What Are The Dangers Of Drinking Cooking Sherry?

Used to add flavor to recipes, cooking sherry has an alcohol content that’s higher than most table wines. Its accessibility may make it an appealing option, but drinking cooking sherry is associated with serious health risks.

Cooking sherry is an ingredient used to enhance flavor in many soup, meat, and sauce recipes. It is high in sodium and contains more alcohol than most table wines. Even though drinking cooking sherry is not recommended, some people do so for its intoxicating effects.

Aside from intoxication, there are other serious health effects associated with drinking cooking sherry, especially over time.

Why Do People Drink Cooking Sherry?

Cooking sherry has a higher alcohol content, or alcohol by volume (ABV), than standard beer (5% ABV) and table wine (10% ABV). A staple in many household kitchens, cooking sherry is easy to access, which may appeal to people who are underage or who are unable to afford alcohol on their own.

Young people, especially teenagers, are known to experiment with cooking sherry. In the U.S., alcohol is only sold to people aged 21 and older, who must present valid identification. However, because cooking sherry is considered an ingredient and not an alcoholic beverage, it can be purchased by anyone. It’s also cheap compared to other types of alcohol.

Social media has also normalized drinking “challenges,” or videos that depict young people drinking alcohol or alcohol-containing products to gain popularity or go viral. For example, there are videos of young people consuming vanilla extract and mouthwash, both of which contain alcohol. Even if your teen is not aware of these so-called challenges, they can easily be found on nearly all platforms, especially TikTok.

People dealing with an alcohol addiction may also turn to drinking everyday products that contain alcohol, such as cooking sherry, cough syrup, flavored extracts, or mouthwash, due to strong alcohol cravings, the desire to stop withdrawal symptoms, and/or the inability to acquire conventional sources of alcohol due to age, lack of funds, or other reasons.

People with low incomes and people who are unhoused are also known to drink cooking sherry, because it’s considered a grocery item and can be purchased with food stamps.

Is It Safe To Drink Cooking Wine?

While it’s technically “safe” to consume cooking sherry, doing so is associated with risks, especially over time. Many of the risks are attributed to the alcohol content and the high levels of sodium. One bottle of cooking sherry, for example, contains 4,600 milligrams (mg) of sodium, or 1.5 times the daily recommended sodium intake for an adult. Cooking sherry also contains preservatives, such as potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite.

In addition, cooking sherry has a rather unpleasant taste. The wine doesn’t contain any sugar and is high in salt. Many people describe cooking sherry as undrinkable.

Alcohol Content Of Cooking Sherry

Cooking sherry has an average alcohol content of about 17% ABV, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the same as a bottle of port wine. So, even though cooking wine isn’t intended for direct consumption, it will produce intoxicating effects if consumed, especially in larger amounts.

Other Ingredients In Cooking Sherry

Common ingredients in cooking sherry include wine, water, salt, malic acid, and the above-mentioned preservatives. Cooking sherry is fortified with brandy to enhance its flavoring.

When cooked over heat, the alcohol in cooking sherry starts to evaporate, leaving behind a rich taste. The evaporation process doesn’t happen right away, however. According to What’s Cooking America, it can take up to three hours for the alcohol to fully evaporate.

Traditionally, regular sherry wine was used in cooking. However, a standard bottle of sherry only lasts a few days after it’s opened. Alternatively, cooking sherry contains a high amount of salt to prolong its shelf life.

Popular brands of cooking sherry sold in U.S. grocery stores include:

  • Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine, 16-ounce bottle, 17% ABV
  • Iberia Kedem Gourmet Cooking Wine Sherry, 12.7-ounce bottle, 18% ABV
  • Reese Cooking Wine Sherry, 12.7-ounce bottle, 18% ABV

Can You Get Drunk From Cooking Wine?

Intoxication is not only probable but likely if a person consumes enough cooking wine. One bottle of cooking wine is equal to about four glasses, or one bottle, of table wine. Cooking wine also has a higher ABV, so the effects of intoxication will set on faster and more pronounced than with table wine.

Complications Of Drinking Cooking Sherry

Drinking cooking sherry can cause health issues, especially when consumed in large quantities and over time.


Drinking alcohol causes dehydration in general. Drinking alcohol increases the need to urinate, which causes an excess of fluid to leave the body. In fact, dehydration is the main cause of hangovers. The high salt content of cooking sherry will intensify these effects.

Some of the effects of dehydration due to drinking alcohol include:

  • confusion
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • inflammation
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • stomach upset
  • thirst

High Blood Pressure

A diet that’s high in salt causes the body to hold on to excess water. As a result, the blood contains extra water, which places additional pressure on the blood vessel walls as it circulates. Over time, excess salt can raise blood pressure. In fact, eating a diet high in salt is the most common cause of high blood pressure.

If a person regularly drinks cooking sherry, they will undoubtedly consume higher-than-recommended sodium levels. Further, being under the influence of alcohol causes cravings for salty foods, like fast-food cheeseburgers, french fries, pizza, and potato chips. The result of drinking regularly, in general, is likely a diet that’s excessively high in salt. Coupled with the habit of drinking cooking sherry, it’s a recipe for high blood pressure.

There are many short- and long-term complications of high blood pressure, or hypertension, such as:

  • aneurysm
  • atherosclerosis
  • congestive heart failure
  • dementia
  • eye problems
  • heart attack
  • kidney problems
  • metabolic syndrome
  • sexual dysfunction
  • stroke

Cooking Sherry, Alcohol Intoxication, And Alcohol Poisoning

The effects of intoxication from cooking sherry and intoxication from standard alcohol, such as beer, liquor, and table wine, are the same.

Some of the signs of alcohol intoxication include:

  • confusion
  • diminished coordination
  • disinhibition
  • dizziness
  • flushed face
  • impaired decision-making
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • sleepiness
  • slurred speech
  • stumbling and/or falling
  • vision impairments

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks excessively in a short timeframe. Alcohol is processed by the liver, but when large quantities of alcohol enter the body rapidly, the liver can’t break it down fast enough. As a result, the excess alcohol enters into the bloodstream. When too much alcohol enters the bloodstream, alcohol poisoning occurs.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • clammy skin
  • incontinence
  • loss of consciousness
  • mental confusion
  • seizures
  • skin, lips, or fingernails with a bluish tint
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • slow heart rate
  • unresponsiveness
  • vomiting

The amount of alcohol present in the blood is known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC higher than 0.4% can result in loss of consciousness, respiratory failure, coma, and death.

Signs That Your Teen May Be Drinking Cooking Sherry

If you are a parent of a teen or young person, and you suspect your child is consuming cooking sherry, there are a few telltale signs to look for.

Some of the signs that your teen may be drinking cooking sherry include:

  • smelling like alcohol
  • slurred speech
  • problems at school, home, and/or with friends
  • changes in behavior, e.g., defensive, irritable, reclusive, or angry
  • finding empty bottles of cooking sherry in your teen’s room or among their belongings
  • having bottles of cooking sherry that disappear or are being finished faster than you’re using them

These signs may be more or less obvious, depending on the extent of use and whether cooking sherry is being consumed with other kinds of alcohol and/or drugs.

How To Talk To Your Teen About Alcohol

If you suspect your teen is drinking cooking sherry, it’s important to facilitate an open, honest conversation with them. Overlooking the issue, or assuming that it’s a passing phase, can send a message that it’s acceptable to experiment. The best way to promote changed behavior is to have ongoing discussions about alcohol and drugs, in general, their associated negative effects, expectations in regard to your household, and repercussions when these expectations aren’t met.

If cooking sherry is a concern in your home, then it’s best to keep the ingredient in a location unknown to your teen, or stop using it altogether. Your teen may not seek out cooking sherry if it’s no longer readily available to them.

When discussing cooking sherry and alcohol use with your teen, consider the following:

  • normalize non-use: educate your teen that drinking alcohol is a personal choice and many people, of all ages, choose to abstain for a variety of reasons
  • establish limits: although your teen may not necessarily like the expectations set for them, explain that you are setting guidelines for their safety and because you care about them
  • talk about the risks: it’s important to educate your teen on the short- and long-term effects on mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical health as a result of alcohol use
  • allow them to ask questions: if your teen has questions or concerns, give them the space to vocalize them—after all, knowledge is power

Conversations about alcohol and drugs can sometimes be fueled by emotions, especially if you find that your teen has engaged in behaviors that you don’t approve of. However, it’s important to have these discussions in a relaxed atmosphere. Doing so will encourage your teen to approach you with the subject in the future.

Teen years are a time of experimentation in many areas, often including with alcohol and/or drugs. Ensure your teen is as safe as possible, regardless of the circumstances, by strongly discouraging them from driving or getting into a vehicle with a driver who’s been drinking. Instead, offer to pick them up, no matter the time or place. You may not be pleased with their decision to partake, but you are helping them stay safe regardless, and allowing them to practice healthy decision-making even if circumstances aren’t ideal.

Addiction Treatment Options

Whether you have a substance abuse issue, or you have a loved one who does, it can feel like a daunting experience. You may feel overwhelmed, anxious, sad, and depleted.

But remember, there is always hope to recover. Many available resources can help you get started on a life of sobriety.

Treatment options for alcohol addiction include:

  • medical detox
  • inpatient rehab
  • outpatient rehab, including partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • sober living housing
  • behavioral therapy
  • peer support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • holistic treatment options
  • aftercare

Inpatient rehab is among the best options for people who are new to recovery or who have relapsed and are seeking a facility with 24-hour supportive care.

In both inpatient and outpatient treatment, clients can participate in one-on-one and group therapies, as well as peer support groups. By working with a therapist, clients can learn to understand the root cause of their addiction, and in group settings, clients can learn from their peers’ experiences with addiction and in recovery.

Get Help For Alcohol Addiction

Contact us today to learn about the treatment programs available at Spring Hill Recovery Center.

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: June 26, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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