2673: Cursed mRNA Cocktail

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Cursed mRNA Cocktail
Serve one each to guests whose last cursed cocktail was more than 2 months ago.
Title text: Serve one each to guests whose last cursed cocktail was more than 2 months ago.


This comic describes a recipe to approximate the molecular composition of certain mRNA-based vaccines, in drinkable form. It contains the variety and relative concentrations of the simple molecular constituents found in the injectable mixture. Coronavirus mRNA vaccines contain mostly water, with some mRNA, a few fats (e.g., a PEGylated lipid and cholesterol), sugar (sucrose), and tromethamine buffer to stabilize pH.[1] The cocktail contains mostly water, some sugar, fats, either an amino acid salt or biological and genetic material, and the other constituents of mayonnaise.

The word cocktail in the context of drugs can mean several things, including medically designed combinations of drugs.[2] That's not so far in concept from the current formulation of COVID-19 booster, which targets both the original and BA.5 variants of the virus.

Like much of what we eat or drink, the stomach and intestines will neutralise much of the complexity of either the vaccines or this ersatz replica of them, reducing them to simpler components of some nutritional value. For the vaccine to work, it has been designed to be injected into the body e.g. intramuscularly to bypass the hostile environment of the human digestive system. While there are similar vaccines administered as a nasal spray, the fragility of mRNA in the digestive system has curtailed the search for ingestible analogs. Randall's replacement mixture is nontoxic, and contains water, proteins and calories, all important nutritional components. Because it doesn't contain a complete spectrum of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals,[3] you can't live on it alone.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is the US national public health agency. They make recommendations about vaccine use. Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the chief infectious disease advisor to numerous US Presidents and has often been interviewed regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

The instruction to serve in shot glasses is a play on words, as "shot" can mean injection in medicine. One jigger is only 0.19 of a cup, so the recipe serves up to five.

The title text suggests the mixture can be served as a "booster" to a prior dose. The comic recommends not redosing within two months of the last attempt. The current mRNA coronavirus booster is approved for use at least 2 months after previous immunization. Too little time between doses of a vaccine may reduce benefit from the booster. However most pairs of distinct vaccines work well if delivered on the same day.[actual citation needed]

This comic coincided with the widespread availability of the bivalent COVID vaccines in the US. It's another entry in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. It was, however, almost a year since the vaccines were mentioned last in 2532: Censored Vaccine Card, released almost 11 month before this one, and more than 8 months since the last comic to directly feature COVID-19, which was 2563: Throat and Nasal Passages, that came out as the first comic in 2022. It's also another comic featuring "cursed" items. Disgusting drinks served in shot glasses, and related to people with colds, are mentioned in the volume section of 526: Converting to Metric.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
Ever wondered what it would be like to drink the new COVID booster?
This recipe approximately recreates the taste and nutritional profile!
(Note: does not protect against COVID.)
[The following two testimonies are displayed in spiky bubbles.]
"...What? Eww." -CDC spokesperson
"Please stop." -Dr. Anthony Fauci
2 cups water
3 tbsp mayonnaise
¼ tsp MSG or nutritional yeast
1 tbsp sugar
Pour 1 cup of water into a blender. Add the mayonnaise and MSG. Blend until smooth.
Pour the other cup of water into a glass. Add the sugar and 1 tsp of the mixture from the blender. Stir well.
Serve in shot glasses.

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"¼ tsp MSG or nutritional yeast," is like saying, "A monochrome d12 or the city of Washington, D.C." 20:55, 16 September 2022 (UTC)

I’ve never eaten the city of Washington, DC, but I am pretty sure I’ve had a 12-sided die in my mouth for some stupid reason or another. I don’t see how the colour would affect the flavour, and since I don’t specifically remember, I don’t know if it was a single colour or swirly. But had it been particularly umami tasting I think I would actually remember, as I would not have expected that. MSG and yeast/yeast extract both have a strong umami flavour (gluten extract, which you are not sensitive to unless you have coeliac disease, also has this taste, as do many broths). As a result, both would impart that flavour to the concoction. I am pretty sure dice and cities don’t impart this flavour, so I can’t see how this assertion could possibly make sense. 10:02, 17 September 2022 (UTC)
It's about relative complexity, and is probably intended generally as hyperbole. MSG is a single smallish molecule and nutritional yeast is an entire living organism. 05:36, 18 September 2022 (UTC)
To be super-pedantic, I suppose it's like saying "A Washington DC's volume of monochrome d12s or the city of Washington D.C." (that doesn't detract from your point, which I enjoyed and learnt from!) 192·168·0·1 (talk) 16:45, 20 September 2022 (UTC)

I wonder if this was inspired by "drug coctails", where a combination of different drugs is prescribed to treat a disease. Barmar (talk) 21:08, 16 September 2022 (UTC)

Spelled cocktails. I like it. The wikipedia disambiguation page for cocktail lists "A mixture of drugs, especially a mixture of Antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV sometimes called a "triple cocktail"" but there is no specific page for the term. 04:57, 17 September 2022 (UTC)

Given how little of the mayo and yeast are in the final drink, I would expect that this would taste like slightly sweetened water. Therefore I dispute the assertion in the explainer that "very few people would find such a mixture palatable". --Gamrix (talk) 03:30, 17 September 2022 (UTC)

Funny, "MSG" always makes me recall "Triangle and Robert"... 06:54, 17 September 2022 (UTC)

Taking (admittedly large) liberties with the recipe, this is almost watered down kewpie or Japanese mayo. One online recipe suggests that adding sugar, msg and rice wine vinegar to American mayo is sufficient to create an kewpie imitation. Considering the water, perhaps mRNA cocktail is best enjoyed as a glaze on sushi? 04:37, 18 September 2022 (UTC)

Serious question: is this comic funny? If so, someone please explain the joke to me. 02:28, 19 September 2022 (UTC)

Speaking personally, to me this is funny (in a smile, warm glow of nerdy joy kind of way) because of the concept that you might think making a large amount of vaccine like substance as a swanky cocktail is a good idea. The humour of XKCD often comes from a combination of being very clever and very naive at the same time - smart enough to be able to reproduce a vaccine (more or less) using household ingredients, silly enough to try. 192·168·0·1 (talk) 16:45, 20 September 2022 (UTC)
I find the (intended) humour is perhaps two-fold. 1) If this was remotely accurate, there WOULD be people wanting to take THESE shots against Covid (despite the warnings) and 2) injected medicine is not designed to be tasted, and would taste horrible (judging from the smell when my mom had an insulin spill). Why would anyone SEEK the taste of medicine voluntarily? That's why the "What? Ew!" quote from an expert. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:19, 24 September 2022 (UTC)

Not all XKCDs are "funny". Some are more about answering odd question, like "what would a mRNA vaccine taste like?" RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 08:06, 19 September 2022 (UTC)

Many of them are educational. Coronavirus vaccines are made of things people eat routinely. Realizing that may help allay fears about safety. 18:34, 19 September 2022 (UTC)
Coronaviruses are made of things people have actually eaten. So not at all comforting. 19:29, 24 September 2022 (UTC)
What happens if you drink the Covid vaccine? 18:38, 19 September 2022 (UTC)

Randall speaks: https://www.npr.org/2022/09/18/1123689628/randall-munroes-what-if-2-answers-the-absurd-science-questions-you-didnt-know-yo 09:54, 19 September 2022 (UTC)