Nicotine on the Rocks

By Dirk Hanson 04/07/11

And you thought Four Loko was a big deal.

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Tobacco-soaked booze.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

The early Native Americans called it “drinking the smoke,” so maybe there’s something fitting about the idea of tobacco-infused alcohol. Tobacco bitters typically involve steeping a fat Cuban cigar’s inner leaves in Cuban rum for up to a week. And the formulas get progressively more complex from there. Darcy O’Neil, the bartender-in-chief at, would like to point out a few things, if you happen to end up in a bar with tobacco infused cocktails on the menu. Nicotine, O’Neil hastens to remind us, is toxic. And while you’re not likely to die from a nicotine overdose, it doesn’t hurt to remember that the lethal dose for nicotine is 60 mg, about the same as the lethal dose for cyanide. A typical cigarette gives a smoker between 1 and 2 mgs of nicotine, and only the most hard-core concoctions are likely to reach levels over 3 or 4 mgs. However, in a non-smoker, that’s enough to make you dizzy all by itself. In fact, non-smokers are in danger of forgetting one simple fact: They have no tolerance whatsoever for the effects of nicotine. And really, what is the point? As O’Neil relates, “Back before smoking was banned in bars, I was unfortunate enough to take a swig of a bottle of beer that someone used as an ashtray. You can’t forget that flavor. It makes me wonder why people would even want to drink a Nicotini.” But not everyone agrees. Distiller Ted Breaux has been producing something called Perique Liqueur de Tabac, a tobacco liqueur distilled in the Combier distillery in Saumur, France, since 2006.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]