So-called "whipohol" products like Whipped Lightening and CREAM are essentially whipped cream infused with booze. A lot of booze. At 15 percent alcohol, they contain three times more alcohol per volume than beer and deliver the same high-octane kick as many liqueurs. And since they're considered more adult beverage than food, they're not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or sold in supermarkets. If you reach for a can at your local liquor store, expect to be carded.
Some experts say these spirited toppings are bad news because sugar and cream blunt the taste of alcohol, which ups the risk of alcohol abuse. Even if you intend to drink responsibly, a liquored up dessert might lead to impaired driving or a failed sobriety check.
"The effects of alcohol are cumulative," said Robert Doyle, a physician and psychologist with Harvard University Health Services. "Together with drinking, a few servings of whipohol could theoretically push you over the legal limit."
Doyle says it's possible that the effects might be further exacerbated if you consume other foods with a high alcohol content as well. Those rum balls, flaming flambes and sherry sauces made with alcohol often retain more hooch than most people realize. According to a 2007 USDA study, even after simmering or baking for two hours, more than 10 percent of alcohol remains; quick flamed desserts retain about 75 percent of the original alcohol; and stirring alcohol into hot liquid without further cooking retains 85 percent of its original potency. It all adds up.
And even if you aren't truly over the legal limit the alcohol from food can cause problems. Immediately after eating or drinking, some alcohol remains in the mouth. It evaporates quickly, but if take a shot of whipahol on your slice of rum cake just before you get behind the wheel and you're stopped at a road check soon after, you might blow false positive on your breath test. This is why most states test your blood 20 minutes later for a more accurate reading.
Another concern is that whipahol flavors like German Chocolate and Spice Vanilla tempt the younger crowd who are already at high risk for binge drinking. Doyle speculates this could lead to abuse in the same way seen with caffeine-and-alcohol beverages like Four Loko -- the drink that was recently banned by several states earlier this year.
"Caffeine is a stimulant, so you don't feel so drunk at first, but when it wears off, the alcohol takes more than eight hours to metabolize," he explained. "We've had a lot of people admitted to the hospital with alcohol poisoning who figured the can was too small to have much alcohol and they underestimated how much they drank. You could make the same mistake with alcoholic whip cream though I haven't seen any such incidents."
Underage drinkers are also more likely to practice "huffing" which involves sucking out the nitrous oxide from the whip cream can to get high. "Combining that behavior with alcohol is not a good situation," Doyle warned.
How you respond to a few drinks plus a boozed-up treat depends on age, weight, sex and a host of other factors. The effects of alcohol are variable, which means there are no failsafe guidelines on how to drink alcohol -- or spoon it out -- safely. Abstaining from alcohol in all forms before driving is probably the best advice to avoid losing your license or worse. If alcohol of any kind is in your plans for the evening, best to call a cab.