When Thomas Drummond of Jackson, Missouri, crashed his car into a ditch early one freezing morning, he did what any reasonable person would do ... grabbed the bottle of brandy he just happened to have in his car, and started drinking. To stay warm, of course.
Okay, maybe that's not what any reasoanble person would do. Drummond was found a few hours later and described as "unreponsive," but he succesfully convinced a jury he'd begun drinking after the accident, not before.
And that drunk driving charge was not the only consequence he dodged from his drinking ... he easily could have ended up with hypothermia from that nip of brandy.
There's a common misconception that alcohol warms you up, because it can make you flush and feel warmer. Remember those St. Bernards that used to bound up to fallen skiers with casks of brandy in the cartoons? But in fact, drinking while you're being active outside in the cold is a bad idea.
See, that flushing is your blood vessels dilating, which brings more heat to the skin. If you're inside and bundled up, that heat doesn't escape, but if you're outside, it dissipates and you end up actually being colder.
If you're exercising vigorously, like skiing, the chilly effect doesn't happen, but you do run the risk of getting dehydrated. It's the double whammy of alcohol's dehydrating effects and the fact that you don't feel as thirsty while exercising in the cold as you do in the heat, so you're less likely to drink enough fluids.
On the other hand ... having a slight buzz means you don't necessarily care you're cold ....
Image via Joeri Cornille(udn)/Flickr