31 August 2013
Back in the early 1960s, my brother took a job in the scientific laboratories that the Public Health Service (later the EPA) operated in support of the Atomic Energy Commission Test Site near Las Vegas. The guys in the electronics shop there used 190 proof ethyl alcohol to clean radios and other electronic components, as the 190 doesn’t conduct electricity, evaporates without leaving residue, and all in all, is very useful around electronics. A sidebar benefit is that 190, aka grain neutral spirits, is the same stuff that is the active ingredient in a lot of the things we like — think Vodka, Whiskey etc.– but in 190, is about twice the strength of ordinary spirits (parties at the PHS tended to be lively affairs, as one might imagine). Of course, 190 isn’t available for sale to the public in the States- probably a hangover (sic) from prohibition.
Imagine my surprise at discovering, right there on the shelf next to the diapers in a local supermarket, some 1 and 2 liter bottles labeled “Alcohol.” A bit of investigating revealed that it was indeed straight 190; the label even lists mixing with fruit juice to drink as a beverage as a suggested use. (more…)