Good Libations



It was the headline I’ve been fantasizing about for all of my adult life: “Study Finds Fruity Cocktails Count as Health Food.” I double-checked the URL, just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally stumbled onto the Onion.

Sure enough, Reuters was actually reporting that, “a fruity cocktail may not only be fun to drink but may count as health food, U.S. and Thai researchers said on Thursday.”

It makes so much sense. I knew I hadn’t been irresponsibly drowning my sorrows in alcohol for the past couple of decades. Those massive quantities of strawberry margaritas consumed over the years really did make me feel better–even in the morning.

I love it when science finally comes around to my way of thinking.

The discovery was pure serendipity–like the discovery of penicillin.

Tucked away in their labs (no doubt downing Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and Jolt cocktails) Dr. Korakot Chanjirakul and colleagues at Kasetsart University in Thailand and scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture were exploring ways to help keep strawberries fresh during storage, and accidentally stumbled on evidence that treating the berries with alcohol increased their antioxidant capacity and free radical scavenging activity.

In English, this means that adding ethanol–the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and others–boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries.

The next time someone gives you a hard time for chugging a pitcher of Tangerine Banana Mango Daiquiris, you get right on your high horse and tell them you’re just conscientiously doing your part to prevent cancer.

Does that rock or what? You can now imbibe with pride.

This means that all those times we brought Margaritas to the Little League games we weren’t senior delinquents. No. We were good Samaritans saving lives.

The report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says that any colored fruit might be made even more healthful with the addition of a splash of alcohol. How awesome is that? Look around at the Farmer’s Market. All fruits are colored!

Get this: for those of you that like celery with your Bloody Marys (blech!) or onions with your Martinis (gag!), the antioxidant effect works with vegetables too.

As we all know by now, people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a documented lower risk of cancer, heart disease and some neurological diseases. Add that to a little Leslie logic and you’ve got a double whammy on the rocks: (a) Fruity frilly drinks are whimsical; (b) Scientists like fruity frilly drinks; (c) I like fruity frilly drinks; (d) Therefore, I’m a whimsical scientist.

I’m hoping the next phase of research will prove that adding little cocktail umbrella enhances the antioxidant effect.

Share your favorite fruity frilly girly drinks, we mean health tips, with Leslie at For more columns visit Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 27, 2007.

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