America in decline – Bars selling rubbing alcohol as “scotch”

posted at 5:31 pm on May 25, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

While we pause this weekend to recognize the Honored Dead, many of you may be considering heading out with friends to hoist a few cold ones in their memory. But if you’re heading to your favorite watering hole and plan on having some mixed drinks or a shot of hard liquor, you may want to exercise a bit more caution than usual. One story out of New Jersey shows precisely how far our mighty nation has fallen in these dark times. People are pushing bogus booze at mainstream bars and restaurants, and your scotch might actually be rubbing alcohol.

In one case, a New Jersey bar allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch.

In another, a bar is accused of pouring dirty water into an empty bottle and passing it off as liquor.

Those are some of the details state officials released today after a year-long investigation called “Operation Swill,” which culminated Wednesday when more than 100 investigators raided 29 bars and restaurants across New Jersey on the suspicion they had been serving cheap alcohol disguised as premium brands.

“What these 29 establishments have allegedly done threatens the integrity of the alcoholic beverage industry as a whole,” state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said at a news conference today in Trenton. “This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face of the consumer. The consumer should have the peace of mind to know that when they pay for something, they get exactly what they paid for, no exceptions.”

A lot of them were just swapping out cheap, bottom shelf hooch and refilling top shelf bottles with it. But the ones going for rubbing alcohol are really tempting fate. Lest you think this is just a handful of shady dive owners in one locale, it’s not. The full list of 29 bars includes 13 – nearly half – which are TGIFridays. This isn’t just a couple of drink cheating scofflaws… and the problem is almost undoubtedly not just in Jersey. Peter Weber at The Week explains.

But even if you don’t live in the Garden State, this should worry you, says avowed tippler Justin Peters at Slate. “If the bait-and-switch is happening in New Jersey, it’s happening elsewhere, too, quite possibly in the low joints where I spend an alarming amount of my time.” Peters offers some advice for anyone worried about being duped by the bartender. Some of it is common sense:

Use your senses. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between top-shelf liquors and marginal brands… But other times there’s a real difference, and you can usually tell by using your senses. For example, taste. Ask the bartender for a sip of that Dewar’s before he dilutes it with soda. It if tastes unnaturally harsh, it might be a fake. Other senses can come in handy, too. Do the colors look weird? Does it smell like paint thinner? [Slate]

Other tips are specific to this investigation — like avoid TGI Fridays.

I’ve had suspicions about this myself in the past, particularly when ordering Jack Daniels. There are some lower shelf brands which aren’t terribly far off if you’re not paying attention, and I’ve suspected the switch-out a couple of times. It’s just disheartening, I tell you. I mean, I can understand if the IRS is targeting particular Americans or the President is claiming to be so out of the loop that he finds out about his scandals from CNN. But that’s just government. We expect them to be either corrupt or stupid. This is the liquor distribution infrastructure of the nation we’re talking about. If you’ve lost that, what is there left?


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Yet another reason I stick with beer when I’m out.

rbj on May 25, 2013 at 5:39 PM

This is happening in China.

However, there is no:

liquor distribution infrastructure of the nation

and I know this because I used to run a (club) bar in New Jersey.

gh on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

For example, taste. Ask the bartender for a sip of that Dewar’s before he dilutes it with soda. It if tastes unnaturally harsh, it might be a fake.

That’s your problem right there. Putting anything but a few ice cubes or a splash of water in your scotch makes you a heathen.

RickB on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Get used to it. Soon muzlumz will be poisoning our food, beverages, personal care products and drinking water.

TX-eye on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Most high end, population dense places could never get away with this. Especially, those evil “corporate” bars. Would never fly in real townie bars or true dives.

These must be junkie joints. Only bars who cater to heroin addicts and immigrants can get away with this. I know that last part is PIC these days, but its true. Bars where I was raised cater to new immigrants who have no idea whats going. They just pinch their pennies and want to get wasted.

One, maybe two dollar drinks at the most, and to be able to get loaded after working a 60 hour week for peanuts, and not being able to understand English or have any clue whats going on.

SOLD, pour me that rubbing alcohol.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Rubbing alcohol? This is not just mere cheating, it is attempted murder. Even a small dosage of isopropyl can cause severe gastric disturbance and in larger amounts can kill.

MaiDee on May 25, 2013 at 5:44 PM

They’ll be discovering steam next.
You can make a decent Gran Marnier out of cheap brandy and Tang.

katy the mean old lady on May 25, 2013 at 5:45 PM

You know, with the number of permanently unemployed in this country, every company should have only the best employees…and yet this.

Fleuries on May 25, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Yeah, I stick w/ beer too.

When I’m really not sure, its bottle only. Not only do places skimp on the liquor, these same joints skimp on the cleaning. That little tinge in your beer is a months worth of mold building in their lines, while you suck down the swill of a stale keg they cant sell.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 5:47 PM

If you can’t tell the difference in taste when low end hooch is substituted for the top shelf, you deserve to be duped. Likewise if you are diluting top shelf liquor in Coke.

tdarrington on May 25, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Amazing this is suddenly a story. Bars have been doing this since the first bar in existence. Watering down booze, putting house booze in top shelf bottles, etc. Been going on for centuries.

crosspatch on May 25, 2013 at 5:51 PM

If you can’t tell the difference between top-shelf liquor and the cheap junk then you haven’t been “harmed” in any way. You got to order that poor-tasting expensive drink, your friends saw you waste money on something that you can’t even recognize by the taste you claim you are paying for, and you got drunk in the end, anyway. A fool and his money are soon parted.

I knew a bartender in Israel who used to fly off the handle whenever anyone ordered a top-shelf liquor in a mixed drink. He took it personally and refused to serve it. Then, he’d tell the customer that he would prepare two drinks, one with the house brand and the other with the topshelf. If the customer couldn’t tell which was which he had to pay for both. If he could, then he got them free.

This all reminds me of an old joke,

What do you call an alcohol patch?

An after-dinner mint for Kitty Dukakis.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on May 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Isopropyl alcohol is bad, but not nearly as bad as methanol.

tdarrington on May 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Love the Roaring Twenties photo. I just watched it the other day. I guarantee the new Gatsby movie can’t touch it. DiCaprio vs. Cagney? Don’t make me laugh.

KGB on May 25, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Rubbing alcohol? This is not just mere cheating, it is attempted murder. Even a small dosage of isopropyl can cause severe gastric disturbance and in larger amounts can kill.

MaiDee on May 25, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Rubbing alcohol is much easier to get (and cheaper) than grain alcohol, unless you know how to make grain alcohol yourself.

In college one of our dorm’s resident assistants was a chemistry major, and actually distilled grain alcohol right in his dorm room. No smoking allowed!

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Love the Roaring Twenties photo. I just watched it the other day. I guarantee the new Gatsby movie can’t touch it.

Its got the glitz, but not the substance.

DiCaprio vs. Cagney? Don’t make me laugh.

Like comparing rubbing alcohol to scotch.

hawkeye54 on May 25, 2013 at 6:08 PM

Well, according to William Powell and Henry Fonda in ‘Mister Roberts’. A half quart of grain alcohol plus a half ounce of Coke for color. Two drops of Iodine (One for taste. One for color). And a half teaspoon of hair tonic for age equals Scotch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4QNBypC9vs

Jack Deth on May 25, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Well, according to William Powell and Henry Fonda in ‘Mister Roberts’. A half quart of grain alcohol plus a half ounce of Coke for color. Two drops of Iodine (One for taste. One for color). And a half teaspoon of hair tonic for age equals Scotch.

Great movie.

Prohibition and lack of accessibility to alcoholic beverages in military establishments and aboard ship did bring out the creativity of those so inclined.

hawkeye54 on May 25, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Wow, those margins must be getting thinner. That’s surprising, because the economy is doing so great. Isn’t that what Dear Leader says?

Philly on May 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM

These must be junkie joints. Only bars who cater to heroin addicts and immigrants can get away with this. I know that last part is PIC these days, but its true. Bars where I was raised cater to new immigrants who have no idea whats going. They just pinch their pennies and want to get wasted.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Here’s a map of locations that shows many of them just across from New York City. List of bars also given. My knowledge of NJ isn’t complete, but this doesn’t look like ‘junkie joints’ entirely.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2330116/Scores-TGI-Fridays-New-Jersey-bars-busted-substituting-cheap-alcohol-shelf-scotch-statewide-crackdown.html

timmytee on May 25, 2013 at 6:23 PM

I knew a bartender in Israel who used to fly off the handle whenever anyone ordered a top-shelf liquor in a mixed drink. He took it personally and refused to serve it. Then, he’d tell the customer that he would prepare two drinks, one with the house brand and the other with the topshelf. If the customer couldn’t tell which was which he had to pay for both. If he could, then he got them free.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on May 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM

I’ve never understood that as well. If I’m drinking straight or having a gimlet (not things I really do much anymore) then yeah, I want Vox, even if it costs $8. Vodka tonics or such… regular Smirnoff is fine, why bother?

I mean, even if a guy just wants to be pompous and make sure he’s seen buying an expensive drink, then he should at least order something that lets him taste it…

Then again, whenever I wonder at stupidity, I simply think of who was recently elected and reelected and realize that’s just how at least half of the people out there are…

Gingotts on May 25, 2013 at 6:31 PM

I have never acquired the taste for alcohol but what the heck does that say for the taste of Scotch?

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2013 at 6:32 PM

when more than 100 investigators raided 29 bars and restaurants across New Jersey on the suspicion they had been serving cheap alcohol disguised as premium brands.

That’s like one city block, right? Now, if it had been 29 bars and restaurants in Riyadh, then you’d have a story.

ss396 on May 25, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Liquor control.

Ban high capacity bars

Universal Background checks for all alcohol purchases

Keep alcohol out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have any.

How many murders involve alcohol? Imagine, if we could save just one life…it would be worth it.

PROHIBITION IS COMING BACK BABY, and this time, it’ll have teeth.

BobMbx on May 25, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Most high end, population dense places could never get away with this. Especially, those evil “corporate” bars.

Sure they could. Watched a 60 Minutes or 20-20 once where they had a vodka taste test in some up-scale night club. Phillips was the clear winner over Grey Goose, Smirnoff Red Label and all the other high priced top shelf vodkas. They don’t know what they’re drinking, they’re just Booze snobs.

lowandslow on May 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

In college one of our dorm’s resident assistants was a chemistry major, and actually distilled grain alcohol right in his dorm room. No smoking allowed!

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2013 at 5:57 PM

In Tennessee and North Carolina, its called “moonshine”.

And there’s no law against making your own spirits. Its only illegal when you sell it without a license, or paying them gosh darn revenuers.

BobMbx on May 25, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Sure they could. Watched a 60 Minutes or 20-20 once where they had a vodka taste test in some up-scale night club. Phillips was the clear winner over Grey Goose, Smirnoff Red Label and all the other high priced top shelf vodkas. They don’t know what they’re drinking, they’re just Booze snobs.

lowandslow on May 25, 2013 at 6:35 PM

Totally different.

Thing w/ evil corporate bars is that there is real quality control. You are not screwing w/ a bar, but a brand. If someone was pouring water into the vodka there would be some manager, if they found out, who would respond. If he didnt, it woule catch up to his manager.

Its not worth a corporate brand to destroy their brand.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:43 PM

I have never acquired the taste for alcohol but what the heck does that say for the taste of Scotch?

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Um… People who really appreciate Scotch would not have been fooled. People who order Scotch at a TGIF outside the Paramus Mall (or wherever) are doing so to impress with the cost without necessarily any sort of clue what Scotch should taste like.

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Jack Daniels?

What did they do? Soak a piece of charcoal in water?

Dack Thrombosis on May 25, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Totally different.

Thing w/ evil corporate bars is that there is real quality control. You are not screwing w/ a bar, but a brand. If someone was pouring water into the vodka there would be some manager, if they found out, who would respond. If he didnt, it woule catch up to his manager.

Its not worth a corporate brand to destroy their brand.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:43 PM

In addition, eventually the quantity of alcohol purchased is going to get out of whack with the sales numbers, and somebody is going to get in trouble. If you’re selling more alcohol than you’re buying, the ATF will be interested in how you do that.

And if you buy more alcohol than you sell, the accountant is going to get interested in where the booze is….and it better be in the warehouse.

BobMbx on May 25, 2013 at 6:51 PM

You are not screwing w/ a bar, but a brand.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Exactly. TGIF has some real damage control to do. Clearly this wasn’t corporate policy but 13 of the bars were franchisees.

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Its the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and Im posting drunk already. Sorry for the spelling errors.

Its what we neo-vikings do.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Sounds like the kind of fraudulent, criminal, sleezy, scumbaggery the northeast corridor/boswash/”east coast” is known for. If this was going down in Texas or California or Ohio, it might be concerning. But New Jersey? It’s kind of expected, innit.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Its the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and Im posting drunk already. Sorry for the spelling errors.

Its what we neo-vikings do.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

What are you, unemployed? You don’t even know what day it is. Jeezus.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Bars selling rubbing alcohol as “scotch”…still a LOT BETTER than what the moronic potheads are actually smoking instead of marihuana.

TeaPartyNation on May 25, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Bars selling rubbing alcohol as “scotch”…still a LOT BETTER than what the moronic potheads are actually smoking instead of marihuana.

TeaPartyNation on May 25, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Uh, what? Let me guess, you don’t know the first thing about weeeeed.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 6:56 PM

I’ve had suspicions about this myself in the past, particularly when ordering Jack Daniels. There are some lower shelf brands which aren’t terribly far off if you’re not paying attention, and I’ve suspected the switch-out a couple of times.

I experienced the switch out at a well known hotel in Vegas a couple of weeks ago. In that case the bar tender was not being deceitful she was just to busy, after one sip I brought it to her attention, she apologized and brought me another drink.

Someone who drinks rubbing alcohol and brown colored water in place of a good drink is not enjoying the drink IMO.

F15Mech on May 25, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Well after all it is scotch who could tell the difference? It’s not like they were doing the switcheroo on good Irish whiskey..

Caper29 on May 25, 2013 at 6:58 PM

When I’m really not sure, its bottle only. Not only do places skimp on the liquor, these same joints skimp on the cleaning. That little tinge in your beer is a months worth of mold building in their lines, while you suck down the swill of a stale keg they cant sell.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Generally beer distributors clean the lines to prevent just that. The breweries require it as a condition of the franchise to prevent exactly that. Same with the branded soda lines.

CW20 on May 25, 2013 at 6:59 PM

What are you, unemployed? You don’t even know what day it is. Jeezus.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Exact opposite. I was a successful lawyer, who quit and is just doing document review, while I get my sanity back.

And yes, we worked today.

In I was in the office at 7:45 AM today. I truly have no idea what day of the week it is. A bloody flippin zombie, I am.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 7:01 PM

Well after all it is scotch who could tell the difference? It’s not like they were doing the switcheroo on good Irish whiskey..

Caper29 on May 25, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Yeah, if it isn’t delivered by unicorns then it isn’t the good Irish whiskey. Most likely a blend from Canada.

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 7:11 PM

When I’m really not sure, its bottle only. Not only do places skimp on the liquor, these same joints skimp on the cleaning. That little tinge in your beer is a months worth of mold building in their lines, while you suck down the swill of a stale keg they cant sell.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Generally beer distributors clean the lines to prevent just that. The breweries require it as a condition of the franchise to prevent exactly that. Same with the branded soda lines.

CW20 on May 25, 2013 at 6:59 PM

But sometimes a bar does not clean the lines properly, It seams to occur with a slightly warm beer and a very funny aftertaste you do not find in the bottle.

F15Mech on May 25, 2013 at 7:12 PM

In I was in the office at 7:45 AM today.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 7:01 PM

So was the morning shift at McDonald’s. What’s your point?

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 7:12 PM

That’s your problem right there. Putting anything but a few ice cubes or a splash of water in your scotch makes you a heathen.

RickB on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Had to do it;
I often tell the barmaid I’m allergic to water.

massrighty on May 25, 2013 at 7:14 PM

I think if I ever find my self drinking in such a fine establishment as TGIF, I’d ask for the shot and the mixer in seperate glasses. Seriously, what if some loser bartender buys denatured alcohol by mistake and makes dozens of customers go blind? Alarming.

Allahs vulva on May 25, 2013 at 7:18 PM

So in a nutshell the story here is that a bunch of bartenders in New Jersey are basically Moe from the Simpsons?

radjah shelduck on May 25, 2013 at 7:19 PM

I’m not buying any of this. I owned a restaurant/bar for 17 years. Half my sales were alcohol. (1 million gross a year, not very much but enough to understand) First off rubbing alcohol is more expensive than “bar” scotch. “Bar” or “well” scotch is sold for $4- $6 for 750 milliliters. You then can sell it for $3 or so a shot. No one, I mean NO ONE is going to risk their liquor license, insurance, and astronomical fines for this kind of nonsense.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:19 PM

If you suspect it, call it. I know that is what bars fear the most. I was on the Board of a very successful restaurant group. And don’t forget to say the magic word: Yelp.

pat on May 25, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Rubbing alcohol? This is not just mere cheating, it is attempted murder. Even a small dosage of isopropyl can cause severe gastric disturbance and in larger amounts can kill.

MaiDee on May 25, 2013 at 5:44 PM

No offense, but wot???

justltl on May 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

’m not buying any of this. I owned a restaurant/bar for 17 years. Half my sales were alcohol. (1 million gross a year, not very much but enough to understand) First off rubbing alcohol is more expensive than “bar” scotch. “Bar” or “well” scotch is sold for $4- $6 for 750 milliliters. You then can sell it for $3 or so a shot. No one, I mean NO ONE is going to risk their liquor license, insurance, and astronomical fines for this kind of nonsense.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Yeah, that was my impression as well. The entire story seems implausible and fabricated.

I’ll but 10 bucks on corrupt New Jersey officials shaking down a bunch of liquor license holders, and if the establishments, refused to pay the exortion money, er, “bribes”, then the government agencies would come to the media with some absurd, sensational, ludicris story about passing off dirty dishwater and rubbing alcohol as Scotch. I mean, come on. And it wouldn’t surprise me to learn either that TGIF in particular got on the wrong side of some unaccountable, corrupt, vindictive scumbag gov agency. This IS New Jersey.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

A lot more places than you think will do this on occasions when they run out of an item. Ive worked in the industry for 10 years I’ve seen many of the big chains do this so its not limited to tgif. They do it with food too. Out of fries? Run to Walmart.

jhffmn on May 25, 2013 at 7:32 PM

I’ll but 10 bucks on corrupt New Jersey officials shaking down a bunch of liquor license holders, and if the establishments, refused to pay the exortion money, er, “bribes”, then the government agencies would come to the media with some absurd, sensational, ludicris story about passing off dirty dishwater and rubbing alcohol as Scotch. I mean, come on. And it wouldn’t surprise me to learn either that TGIF in particular got on the wrong side of some unaccountable, corrupt, vindictive scumbag gov agency. This IS New Jersey.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Ludacris is selling people bad hooch? I thought he’d be too busy doing the DVD commentary for Fast and Furious 17.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 7:38 PM

They do it with food too. Out of fries? Run to Walmart.

jhffmn on May 25, 2013 at 7:32 PM

What’s wrong with that? I did that many a times. Walmart sells the same brand of fries (and chicken wings) that the distributor does. It’s much cheaper through the distributor so it’s not like we wanted to run to Walmart for them.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

What’s wrong with that? I did that many a times. Walmart sells the same brand of fries (and chicken wings) that the distributor does. It’s much cheaper through the distributor so it’s not like we wanted to run to Walmart for them.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Yeah thats rather different from the alleations in this article.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 7:47 PM

What’s wrong with that? I did that many a times. Walmart sells the same brand of fries (and chicken wings) that the distributor does. It’s much cheaper through the distributor so it’s not like we wanted to run to Walmart for them.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Yeah, but in general, chicken is chicken. Potatoes are potatoes.

If the bars are subbing out Grey Goose for Orloff, I assume that happens quite often. It’s quite different if they’re subbing out vodka for dishwater.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 7:50 PM

T.G.I. Friday’s is a sh**hole. There’s no excuse for eating there, let alone ordering “top shelf” liquor. From Romano Grill to Bennigan’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Outback, Red Lobster, et cetera … all sh**.

In an age of Yelp, Urban Spoon, and other media/ apps there is just no excuse for paying for buttered scraps.

M240H on May 25, 2013 at 7:50 PM

Yeah thats rather different from the alleations in this article.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 7:47 PM

I know, that’s why I’m calling bullsh*t on the story. Like I said no one is going to risk their $3,000 liquor license, they’ll also lose their insurance so they will never be able to buy another business in any state that sells alcohol. And the fines will range from $10k for a first offense to $100k for a 3rd or 4th offense and the loss of liquor license and insurance. All that to spend MORE money on rubbing alcohol than actually buying the $4 dollar bottle of scotch?

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:51 PM

I’ve had places serve me 86 proof Old Grand Dad or Wild Turkey when I order the 1oo proof stuff. Sometimes it’s just ignorance, but when the first response to being challenged is “that’s all we have” I can get a little testy. I don’t recall ordering top shelf and getting what was obviously well liquor though. If I’m drinking I’m usually at the bar, though. That means at least bottle swapping if they’re going to try it.

novaculus on May 25, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Walmart sells the same brand of fries (and chicken wings) that the distributor does. It’s much cheaper through the distributor so it’s not like we wanted to run to Walmart for them.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Same brand but different prices is not the same as if the kitchen at Hooters (or wherever) sells chicken wings that are, in fact, pigeon.

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 7:53 PM

novaculus on May 25, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Yep; it’s easier at the bar – never drink what you haven’t seen poured. Plus, I drink bourbons, sour mash, and scotches, all neat. So, the only way they’ll get me is refilling bottles.

massrighty on May 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Yeah, but in general, chicken is chicken. Potatoes are potatoes.

If the bars are subbing out Grey Goose for Orloff, I assume that happens quite often. It’s quite different if they’re subbing out vodka for dishwater.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 7:50 PM

I don’t know of anyone in the business during my 17 years that ever even subbed a cheap type of alcohol into a more expensive bottle. The one thing we all did that was illegal was to pour………say jagermeister into another bottle of jagermeister. The reason we had to do that was because in North Carolina the state sells you the alcohol and you’re not allowed to buy extra if you run out. Of course we all do and pour the new bottle into the old bottle. We then would take the old bottle home to throw out because ALE (Alcohol enforcement police, and yes they carry guns and pull you over in their personal cars. They also do not wear uniforms) would come around at least once a week and count your bottles.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Scotch is properly consumed neat at room temperature. If you can’t tell the difference between your it and rubbing alcohol with coloring then you’ve got larger problems.

alchemist19 on May 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

If you’ve lost that, what is there left?

i know, right?

i ran into this with my medicinal marijuana, right? i was like, ok, so, –heh– i mean, what the hell’s this, right? like, oregano or whatever. i mean, i didn’t order spaghetti dude –lol– it’s like, um, italian marijuana or something.

i’m hungry.

Axe on May 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

Lots of posts here are missing the essence. Every retail transaction is a contract. If I ask for Knob Creek, that’s what I want, and I should get it.

massrighty on May 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

I don’t know of anyone in the business during my 17 years that ever even subbed a cheap type of alcohol into a more expensive bottle. The one thing we all did that was illegal was to pour………say jagermeister into another bottle of jagermeister. The reason we had to do that was because in North Carolina the state sells you the alcohol and you’re not allowed to buy extra if you run out. Of course we all do and pour the new bottle into the old bottle. We then would take the old bottle home to throw out because ALE (Alcohol enforcement police, and yes they carry guns and pull you over in their personal cars. They also do not wear uniforms) would come around at least once a week and count your bottles.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 7:56 PM

What about somebody asking for a specific type of pour (say, “Absolut and Tonic”) but giving them well liquor instead? Especially if said individual is already pretty well sloshed.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM

What about somebody asking for a specific type of pour (say, “Absolut and Tonic”) but giving them well liquor instead? Especially if said individual is already pretty well sloshed.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM

Only a complete idiot would do that! Top shelf is the highest profit margin of any alcohol. Just like draft beer is the highest profit of any beer. Let’s put it this way, a bottle of cheap schnapps would be $8 a bottle. We would sell the shot for $2. Now, Rumplemintz is top shelf, bottle costs $19 but we sell the shot for $7. We WANT customers to order top shelf. If it were up to me that’s all I would have sold.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Scotch is properly consumed neat at room temperature. If you can’t tell the difference between it and rubbing alcohol with coloring then you’ve got larger problems.

alchemist19 on May 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

You mean like ordering top-shelf Scotch at a TGIFridays? Who does that?

Happy Nomad on May 25, 2013 at 8:14 PM

AMERICA IN DECLINE

Mendacious and Thuggish Son of Muslim and Communist, who started his political career in home of unrepentant domestic terrorist (who covertly wrote his “autobiography”) elected POTUS, and re-elected after disastrous first term.

Basilsbest on May 25, 2013 at 8:14 PM

Only a complete idiot would do that! Top shelf is the highest profit margin of any alcohol. Just like draft beer is the highest profit of any beer. Let’s put it this way, a bottle of cheap schnapps would be $8 a bottle. We would sell the shot for $2. Now, Rumplemintz is top shelf, bottle costs $19 but we sell the shot for $7. We WANT customers to order top shelf. If it were up to me that’s all I would have sold.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Well, yeah; and it’s an even better profit margin to buy the cheap schnapps for 8 bucks a bottle then selling it as a shot of Rumplemintz for 7 bucks. I don’t think you understood the substance of my question.

You’re saying that, from your experience, nobody would try to pull this sort of duplicity because they’d be afraid of losing their liquor license. Well, I’m a bit too cynical to believe that. A lot of people wouldn’t do a lot of things if they knew they’d get caught. Used car salesmen would never try to sell a junker because of Lemon Laws. A jeweler would never try to pass a string of cultured pearls as natural pearls because a gem lab could detect the fraud. A dealer of sports memorabilia would never try to sell a phony autograph because a handwriting expert could ruin the whole deal.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Well, yeah; and it’s an even better profit margin to buy the cheap schnapps for 8 bucks a bottle then selling it as a shot of Rumplemintz for 7 bucks. I don’t think you understood the substance of my question.

You’re saying that, from your experience, nobody would try to pull this sort of duplicity because they’d be afraid of losing their liquor license. Well, I’m a bit too cynical to believe that. A lot of people wouldn’t do a lot of things if they knew they’d get caught. Used car salesmen would never try to sell a junker because of Lemon Laws. A jeweler would never try to pass a string of cultured pearls as natural pearls because a gem lab could detect the fraud. A dealer of sports memorabilia would never try to sell a phony autograph because a handwriting expert could ruin the whole deal.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:16 PM

You’re not going to mess with your highest profit margin products. If you’re going to do it the really profitable way would be to somehow put draft beer into bottled beer. Now there is where you can make some real money! There aren’t enough customers of top shelf liquor to make any money. I don’t know of anyone who would risk they’re livelihood for a mere $50 or so a day

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:21 PM

I don’t know of anyone who would risk they’re livelihood for a mere $50 or so a day

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:21 PM

You’d think so, right? And yet the world is full of criminals, thieves, cheats, con artists and pickpockets. And politicians, of course, but I repeat myself.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Does “Raw Milk” make one go blind?

Serious question.

WryTrvllr on May 25, 2013 at 8:26 PM

CI, 50 bucks a day is 18,250 bucks a year. People have killed for less.

I’m not saying this is an epidemic, I just think it’s naive to think it never happens. A ‘harmless’ shell game to put a little extra money in your pocket.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:29 PM

Its the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and Im posting drunk already. Sorry for the spelling errors.

Its what we neo-vikings do.

swamp_yankee on May 25, 2013 at 6:52 PM

What are you, unemployed? You don’t even know what day it is. Jeezus.

Daikokuco on May 25, 2013 at 6:53 PM

It could be worse.

He could be a snotty, pretentious liberal/leftist/progressive troll.

Solaratov on May 25, 2013 at 8:36 PM

CI, 50 bucks a day is 18,250 bucks a year. People have killed for less.

I’m not saying this is an epidemic, I just think it’s naive to think it never happens. A ‘harmless’ shell game to put a little extra money in your pocket.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:29 PM

$50 a day when the daily sales are $5,000 a day it’s not worth losing your business for. If you have to do something like that there is a whole lot more wrong with your business than that’s going to fix. All the owners I met were just like me, college graduates and good hard working business people. I refuse to believe anyone is going to risk their livelihood over such a small pittance. Not only that but the fine alone will be astronomical. That owner would never get another job in the industry again too. Look, if you’re going to steal you’re going to do it by claiming…………say………..80% of your sales on your retail sales tax form. On a mere $100k a month that’s a savings of $1,300 a month with little to no risk. No pissed off customers, and it’s easy to control.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:39 PM

If you don’t believe this is happening, you’re a fool. I worked at an establishment during college and there were no top shelf liquors–every night we poured cheap, well liquor into the top shelf bottles. The Crown Royal was Black Velvet, the Stoli was Country Club and so forth. Even the Bailey’s Irish Creme was Brendan. No one could tell the difference. When all you serve is Alabama Slammers, Singapore Slings and Long Island Ice Teas…the drunks couldn’t tell the difference.

I would say that this happens in most establishments–especially mom and pop places.

robblefarian on May 25, 2013 at 8:45 PM

I only drink what I pour out of the bottle myself. That’s why Beer is King.

Most people don’t know what liquor they are drinking after they have had a few drinks anyway. Bars know this.

Only the pro drinkers know the difference. And, they want a sealed bottle put on front of them anyway.

Moesart on May 25, 2013 at 8:50 PM

Just get used to drinking the cheap stuff. You’ll save money and never get cheated.

myiq2xu on May 25, 2013 at 8:54 PM

$50 a day when the daily sales are $5,000 a day it’s not worth losing your business for. If you have to do something like that there is a whole lot more wrong with your business than that’s going to fix. All the owners I met were just like me, college graduates and good hard working business people. I refuse to believe anyone is going to risk their livelihood over such a small pittance. Not only that but the fine alone will be astronomical. That owner would never get another job in the industry again too. Look, if you’re going to steal you’re going to do it by claiming…………say………..80% of your sales on your retail sales tax form. On a mere $100k a month that’s a savings of $1,300 a month with little to no risk. No pissed off customers, and it’s easy to control.

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:39 PM

To me, the risks of a government cover-up seem way more tangible than the benefits. Yet look at Benghazi, the IRS scandal, F&F, et al.

Good Solid B-Plus on May 25, 2013 at 8:58 PM

I know a bartender who would pour straight mixer into someone’s glass if they had been pounding them and were too wasted and couldn’t tell the difference anymore anyway. Not to rip them off but because it was easier than trying to cut off or eject the guy for being too drunk than the trouble that was sure to follow was worth. Plus he “bought” the guy’s drink every other round to keep the drunk happy and not to completely rip him off or tip him off. No bouncers and sometimes very unruly patrons in the bar he worked. And he worked the later shift and inherited the drunks from the earlier, heavily tipped bartender(ess) who was a notorious over-server to get the tips. Was my friends behavior ethical? Not really, but practical? Sometimes.

Big John on May 25, 2013 at 9:02 PM

So that partially explains the cast of “Jersey Shore”.

can_con on May 25, 2013 at 9:07 PM

I don’t know of anyone who would risk they’re livelihood for a mere $50 or so a day

Capitalist Infidel on May 25, 2013 at 8:21 PM

What if instead, the kids working your TGIF’s are skimming the top shelf for Saturday night parties, and making the substitutions themselves?

Then they all Skype each other about ways not to get caught by management, and pretty soon all the TGIF crews are doing it.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 25, 2013 at 9:08 PM

gh on May 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Whenever I’m in China I get taken out to clubs where everyone is drinking Chivas. That’s a lot of Chivas. I assume it’s a knock off, but not rubbing alcohol knock off.

You buy it by the bottle and the b-girls help you drink it. They make you play dice games, drinking after every round and they drink it over water and ice (and before you complain I know people from Oklahoma who drink it the same way). I drink scotch up with a water back and I don’t know, but it tastes like Chivas to me.

danielreyes on May 25, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Bars selling rubbing alcohol as “scotch”

Stew-bums can’t tell the difference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwuEPoeZxzg

Pork-Chop on May 25, 2013 at 9:21 PM

Don’t rule out a coordinated effort between the bottle fillers and the government doing the operation. Especially if they contribute to conservatives or if there is a bar owned by Democrat cronies nearby.

Buddahpundit on May 25, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Not really that surprising. It happens more than you think. Say you have a bar manager that sucks and can’t keep the right liquor stocked or has liquor costs that suggest bartenders are giving away drinks. This might be a good way to avoid getting fired for a little while or forever if the GM only cares that you make the numbers look good.

The higher ups and franchise owners only see numbers.

The restaurant industry tends to hire fun loving and charming people for the front of the house. They are also jobs that can provide decent living wages for part time work and require no experience. Unfortunately you know who has a hard time being responsible enough to complete a degree or training program and advance in life yet can be very charming and personable to complete strangers? A sociopath. Meet your restaurant manager.

This is based on my years in the industry. I’ve seen well liquor poured into top shelf bottles too.

jhffmn on May 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Quoted article (Slate) says a hint a bar might be cutting their product is overall bar cheapness. Bullhocky. I’ve occasionally been served altered product (been drinking Bushmills for thirty years, so I’ve got a pretty good idea what isn’t Bushmills), and, on the whole, I’ve been more likely to get altered product at the fancier bars than I am the cheaper ones. This is prolly cause the fancier bars attract younger, inexperienced drinkers who are easier to scam. And cheaper bars (a.k.a. blue collar neighborhood bars) tend to rely upon regular, faithful customers, so cheating them would be plenty stupid for that business model. “[A]vowed tippler Justin Peters at Slate” appears to be in the inexperienced category.

apostic on May 25, 2013 at 10:04 PM

You know, with the number of permanently unemployed in this country, every company should have only the best employees…and yet this.

Fleuries on May 25, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Fail to see how this benefits employees? What’s next, the theory that their unions told them to do this? Please.

Pretty obvious this came down from management in order to cut costs and increase profit.

Stuff like this is nothing new. Just look at all the junk many companies sold to the U.S. government during Civil War.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 25, 2013 at 10:18 PM

Another trick bartenders will do to cheat. After mixing a watered down drink, they take the straw and dip it in the good stuff and place their finger over the top of the straw.

The straw filled with liquor is then transferred over to your drink. Your first sip delivers the expensive stuff. The rest is just sprite.

kurtzz3 on May 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM

kurtzz3 on May 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM

One of the things that keeps me away from bars is the absolute boatload of ways they scam customers. I heard so many while taking culinary classes it wasn’t even funny. At this point I’d rather trust a used-car salesman because at least you can take the car to a garage and have a third-party tell you what it’s worth.

MelonCollie on May 25, 2013 at 11:08 PM

Jake makes a comeback…

workingclass artist on May 25, 2013 at 11:42 PM

And the more they raise taxes on booze, the more often this sort of thing is going to happen.

crosspatch on May 25, 2013 at 11:44 PM

Well, in New Jersey, they think Christie is a conservative. Not too surprising you can fool them with fake Scotch, too.

trigon on May 26, 2013 at 2:37 AM

“America in decline – Bars selling rubbing alcohol as “scotch””

“In one case, a New Jersey bar allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch.”

Do you guys think either Jazz or the author of the article are aware of what happens when a person drinks rubbing alcohol?

Dr. Mercury on May 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I’ve worked in bars and restaurants and let’s say I’m not surprised about using rack swill to refill named liquor bottles. When your boss will not let you open a new bottle or they leave extra of the Smirnoff, Dewars or other barely above the rack shelf, already opened, well, what do you think? I can certainly understand asking for Dewars & soda, Smirnoff & cranberry or Tanqueray & tonic, etc., to avoid the headache from $8.00 bottles of rotgut.

True top shelf items you can taste the difference, or should if paying for it, and if not drinking very expensive, unique items straight, waste of money. I bought some cheap cognac for cooking and was told it is so good bars use it as fake Hennessy, which is also sort of swill…so um I guess they buyers and sellers match up in that case.

As for making bootleg booze from rubbing alcohol, I cannot even conceive of this in non prohibition times.

Madisonian on May 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

As for making bootleg booze from rubbing alcohol, I cannot even conceive of this in non prohibition times.

Madisonian on May 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Even IN prohibition times, DIY booze was dangerous. Lead solder in the pipe joints, heating fires that got out of control, foreign contaminants in the liquids…

The very idea of home-making a consumable product that, when made correctly, is known to screw up the workings of your brain and body is astoundingly stupid to me. Be it alcohol or meth or any other ‘entertainment’ substance. There are poisons galore in our modern age and you’re intentionally making one and intentionally eating/drinking it? Stop the world, I want to get off.

MelonCollie on May 26, 2013 at 12:10 PM