Scandal's Olivia Pope has two omnipresent accessories: her white coat and a glass of red wine. Sometimes, there's popcorn involved. And the red wine isn't just restricted to Olivia (Kerry Washington) in the show, which is reportedly ending next season. Most of the characters in this fictional Washington, D.C. setting enjoy vino every now and again. Of course, they're not drinking real wine on camera. (That would be awfully inconvenient for actress Katie Lowes, who recently revealed that she's pregnant.) According to Darby Stanchfield, who plays Abby on the Shonda Rhimes series, the actors sip a highly concentrated tea.
"We used to use a grape juice but it was so intensely high in sugar and if you have to do the scene over it can be a little much," Stanchfield told Food & Wine in a recent interview. "They found this tea, a really wonderful hibiscus I believe it is, that our brilliant props department brews really bright and strong and it ends up looking like red wine."
Grape juice, as delightful as it is, is pretty high in sugar. In fact, a cup of the stuff will run you 15 grams of sucrose — given that 4 grams of sugar is a teaspoon, that's almost 5 spoonfuls of sugar. The tea, then, is a brilliant alternative. Stanchfield admitted that she even enjoys drinking it. She added, "It’s very light and beautiful to drink, so you can drink it for hours and not feel loopy. And your teeth don’t end up with little sweaters on them."
TV series that heavily feature drinking have always had to get creative when it comes to "faux-alcohol." But not everyone is so lucky as to drink "beautiful" hibiscus tea. For the AMC series Mad Men, John Slattery drank a less-than-desirable cocktail of just H2O and garnish.
"I drink vodka — gibsons — which, unfortunately, is vodka with an onion in it. So, for me it's onion water," Slattery admitted on Anderson Live in 2012.
Slattery's co-star Jon Hamm fared better. In place of Don Draper's beloved whiskey, Hamm sipped at apple juice or iced tea.
Whether you choose to drink actual wine or switch to herbal tea for your next Scandal viewing is entirely up to you. For a further glimpse behind the Hollywood curtain, like how drug use is fabricated on-screen, check out our series Faking It.