How tipsy is Santa on Christmas Eve?

How much does he drink? What happens chemically? Could an alcohol alternative be the answer?
30 December 2021


Santa with his drink


It must be great being Santa. On his one work day a year, he is inundated with mince pies, letters and a little tipple to tickle his tastebuds. But, how much does the Big Man consume whilst on the job?

How does alcohol affect our brains? Is it possible to enjoy the highs of alcohol without the lows? We employ the massive brains of ‘Christmas Carol Vorderman’ and ‘David Nutt-cracker’ from Imperial College London to answer these very important questions...

It turns out that the UK is one of the only countries that traditionally leaves alcohol out for Santa; Sweden leaves coffee, Argentina leaves hay and water and Japan leaves KFC. That's right... we Brits are the ones responsible for Santa's liver health and Mrs. Claus’ inevitable concern.

But just how much alcohol does he drink?... Time for some maths (and a fair few assumptions)...

Dividing the number of children in the UK (12.7 million) by the family average of 2.4 children gives approximately 5 million households with children in them.
Based on some exceedingly well collected Naked Scientists data (ahem), we can estimate that 2/5 of households leave sherry, 1/5 whisky, 1/5 beer and 1/5 milk, with an alcoholic strength of 20%, 40%, 4% and 0% respectively.

“Don't argue!” said Carol Vorderman, who helped with the mathematics of this problem. “You may say that there are stronger beers out there, but I'm going with 4% for the sake of the maths!”

Christmas Carol deduced that a large serving of sherry provides 1 unit alcohol, whiskey - 2 units and beer - 1.5 units (we are only giving him a small can).
A little bit of jiggery pokery magical maths and estimations, Santa drinks an incredible 5.5 million units of alcohol from the UK alone. Let’s hope that milk lines his stomach somewhat!

But what’s the effect of all that booze?

“The first thing he gets is the taste and smell” says David Nutt. “The first few molecules of ethanol activate the GABA system [in the brain]”.

The GABA system is what makes us feel relaxed, calm and sociable and is “probably where Santa gets his ‘HO HO HO’” explains Nutt.

However, as we drink more ethanol, it begins to block glutamate receptors in the brain. This system is critical for laying down new memories. As Santa drinks more he risks “forgetting where to go for the next child” tells Nutt.

“Let’s hope that his abdomen is one big liver so he can deal with all of these free drinks!” says Nutt.

Interestingly, David Nutt-cracker has developed an alcohol alternative called Sentia, a botanical drink that activates the GABA system without blocking the glutamate receptors. Sounds too good to be true!

When quizzed as to how Santa would feel if the UK switched out sherry for Sentia, Nutt explains that Santa would be at a much “lower risk of falling down the wrong chimney!”.

So in answer to the question, unless Santa is bottling the sherry or is in fact one giant liver, I believe he ends Christmas Eve very… merrily.


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