What do Tobias Funke, thanksgiving, and this week’s TIP have in common?
Probably a few things, but honestly, very few of them are good.
We’re gonna travel that road anyway. Let’s do this.
Maybe you’ve heard that the reason you get sleepy after a big turkey dinner, is due to the fact that turkey meat is high in a chemical called Tryptophan. That isn’t true. Or at least it isn’t true that turkey’s high levels of tryptophan causes your sleepiness. For starters, turkey meat doesn’t contain any more of the chemical than other poultry, and actually tends to have less than comparable amounts of pork products. It also contains less tryptophan, pound for pound, than egg whites, Atlantic cod fish, soy beans, parmesan, cheddar, and sesame seeds, just to name a few.
You do seem to be much more tired after a thanksgiving meal though, so if it isn’t a high level of tryptophan in turkey, than what causes it?
Well, in some ways, it IS caused by tryptophan, but not because of a high dose, but instead, it’s because of all the fucking carbohydrates you ALSO ate in the form of dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, cookies, pasta salad, cranberry sauce, beer, more beer, probably other stuff. The point is, when all of those carbs hit your bloodstream, your body releases insulin to try and deal with the absorption of glucose sugar into your big dumb face, and presumably any other part of your body that has muscle tissue. Insulin deals with sugars, but it also stimulates the uptake of chemicals known as BCAA’s, or Branch-Chained Amino Acids. There are 3 types of these BCAA’s, but tryptophan is not one of them.
So let’s repeat that and clarify:
- You eat a lot of sugars.
- Your body releases insulin to help metabolize that sugar.
- Insulin stimulates the uptake of certain amino acids.
- Tryptophan is not one of them.
So, your body is in high gear dealing with all of that, and now tryptophan is just swimming around in your blood, chillin’, until it gets to your brain, where it is used to create all sorts of fun things, one of which, is serotonin. Serotonin is a fun neurotransmitter that is thought to contribute to your feelings of well being and happiness. The fun doesn’t stop there though, serotonin can also be metabolized by the body into melatonin, which as you may have guessed, is what causes you to get sleepy.
Anyway, it isn’t high levels of tryptophan that caused you to get sleepy, it was the fact that your body was too busy dealing with sugars to appropriately respond to the tryptophan as it usually would.
How does it usually deal with it? Well, lots of ways actually. We just covered one way that your brain deals with it, but your stomach bacteria also like tryptophan. They tend to eat it up and change it into a chemical called Indole, which can pretty easily be converted into another chemical, known as Indican. Indican is water soluble, and so usually, you just pee it out. Funny thing about it being water soluble actually.
Indican, once it hydrolyzes, releases two things: glucose and indoxyl. And once indoxyl is created, it begins to oxidize and get to the point of this giant mess of a story, which is Indigo.
That’s right, Indigo is not just a color, but a very specific chemical compound, which is a derivative of tryptophan.
To recap, turkey goes into your stomach, your stomach bacteria converts some of the tryptophan into indole, then to indican, which is hydrolyzed in your bladder as indoxyl, then once it leaves your body, it begins to oxidize, and becomes indigo. Tobias, you just blue yourself.
Of course, your pee isn’t blue, because it has lots and lots of other stuff in it too, and the indigo is in relatively small amounts. However, there is a rare metabolic disorder known as “Blue Diaper Syndrome”, where the body doesn’t properly metabolize tryptophan, leading towards a higher than normal level of indican in their pee.
I wish I was clever enough to make that up, but I’m not. Look it up.
Anyway, there are easier ways to get to indigo. Several plants have indican in them, and when soaked in water, fermented, and then mixed with lye, the indigo is extracted without the need for urine .
This, finally, gets us to the actual point. This week, you’re drinking:
Well, sort of.
I really, really, really, would not recommend drinking this all by itself. Or at all actually.
Because, as my lead in hopefully tried to demonstrate, blue curaçao does not get it’s blue color through anything other than food coloring. Which means that I really see no point in you going out and buying a bottle of it at all, when you could just add a drop of food coloring to some Cointreau and you’d basically have the same thing, except it’d probably taste better.
Curaçao itself is actually quite interesting. The name comes from the Island of Curaçao. Which really translates to “health” or “cure”. One story claims that a Spanish boat dropped off some of their sick and ill sailors onto the island, to prevent the rest of the crew from getting sick. When the ship returned later, they expected to only find some dead castaways, but in fact, the sailors were alive and well, fully recovered.
The liqueur itself comes from the fact that Spaniards also tried to plant orange groves on the island. Unfortunately for them, the rocky soil did not produce good oranges, and the trees that did survive, made fruit that was small, bitter, and entirely inedible. But, the peels of the fruit was still fragrant and full or orange citrus flavor. So, a dry curaçao, like the type revived by Pierre Ferrand, is not made oranges, but with the Laraha fruit, which is a descendant of a failed attempt at growing Valencia Oranges.
Why is there such a thing as Blue Curaçao? Ultimately, marketing. But really, the Island of Curaçao, which grows the Laraha tree, also grew plenty of indigo plants, too. Someone on the island must have thought that the blue coloring would be an appropriate gimmick at some point, because the blue color doesn’t add any flavor to the citrus liqueur.
Rather than making you sick by just chugging this stuff by itself, we might as well mix it into the drink that in many ways, along with the help of Elvis, popularized blue curaçao across the country, The Blue Hawaii.
Recipes vary VASTLY from one place to the next, so you can play with this as much as you’d like. I’m keeping this simple, for my own preferences, but if you want to add a few things to this, by all means.
- 1.5 oz Light Rum
- .5 oz Curaçao
- .5 oz Lime Juice
- 3 oz Pineapple Juice
- The tiniest drop of blue food coloring.
Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass, over ice. Garnish with a little umbrella and a pineapple wedge.
NOTES: You can really use any orange liqueur you want, but a triple sec will likely be best, since they tend to be lighter in color, thus will interfere less with your blue coloring than something like Grand Marnier would.
Also, some (actually, a lot of) recipes call for using .75 vodka and .75 rum. Meh. I say stick with the tiki theme and leave the Russians out of this.
- Bourbon (on the rocks and/or also from a flask).
- Bloody Mary
- Two bags of oranges.