing alcohol with archery, all things being equal, is probably not a brilliant idea under any circumstances, it is worth noting that 0.02 percent BAC is well below the 0.08 percent BAC that is considered legally intoxicated in the United States.

In that 1993 study, Dr. Reilly observed that while hand-eye coordination deteriorated immediately following a player imbibing a drink, the player’s balance and accuracy actually improved at 0.02 percent BAC. As BAC increased, however, performance dropped quickly. While both studies found that reaction times deteriorated swiftly under the effects of even very light alcohol consumption, the observable deterioration in sports that were turn-based—such as darts or, say, pool—was deemed significantly less relevant to performance because competitors could take their own sweet time for set-up and execution during their turn.

Beyond softening muscles, booze can also supply liquid courage and self-confidence, and may also result in mediating anxiety and possibly initially promote happiness as the alcohol decrease levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Responses to alcohol are not universal, of course, and results can vary greatly.

So, up to a point, your game may very well improve with a little hooch—or not. That said, your wife should be presumed to be “always correct” if you know what’s good for you.

Q: Is wine allergy a real thing?

A: Sadly, yes. Wine and grape allergies exist, though they are not common. Far more common, though no less sad, is wine intolerance. The distinction may not matter much to those who suffer, but an allergic reaction has an immunological basis while an intolerance does not. A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that can affect multiple organs in the body and trigger a range of symptoms; in some instances, food allergies can lead to severe or life-threatening reactions. Food intolerances, by contrast, are generally far less severe, and are the symptoms of food intolerance typically present more as mild annoyances and irritations. Sensitivities and tolerances obviously vary greatly, and those who suffer tend to feel like they, as it were, suffer.

Q: I recently met a winemaker and at one point he made an off-hand reference to wine having protein. Does wine really have protein?

A: Yep, though the vast majority of commercial wines have no protein, or very low levels, by the time they are bottled. Proteins, very large polymers of the 20 natural amino acids, are essential to life: humans, animals, and plants, including grapes, of course. Most of the proteins in wines are from grapes, with very small amounts from yeast and bacteria used during the winemaking process. Red wines have a high concentration of phenolics resulting in most of the protein becoming insoluble and get removed with the sediment through normal racking—siphoning clear wine away from the settled sediment, or lees, in the bottom of the barrel or vat. White wines, by contrast, have less phenolics, so the proteins tend to stay in solution. Typically, these are removed prior to bottling as part of the normal winemaking stabilization and clarification process. Otherwise, the proteins can subsequently coagulate and produce a hazy or cloudy appearance. So yes, wine has protein, but not much – if any –by the time consumers get it.

Q: What’s good this week?

A: While answering these questions, I’ve been having a lovely little slurp of Herzog, Late Harvest, Orange Muscat, 2018 ($23; mevushal): A enjoyable and pleasing semi-sweet fruit salad of a wine with aromas and flavors of mandarin orange, marmalade, passion fruit, lychee sorbet, grapefruit, vanilla bean, honeysuckle, apricot, and lemon, with bits of racy ginger, mild honeydew melon, and raisin dancing in and out of focus.


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