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9 Different Ways Alcohol Could Save Your Life in an Emergency

For more than 200 years, American bourbon has spread from its birthplace in the mountains of Kentucky throughout the country and beyond. Though the details of this liquor’s origin story are often conflicting, original bourbon distillers were likely Scottish and Irish settlers who craved their familiar, Old World whiskey and adapted their ancient recipes to New World ingredients such as corn. No ordinary moonshine, bourbon is aged in new charred oak casks until it has a amber color and a fiery but smooth finish.

9 Ways to Survive with Bourbon Whiskey

People have (and still do) make their living by creating this fine beverage, but can bourbon actually be used for more than just having a drink with your buddies? Can it be a lifesaving survival supply? The answer is yes. Here’s how.

Light A Fire

Most bourbon brands are around 80 proof (40 percent alcohol by volume), and while this mixture contains more water than ethanol, it’s still flammable. The only trick when using liquor to kindle a fire is to be ready for the water. Liquor will light quickly but, as soon as the alcohol is gone, all that’s left is water. This means that if you dump this booze onto a pile of damp sticks, the alcohol will burn off quickly—leaving the sticks wetter than they were before.

Plan ahead by lighting a rag or a bundle of tinder that has been doused with bourbon, and placing it under the sticks until they catch (rather than wetting the sticks themselves). This way, you take advantage of the liquor’s flammability, without the drawback of its high water volume. You can even use a stick to push the wet rag out of the fire lay once the sticks are ablaze.

Disinfect A Wound

Bourbon’s generous alcoholic content can do more than get you drunk quickly; It can prevent deadly infections when applied to cuts, scrapes, and scratches. Yes, it will sting like hell, especially on larger wounds, but few things kill microbes as effectively as liquor. Pour some across the injury, or dribble it on a piece of gauze to be left in place.

You can also use it to clean out a dirty wound. Fill an empty plastic water bottle with bourbon and screw the lid on. Next, poke a tiny hole in the bottle cap and squeeze the bottle to send a pressurized jet of whiskey to flush debris from the wound while simultaneously disinfecting it.

Sanitize Your Gear

Need to disinfect those dirty knives or bloody medical gear? A five minute soak in bourbon will kill all of the creepy crawlies that are too small to see, getting your gear ready to use again. Use a shallow pan or a tall glass as your reservoir, then just add your gear and let it soak.

This is best done right before you need to use the items, since the sterile equipment can easily become contaminated again in the interim. Shake off any remaining droplets and go to work. You can also sanitize things other than “hardware”, such as clothing smeared with blood or other filth.

Make Some Medicine

While it’s not the ideal ingredient for making your own homemade medicine, bourbon can be used instead of clearer liquor to create medicinal tinctures. Select a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (preferably a wide-mouth jar). Cut, crush, chop, or otherwise break up the dried plant material you wish to use, and then pack it tightly into the jar. Pour enough bourbon over the medicinal herbs to cover them slightly, and then put the lid on it.

Let it sit for six weeks in a cool, dark place like a cabinet; Sunlight can negatively impact your tincture. Shake the jar once every day. After six weeks, pour out the alcohol, and that’s your tincture. So what can you make? You can concoct a tincture for wounds with Yarrow leaves. Burdock root can make a tonic for your liver. Boneset helps the body fight colds and flus. Just do your research and make sure you have a 100 percent positive ID of any plants you use. Then, mix and drink 10-20 drops of the tincture per day with water, or apply it directly to the problem area or wound.

Relieve Your Pain

An painful injury in a remote location can leave a person with few options for relief until they reach professional medical help. When the OTC analgesics in your med kit won’t kill the pain, consider giving your patient a shot or two of bourbon. Soldiers were commonly given American whiskey like this while languishing in Civil War field hospitals, and there are plenty of other historical precedents for using booze to numb pain.

Do your research on which types of injuries do not mix with alcohol. Head wounds are one, and wounds that won't stop bleeding are another. And never, never mix liquor with other pain meds.

Repel Mosquitos

Of the nearly 3,000 species of mosquitos, many are capable of carrying dangerous diseases. So, in a way, repelling them can be a survival necessity. Chikungunya, yellow fever, dengue fever, and malaria are just a few of the diseases these little vampires can transmit to humans. Luckily, bourbon can temporarily drive them off.

Wiped on exposed skin or sprayed on clothing, the evaporating alcohol acts like an insect repellent. Just be prepared to go through a lot of it. You’ll need to reapply it every 30-45 minutes for noticeable effects. And no, you can’t catch a buzz through your skin.

Get Some Sleep

In a crisis, sleep may be as hard to come by as food and water. This is one of those things that you often have to learn the hard way. Without sleep in every 24 hour period, your mental, emotional and physical health will suffer, and you’ll be operating at a greatly reduced capacity. Help the Sandman along by taking a shot or two of bourbon as a nightcap.

This nervous system depressant will help relax your muscles and mind—allowing sleep to come easier and helping your worries drift away. Don’t drink too much though—too much alcohol will actually disrupt your sleep. Make sure you drink plenty of water once you wake up, as liquor tends to leave you dehydrated.

Throw A Molotov Cocktail

This trick is just plain ugly and a waste of a fine adult beverage, but it might have a place in certain grim settings. The colorful name "Molotov cocktail" was first used by Finnish soldiers during the Winter War in 1939. Various fuels and other flammable liquids were poured into glass bottles, corked with a rag, lit on fire, and hurled as a “poor man’s grenade.”

This incendiary weapon is still employed today during times of civil unrest worldwide. Again, it’s a shame to waste good bourbon, but if the zombies finally rise up (against all my personal predictions to the contrary), you might need something like this. Stuff a cotton rag into the neck of your bourbon bottle, light the rag on fire, and immediately toss it against a hard surface that will shatter the bottle. You’ll get additional style points for yelling something cool as you launch your wildly illegal projectile. Seriously kids, DON’T try this at home.

Make a Trade

Bartering can be traced back to pre-literate cultures at least 6,000 years ago. Bartering still happens today through various websites and networking organizations. But could you really survive by bartering if you were out of cash, money lost its value, or the electronic payment systems were down?

Maybe, but only if you had something good to trade…like some top-shelf bourbon. Sure, you’d have to learn the ropes of the same barter system that gave our ancestors some problems, but once you figure out the limitations, you might be able to trade your fine whiskey for some other necessities.


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