Eating Raw Oysters Can Get You Tipsy

BY: Halley Lawrence |Jun 26, 2017

The first time I tried eating raw oysters, I got pretty tipsy. But here's the weird part: I didn't drink any alcohol.

This happened at the famed Acme Oyster House in Metairie, Louisiana. I sat at the bar and watched a shucker pry open craggy shells, revealing the plump, ice-cold shellfish inside. I downed three or four—they were huge for the season and were some of the best oysters I've ever had to this day. After I swallowed them, my face flushed, and I felt giddy.

It felt like an alcohol buzz, but cleaner and more effervescent. If I could bottle and sell it, Big Booze would have cause for worry. And I'm not the only one who's gotten a little silly eating raw oysters: Rowan Jacobsen, an oyster connoisseur and James Beard Award–winning food writer, echoed my sentiments.

"[People] usually say it's like a drug," Rowan says. "There's no science on why it happens, but many people notice it. ... I feel it every time I eat oysters that are in good shape."

One possible explanation for the buzz is zinc, a potent nutrient that occurs naturally in oysters. But Jacobsen doesn't subscribe to this theory.

"It ain't zinc," he says. "Whatever it is, it's something we haven't yet figured out how to measure or observe, which is why I think it's something like chi. The life force hasn't left the oyster yet, unlike most of our food."

Want to experience this all-natural buzz for yourself? Head to an oyster bar and follow these tips:

How to Eat Oysters

1. Know your source.

Oysters are like wine in that their taste is determined by the terroir in which they grow. Deep-shelled kumamotos pick up their sweet flavor in Pacific waters, while Naked Cowboys absorb briny notes from Great South Bay, a lagoon between Long Island and Fire Island.

Pro Tip: If you're a beginner, go with kumamotos, which are known as the sweetest of the sweet. Oftentimes, people turned off by the briney taste of oysters find they actually like sweeter, creamier varieties.

2. Inspect the goods.

Proper handling is vital when it comes to the taste (and safety) of raw oysters, so choose a reputable oyster joint for your first oyster-buzz experience. In my opinion, some of the best are Acme Oyster House in Louisiana, Shaw's Crab House in Chicago, and Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City. No matter which one you visit, be inquisitive: your server should be able to give you detailed information about where the oysters came from, when they arrived, and how they were shipped.

The oyster you get should look full in its shell, and the shell should contain a decent amount of seawater. If the oyster smells bad, you shouldn't eat it.

3. Add the accoutrements.

Oyster purists will frown upon this advice, but the flavor of an oyster can be greatly enhanced with a squirt of lemon or a drizzle of the accompanying sauces, typically a cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce with red-wine vinegar and shallots.

4. It's time to eat it.

The ritual of eating a raw oyster can seem intense, but it's important to know that there's really no right way to eat one. Just use the tiny fork to make sure your oyster is dislodged completely from its shell, tilt your head back, and slurp. Chew the oyster once or twice to really appreciate its flavors.

5. Slurp before you sip.

If you're wondering what to drink with oysters, they pair beautifully with just about any chilled booze, be it crisp white wine, martinis, or cold beer. But if you've never experienced an oyster buzz before, hold off on the drinks until after you've slurped a few shellfish. You'll be more focused and aware of how you feel.

You should be eating more fish.

Our video explains why and discusses why you won't be finding pearls in your oysters anytime soon:

This article was originally written by Groupon staff writer Halley Lawrence. It has since been updated by Groupon editors.