When going out for a night at the bar, most people are acutely aware of what they are drinking if they are the designated driver, ensuring they don’t go over that important drink-driving threshold. But a little-known fact is how alcoholic random foods can be, with some containing almost as much alcohol content as a weak beer. Let’s go through some of the strongest and most bizarre alcoholic (but seemingly non-alcoholic) treats out there.
On the face of it, it makes sense that bread is alcoholic. It uses almost exactly the same ingredients as beer (except hops), which then go through a fermentation process prior to baking. If you get a whiff of a loaf of bread as it rises, you may smell the familiar scent of alcohol, and it actually contributes to that amazing fresh bread smell. Where it differs from beer, though, is that it then enters the oven, where most of the alcohol evaporates away with the rest of the water in the dough.
Despite this, alcohol remains within the bread and most bread is alcoholic in some way, with many loaves reaching an alcohol percentage as high as 1.9 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Bread with longer fermentation times will have a higher alcohol content, which the baking may struggle to entirely erase. This was outlined in a 1926 report called The Alcohol Content of Bread, analyzing twelve loaves of bread and finding their alcohol content to be in the range of 0.04-1.9 percent ABV – which, by EU standards, would make it an alcoholic product.
Orange juice and fruit
With its high sugar content, orange juice is actually relatively alcoholic, as well as a number of fruit juices that are not labeled as such. It is widely known that orange juice can contain up to 0.5 percent ABV, making it just below the EU threshold to be labeled an alcoholic drink, but it doesn’t stop there.
In a 2016 study into fruit juice alcohol content, the authors discovered that many drinks often given to children could be containing a substantial amount of alcohol, particularly orange, apple and grape juice. The highest recorded amount was 0.77 grams/liter ethanol, while sweet rolls and other bakery goods also recorded up to 1.2 grams/100 grams. The study raised concerns over giving these items to children in large quantities, as the volume of alcohol within could have an impact on the children's health.
It isn’t just the juice, though, that is alcoholic – fruit itself could give you a buzz if eaten in enough quantities. Ripe and overripe bananas actually have up to 0.5 percent ABV, which varies depending on how ripe the banana is; those that are ready to be eaten typically have around 0.2 percent ABV, but bananas with spots on them begin to get more alcoholic, at around 0.5 percent ABV.
Soy sauce, a delightful salty condiment made from soybeans, is our list-topping alcoholic item, weighing in at a massive 1.5-2.0 percent ABV. As Kikkoman themselves explain, the sauce is made from a natural brewing process that is akin to wine or beer, which comes with all the fun perks. The starch within the wheat breaks down as it ferments, turning into ethanol and giving soy sauce part of its characteristic flavor. As a result, some soy sauces are almost as strong as a weak beer, despite not being labeled as such, and it could have an impact in large enough quantities.
So, if you’re on a night out and everyone is expecting you to be the taxi home, be sure not to wash down your orange juice with bread or soy sauce – you may find yourself on the wrong side of a breathalyzer.