Is it okay to cook with wine when serving a guest in AA recovery?

I was planning on making a pork dish that I usually deglaze with red wine and boil down into a rich sauce. I assume that the alcohol burns away, but is it rude to serve to someone who is in AA? What would be a good substitute in a meat dish? Better safe than insensitive??

  • Posted by: lloreen
  • December 6, 2011


Smaug March 24, 2018
Parenthetically, there is a notion about that acidic liquids are needed for deglazing; this is simply not true- water does just fine. Not the best base for the op's sauce, perhaps, but it does the job.
702551 March 23, 2018
Reading all the responses, but most particularly to BillWilson and Smaug's recent comments, it is clear that there is very wide spectrum of reactions and outcomes. I would hazard a guess that neither are at the terminal ends of the spectrum and that more extreme reactions have been displayed.

From that, it appears that the wisest and most thoughtful approach would be to honor the ingredient restriction very strictly, much like accommodating someone with a restriction for religious reasons (e.g., no pork, no animals).

Of course, communicating directly with the diner(s) in question might clarify the matter, but in the end, it starts with a certain amount of respect for their situation and preference.

If you are not willing to make the effort to ASK THEM DIRECTLY or alter your ingredients, just make it clear from the start lest you suffer from some extremely violent and unpleasant repercussions (some of which have been described in this thread).

Best of luck to all. Enjoy your meal.

Smaug March 23, 2018
Well, experiences vary, and I would definitely agree with erring on the side of caution. Nevertheless- I quit drinking some 25 years ago; after a brief hiatus, I resumed cooking with wine and I use alcohol based extracts and vinegar, and sometimes hard liquor in baking-none of these things has triggered any sort of urge to relapse, which is actually more likely to come from emotional distress than a reminder of the "joys" of drinking. Which in truth was pretty enjoyable until I lost control of it.
BillWilson March 22, 2018
Tell Me No Lies
About Cooking with Alcohol

I'm an alcoholic and I've been sober for 38 years. I am militant about my sobriety. I rigorously refuse to eat food prepared with alcohol. Not because I fear it may "trigger" me (I don't live in fear of drinking anymore), but because I prefer living my life without alcohol.

When someone tries to "sneak a little sherry" into their cooking and then tells me "there's no alcohol in it", I have been known to spit out the first bite all over their fine tablecloth, rinse out my mouth with water and spit that out onto their fine china, then leave, never to trust that person again.

I have been known to ask my waiter if the kitchen uses wine or other alcohol with any dish, and have therefore quite often found myself sitting through many a banquet while staring at a plate of beautiful -- but wine-soaked -- food that I can't eat, while I go hungry.

One time I asked for a salad without dressing, specifically telling the server the reason why. The salad arrived, soaked in red wine dressing and reeking of alcohol. I asked what the dressing was, and the server replied "red wine vinaigrette," at which point, I replied, "I said no wine and told you why," then picked up the salad bowl and emptied it onto his serving tray.

My point is that even when a recovering alcoholic is open and honest about their desire to remain alcohol-free, a disturbing number of people believe that it is perfectly fine to just lie about alcohol. To an alcoholic, however, it is a deadly serious and very legitimate concern. After 38 years of sobriety, I have no desire to return to the violent, a-hole, loser I was when I was drinking a case and a fifth a day, nor do I grant anybody the right to shove alcohol down my throat.

You may call me "unsociable," and point out that I probably don't get invited to many social functions. I may also point out that my results of being "sociable" would require you to spend time and money cleaning my vomit out of your fine carpet, and calling ambulances and police to deal with the outcomes of my "philosophical discussions" -- in general having a raging drunk (me) ruin your meticulously planned "social" event.

Maybe you and everyone else in your universe can handle "a little wine" in your food, but quite simply, I cannot. The choice is yours -- have alcohol OR have me at your party. It's either/or but not both.

--An Anonymous Alcoholic
I'm glad that you strongly stick up for your rights! Sneaking an unwanted item into a person's food is a despicable act. It is a fundamental right to decide what goes into your own body. I wish you all the best!
Commonsense December 9, 2021
Sounds like your a rude ass person.
Jason F. April 12, 2022
It sounds like you're still a violent, a-hole, loser - just a sober one now. Instead of spitting food out on tables and over turning plates try articulating your displeasure in a polite and thoughtful way.
Joy W. September 3, 2022
Very rude to that waiter. Red wine vinegar doesn't have any alcohol in it.
Joy W. September 3, 2022
And your overcoming your addiction still hasn't addressed you being an asshole. If you go to a party where alcohol is being served, then the onus is on you to have tolerance to other people there. "My way or the highway" is hardly conducive to civilized behavior.
Smaug September 4, 2022
Actually does have some alcohol, though not much.
BJB March 11, 2023
Sounds like you need anger management.
ChefJune December 9, 2011
Add your answer here
skittle December 8, 2011
Definitely don't use wine to deglaze. My uncle has been in AA for nearly 14 years. I often forget and last year made some truffles that had alcohol in them. He always remembers to ask if any alcohol was used in the food preparation, but I sometimes wonder if it ends up making him feel uncomfortable. It just slipped my mind!

You're so very thoughtful to consider your guests needs though.
ChefJune December 7, 2011
The alcohol doesn't all burn off. And even the teensiest trace of it can trigger a recovering alcoholic to fall off the wagon. I gather from your concern that you would not like to be responsible for such an occurrence.

Stock makes a great deglazer, as do a variety of fruit juices.

My BIL is a recovering alcoholic, so my sis does not cook with alcohol at all, and has made a game out of finding other liquids that add lots of flavor. For instance, Dr.Pepper (flat works best) results in a similar flavor profile to Sherry! And there are "famous" recipes for brisket that use Coca-cola.
vvvanessa December 7, 2011
every person in recovery has his or her own limits of tolerance and ways that he or she lives a sober life. i know a bartender who is in recovery and lives completely sober but who tastes and spits in order to quality control and create his cocktails. this limit is fine for him but might be shockingly unacceptable to someone else. i know others who won't even partake in any sort of alcoholic-looking beverage, like sparking cider in a champagne flute.

the taste of alcohol leftover in a dish is as likely to be a trigger as, say, having to show up for a social dinner at all in the first place.

if you are unsure, and if you are close/comfortable enough with the person, ask if the wine is okay. if you aren't, i'd err on the side of leaving it out.
amysarah December 7, 2011
Actually, it doesn't necessarily matter whether e.g., wine is someone's drink of choice for its taste to be a possible trigger. Unfortunately it's not that clearcut. It's also a huge generalization to think drinking mouthwash (or cough syrup, etc.) is a stage all alcoholics go through, or that triggers necessarily depend on any particular stage of recovery.

Regardless, about dinner: recovery is about someone managing his own situation, yet you don't want to make it unnecessarily harder than it already is either - a dinner party is supposed to be fun, comfortable and relaxing for your guests, right? So I'd skip the alcohol - there are other things to use for cooking once in a while.

(Also as someone mentioned, if your friend takes Antabuse, he'd be careful to avoid alcohol - even a tiny amount would make him VERY ill - that's the point of taking it. So he'd probably ask before eating. Btw, anti-craving meds - Naltrexone, Zofran, etc. - aren't the ones that have that effect, they simply cut down on the actual craving.)
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 7, 2011
Well said.
Sam1148 December 6, 2011
It's not about the percentages of alcohol in the dish, but the taste that might trigger a craving. Make it completely alcohol free...but if the taste of a 'reminder' is there..that's a trigger.

Most alcoholics won't trigger on some things, like wine, or other than their 'daily driver' alcohol. It all depends on the individual and if they're in the 'drinking mouthwash' stage.

Heck, even vanilla extract is 70 proof for alcohol content..but the flavor doesn't trigger cravings for drinking booze.
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 7, 2011
Sam, it would blow your mind what "triggers" an alcoholic.
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 6, 2011
A study conducted by the US Department of Agricultures Nutrient Data Laboratory calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish based on various cooking methods. The results are as follows:

Preparation Method & Percent of Alcohol Retained in the Food

alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes 40%
30 minutes 35%
1 hour 25%
1.5 hours 20%
2 hours 10%
2.5 hours 5%

Now, it may be that the amount of alcohol in a dish is modest to start with, but the fact that some of the alcohol remains could be of significant concern to recovering alcoholics, parents, and others who have ethical or religious reasons for avoiding alcohol.

Summer O. December 6, 2011
My experience has been 'no, not okay' they do not care to taste any form of alcohol in their food as it is a reminder. I would just select something else.
Summer O. December 6, 2011
My experience has been 'no, not okay' they do not care to taste any form of alcohol in their food as it is a reminder. I would just select something else.
meganvt01 December 6, 2011
Absolutely better safe than sorry - some newly recovered alcoholics actually take a pill that helps them with cravings. If they are on this medication, wine or any alcohol in food (even if cooked) will make them pretty sick. I'd use a bit of stock and maybe some balsamic or apple cider vinegar to replace the acid. good luck!
boulangere December 6, 2011
Very kind of you to be so attuned to your guest's limits. A good stock always works well for deglazing.
amysarah December 6, 2011
Actually, all the alcohol doesn't burn off, contrary to popular belief. This chart shows you how much actually does, depending on length of cooking time:

As for whether what remains is okay, even after a long braise, that can be individual - how newly in recovery this person is, how sensitive to it...for some, just the taste of alcohol can be a 'trigger.' If it's someone you're comfortable asking, I would. Otherwise, I'd definitely say better safe than insensitive.

sexyLAMBCHOPx December 6, 2011
I would not deglaze with red wine bewcause the flavor is still there and despite what some say the alcohol doesn't 100% burn off. Offering non-alcoholic beer is a AA no-no, as well, btw if someone is working and living by the steps. It's not a quistion of insensitive or rude, it's about a disease that needs to be accomodated like a diabetic or heart patient. When I need to sub out booze for a main course, I usually go with a complementary meat stock/broth and some rich fruit juice like apple cider or pomergrante juice.
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 6, 2011
Pulled this from an AA forum that addressed everything from cooking sherry in soups, beer battered fish, desserts and more. This recovering alcoholic posted a good response, IMHO and wanted to share:

"Since first coming into AA I adopted a zero tolerance for any food that uses alcohol of any type in the recipe. My well meaning "Normal" friends have tried to persuade me for years that "Its OK the alcohol cooks off". I never believed that and would not take any chances eating out. I know I have another drunk in me but I don't know if I have another sobering up in me. It just wasn't worth the risk as it is a life or death matter."

I did some heavy research and this is what I found:

A study conducted by the US Department of Agricultures Nutrient Data Laboratory calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish based on various cooking methods. The results are as follows:
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