Crime & Courts

Man gets DWI after police said he guzzled vanilla extract

A worker at a California health bar prepares a “Cognitive Coffee” drink with vanilla extract and other ingredients in 2016. A Morganton man got a DWI after police said he drank so much vanilla extract that he was three times over the legal limit for driving.
A worker at a California health bar prepares a “Cognitive Coffee” drink with vanilla extract and other ingredients in 2016. A Morganton man got a DWI after police said he drank so much vanilla extract that he was three times over the legal limit for driving. rbenton@sacbee.com

When police smell alcohol in a car, they typically test the driver’s blood alcohol content.

But a heavy odor of vanilla?

That’s what got a Morganton man arrested on a charge of driving while impaired after police said his truck smacked a pole in Monday’s heavy rain, The (Morganton) News Herald reported.

Travis Lejuan Williams, 43, was arrested after his blood alcohol content registered 0.26, more than three times the legal limit for driving in the state, the newspaper said, citing a police report. A trooper smelled vanilla and found empty bottles of vanilla extract in the truck.

Vanilla extract is the same proof as vodka or rum, Bon Appétit magazine reported in 2015 after an upstate N.Y. woman’s blood alcohol content hit three times the legal limit for driving. Police said she drank a bottle of vanilla extract.

As FoodRenegade.com explains, the Food and Drug Administration requires products that label themselves as “pure” vanilla extract must be made from at least 35-percent alcohol and 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon. The amounts are listed on the Federal Code of Regulations Title 21 governing food dressings and flavorings.

Vanilla extract has drawn quite the “spirited” conversation on social media over the years.

“Yes, you can get drunk from vanilla extract ... if you’re desperate enough,” someone posted on “The Straight Dope” website in 2001. “Try taking a swig of the stuff and you’ll see what I mean. The small amount you mix in your chocolate chip cookies gives the batter a pleasant flavor, but straight down the hatch it’s amazingly disgusting.

“I tried just a taste of straight vanilla, and almost vomited,” posted another.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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