Unintentional physics lessons, anniversary, and more

Earlier in the month we celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. Barely. By which I mean that it was the day before the anniversary that either of us remembered it was the anniversary1, so while I made a slightly fancier meal than usual for dinner that night2, it was something we had already planned to make at some point that week. We did manage each to have a gift to give each other, but even that had more than a bit of serendipity to it.

To tell this tale properly, I need to back up even earlier in the month. On the previous Saturday our usual gaming group gathered on line to play the next installment in our current game. We play on Saturday afternoons, chatting on Discord. And we take breaks throughout the day so every one can get fresh snacks, and/or refresh their drink, and/or take a bio break, right? And three of us in the group are into making cocktails, so frequently part way through the afternoon at one of those breaks I will assemble a cocktail instead of making another cup of tea, and we share photos of how the drinks come up.

So, I headed into the kitchen and I was already planning to make an Aviation with Empress 1908 gin3. I had run the dishwasher earlier that day, and my cocktail mixing pitcher was in the dishwasher, so I pulled it out, set it next the the bottles of booze, got a lemon and retrieved the lemon-squeezer from the drawer, right? And then I pulled a handful of ice from the freezer and dropped it into the mixing glass. I was cutting the lemon in half when I heard a distinct CLINK CLINK sound…

Enormous cracks was appearing all around my faux cut crystal cocktail mixing pitcher. I dumped out the ice and set the pitch in the sink, half expecting it to shatter any moment.

Here it is, upside down in the sink. You can see several cracks going across the bottom…
The pitcher had felt warm in my hand when I got it out of the dishwasher, but I hadn’t thought it was hot enough to have an adverse reaction the the ice. Oops4. I had to share a picture of the cracked glass with everyone. Even though it didn’t shatter, I figured that it’s likely to break anytime, now, and even if it doesn’t fall apart you might get tiny glass fragments in your drink. Clearly, it isn’t made out of tempered glass, and is not up to having ice dumped in it when it has been heated. Good to know.

Now, you don’t need the fancy cocktail pitcher to stir drinks in. I have a large glass shaker that can be used for stirring instead of shaking. You can also mix cocktails in a double-rocks glass, or a pint beer glass. So while it is sad to lose the pitcher, it’s something I can live without for a while. I went ahead and mixed my drink in another glass and strained it into the glass I intended to drink it from, and went back to the computer to tell the tale.

Because we’re in Gift Embargo7 Time, I went into my Amazon wishlist, found the pitcher (or one very much like it), and added it to my list. I can’t buy one for myself until January, but this way if someone was looking for something to buy me, and this was in their budget, I’d have one sooner, right?

I didn’t realize that Michael had, while I was telling the story, gone online and ordered me a new cocktail pitcher, in a gift bag, with the tag reading, “You need to open this early. Love, Michael.”

So it happened that the cocktail pitcher arrived in time for our anniversary. I had to duck out in the late afternoon on the day of the anniversary to pick up a present8 and some roses and an anniversary card. But it all worked out.

My second accidental physics lesson happened this week. Some years ago Michael gave me an aluminum seltzer bottle for a Valentine’s Day gift. So whenever I make drinks that require soda, I can make my own9. So I used up the last of the seltzer in the bottle the other night, and went to refill it to stick in the fridge so there would be cold seltzer whenever I needed it next.

Another present Michael got me for another Valentine’s Day is a cream whipper. So I can make my own whipped cream. Now the cream whipper uses little cartridges of nitrogen, and the seltzer bottle uses cartridges of CO2. You must not used CO2 with the whipper, because the carbon dioxide triggers a catalytic change in the heavy cream, causing the whipped cream the comes out to taste like very rotten milk. Not a good thing.

So I rinsed out the seltzer bottle, filled it with water, screwed the top on, put the cartridge in the chamber, and tightened it. The gas shot into the water, but the sound was… odd. pulled off the cartridge chamber to toss depleted cartridge into the recycle… when I noticed the cartridge was the wrong color. I had infused the water with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide.

I didn’t know if that was a bad thing, or not. I mean, since the nitrogen is safe in cream (and some other things you can put in the whipper), it ought to be okay, but I didn’t want to go research it right then. So I held the handle down and expelled all the water down the drain, unscrewed the seltzer bottle top assemble, made sure I had a CO2 cartridge this time, reassembled everything, put the cartridge in the chamber, screwed it down, and listened tot he carbon dioxide flood into the pitcher.

And when it did, the sound was wrong, but this time in a new way. As soon as I lifted the seltzer bottle I realized the new problem. I hadn’t filled it with tap water after emptying it of the nitrogen-infused water. So I laughed at myself, held down the handle and sprayed out the CO2, and unscrewed the top assembly.

There was a strange, white foamy/powdery substance on part of the mechanism under the top assembly that I didn’t recognize. When I tried to touch it, it just evaporated. That’s when I realized the top assembly was a lot colder in my hand than usual. So clearly the white substance was dry ice, which had formed inside the bottle while I was expelling the CO2. I since holding the top assembling was mildly painful from the cold, but didn’t actually burn my skin, I assume that I hadn’t gotten the interior of the bottle cold enough to freeze carbon dioxide13 under normal circumstances, but under the heightened pressure14 that had existed in the bottle temporarily had combined with the cooling effect of expelling first the nitrous-infused water and then the over pressured air16.

Eventually, I did get the proper combination of water and CO2 into the bottle and stuck it in the fridge.

Compared to other things going wrong in the world, this was more amusing that anything else.


1. This isn’t the first time that the anniversary has snuck up on at least one of us. Part of the issue is that the date of our wedding wasn’t exactly of our own choosing. We held the ceremony on the first day that same sex couples were legally allowed to marry in our state. But I also blame the fact that the pandemic has turned time into a fog.

2. Beef stroganoff, which is something that I make almost once a month. It’s one of those recipes I can almost do in my sleep. It’s really good and it sounds complicated, and it is a little more work that what we often put into a work night dinner.

3. The Empress gin, instead of being a clear liquid like most gins, is a deep indigo color. And when you mix in citrus of any kind, the cocktail turns a really lovely shade of lavender. It makes for a very cool looking drink.

4. Part of the issue might be that I think I grabbed the glass with my right hand, and never touched it with my left hand. I have extensive nerve damage in the right hand because of an accident when I was a teen-ager. One of the things I can’t reliably feel with that hand is heat5.

5. Yes, I had sometimes grabbed hot dishes without potholder, and the reflexes of my left hand immediately drops it, while my right will hold on and make a nice sizzling noise.

6. I should explain the physics lesson: when an object is heated, not matter what it is made out of, it expands (physically gets bigger). When it cools, it contracts (gets smaller). Glass object does not have a high internal thermal conductivity. Normally we like this, because acts as at least a bit of an insulator between our hands and the food/drink contained inside. However, in the case of a glass object—such as a cocktail mixing glass, becoming heated because of the hot water in the dishwasher, and then staying heated because of the heating coil the helps dry off the dishes after the wash cycle is complete—and then being cooled rapidly by either the addition of cool water or cold ice, the surface exposed to the cold object contracts faster then the interior molecules of glass, causing stress. Glass is hard, but it is also brittle. That means it isn’t flexible to deal with that stress, and so instead it cracks.

7. Some years ago my husband had to scold me for buying myself some DVDs and books not long before Christmas. And of course, it turned out one of our friends had bought me one of the things I bought myself, and handed me the pretty wrapped package at the Christmas party that year. Anyway, the rule now is that started a few weeks before my birthday, through Christmas, I’m only allowed to buy myself things like food, certain types of clothing, and medicine.

8. I got him a wok. We used to have an enormous wok, and Michael used it for cooking all kinds of things, not just stir fry. But it was more useful back when we were regularly hosting at least two group get-togethers every month, but he was reluctant to use the big thing when it was just the two of us. So when we were getting rid of things we seldom use prepping to move a few years ago, the wok was donated, and Michael said we could get a smaller one if we decided we needed it.

9. So, rather than having to keep bottles of tonic in stock in order to make gin & tonics, I can keep a bottle of tonic syrup and then use the seltzer bottle to turn a small amount of syrup into a large amount of tonic. Then there are Aperol Spritzes, Whiskey and Sodas, or Rock n Rye and Sodas10 and so forth.

10. I still need to do a post about how I started making homemade Rock n Rye to open at our Christmas Party every year, and then the drinks I have invented that use the leftover Rock n Rye11 when I don’t feel like straight shots.

11. It’s kind of fun, and you never know exactly how it’s going to taste until it is done.

12. At this point, I should probably have decided that just before bedtime after having two Rock n Rye and
Sodas might not be the best time to accomplish anything but super simple tasks, but…

13. Which is -109 degrees Fahrenheit or -78 degrees Celsius.

14. Higher air pressure lowers the freezing point of any substance15.

15. Well, if I am to be pedantic, the temperatures we humans usually list as freezing and boiling points of various substances assumes exactly one atmosphere of pressure. So if the air pressure is either lower or higher than one atmosphere, then the freezing and boiling points change.

16. When a gas expands, it cools off, this is why, for instance, either the nitrous or CO2 cartridges turn very cold after as you empty them.

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