Drunken Gummy Bears

October 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm 15 comments

The  latest teen scandal: getting drunk on gummy bears.

I heard it this way, from CBS Newspath (Salinas CA):

They’re a sweet staple of any kid’s afternoon pick me up. But now Hollister police—who posted this warning on their facebook page today—and the San Benito County Health Department want you to know gummy bears aren’t so innocent anymore. [Teens] are soaking gummy bears with vodka and the bears soak up all the alcohol so its undetectable.

Hankla says, “teens are very creative and intelligent and can think of ways to sneak alcohol past adults. They can ingest more than they know theyre ingesting because they are taking handfuls of candy and they don’t know how much they’ve ingested so they can become pretty intoxicated pretty quickly.”

Urban legend radar on high alert: kids getting drunk on candy, sounds like oh so many other candy=drugs stories, which invariably turn out to be about 99.9% fantasy.

In this case, it’s a bit more complicated.

My first thought was that this was impossible: gummy bears, like any candy, would dissolve in the vodka. I figured that maybe the story got started when some gang of drunk teens were eating gummy bears, and a candy-hating adult drew her own conclusions.

But my candy biases might be swaying me too far in the other direction. To the laboratory! My assistant and I picked up some vodka and gummy bears on the way home last night, and some candy corn and skittles for comparison.

We doused all the candy in vodka, and here are the results (L to R: candy corn, skittles, gummy bear):

As you can see, the gummy bears are still in tact, some 12 hours after their vodka splash, and the vodka that was in the bowl has disappeared. They don’t dissolve, they absorb. And this absorbent quality has captured the imagination of kids looking for ever new ways to deliver alcohol to the brain. In this video from Detroit, investigators pour a liter of vodka on a full pan of gummy bears. The next day, vodka-plumped bears.

So against my skepticism, this time I credit the story. It’s possible, it’s appealing, it’s probably true.

Related post: Ecstasy Candy Hearts? I doubt it.

 

 

Entry filed under: Children and Candy, Myth Busting. Tags: .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hodge  |  October 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    We always called them “rummy bears” (regardless of the actual type of alcohol used).

    Reply
  • 2. Jessica  |  October 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    You’ve just given this artisinal candy-maker a very naughty idea for adult treats. :) PS – really enjoy your blog, thanks for tackling the cultural and scientific side of candy. It’s very interesting to see how something most people don’t take seriously at all has changed over the ages as society has.

    Reply
    • 3. Candy Professor  |  October 11, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      The technique in the original Detroit story is pretty primitive, easily achieved by your average high school delinquent. Here’s a link to a more Martha Stewart-ish version of infused gummy bears requiring several days and access to a refrigerator: http://www.instructables.com/id/Drunken-Gummies-Vodka-Infused-Gummi-Bears/

      And what about more “pairings”: cherry gummies and Kirschwasser, gummy worms and tequila…

      Reply
  • 4. Jessica  |  October 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    *artisanal* doh.

    Reply
  • 5. Kevin  |  October 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    In high school biology, we did a lab very similar to this to learn about osmosis, where we soaked gummy bears in water and weighed them regularly. The basic idea is that because the water content is significantly lower in the gummy bears than in the surrounding liquid, it’ll absorb water until it reaches equilibrium.

    On a related note, I have also heard of people making skittles vodka by dissolving the skittles in the vodka, which apparently makes it absolutely delicious.

    Reply
    • 6. Candy Professor  |  October 11, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      Oh, I guess I should taste sample number two above. And we made fantastic Halloween Candy Corn Cocktails with a version of sample number one a few years ago…ID required, of course….

      Reply
  • 7. love this blog!  |  October 11, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Definitely true! One anecdote: I first heard of them in college in 2007 from friends who had been doing this since high school.

    Reply
    • 8. Candy Professor  |  October 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      So that’s how slow this internet thing is…

      Reply
  • 9. Candy Yum Yum  |  October 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

    What does it say about me that I love this idea? Now I don’t have to sneak in those little bottles of wine when I go to the movie theater. :)

    Reply
  • 10. Candy Arrangements  |  October 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    hahaha this is amazing! wow kids these days :)

    So this why our gummy bears have been flying! (kidding)

    Best Regards,
    The Candy Chef

    Reply
  • 11. Lee  |  October 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I am so tempted , but so far , so good !

    Reply
  • 12. Loralee  |  October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Gummi candy absorbs water (or, I guess, alcohol), because it has gelatin in it. All that gelatin entangles the water, soaking it right up. We’ve soaked gummi candies several times now, and watched them expand, so I’m not surprised it works with alcohol. Not, however, an experiment I’ll be trying.

    Reply
    • 13. Samira Kawash  |  October 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Loralee, I was hoping you’d stop by to shed some light on this. Very looking forward to your book of Candy Experiments!

      Reply
  • 14. Gummy Bear Vodka Lover  |  January 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This is just another example of something seeing a spark and calling a fire. I don’t know about you all, but when I was younger it’s not like I had to go out of my way to hide alcohol in a different form. Today it’s gummy bear vodka, next week it’ll be rum cheese puffs! Seriously, this is one of my favorite snacks ever and I agree, it’s obviously for adults only, but vodka gummy bears STILL SMELL LIKE VODKA!

    Reply
  • 15. Aaron Sherman  |  October 29, 2013 at 11:12 am

    This turns out to be a result of the high corn powder content in gummies. That’s what’s absorbing the alcohol. You can use this technique to make lots of your own semi-solid, alcoholic treats if you’re so inclined (honestly, I suggest just buying your favorite candy and serving it with shots).

    Reply

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

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