May 24, 2013

"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."
This week's action was the result of a year-long undercover investigation, in which agents from the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) used a new instrument — the True Spirit Authenticator — to analyze alcohol samples quickly and cheaply. Early this year, agents visited 63 establishments and ordered straight shots of premium brands of liquor, then slipped off with a total of 150 samples; 30 were not as advertised.
They called it "Operation Swill."

47 comments:

Nomennovum said...

New Jersey. Enough said.

The Drill SGT said...

charge the rubbing alcohol guys with felonies...

Sheridan said...

Any way to convert the "True Spirit Authenticator" to validate the "spirit and intent" of our political and governmental elites? It seems that swill has been purposely placed into those human vessels and the consumers, the People, have been deluded. And not just in New Jersey.

Ann Althouse said...

You've got a 4 out of 5 chance of getting what you ordered.

cassandra lite said...

These must've been the establishments that didn't pay tribute.

Nomennovum said...

Notice how they have to use all these fancy tests to determine whether the stuff marked "Scotch" is just rubbing alcohol with caramel coloring or the real deal.

That's because a taste test would be inconclusive.

MadisonMan said...

Don't yank the licenses, give them to someone else.

Alan said...

According to Halfacre, almost half of the "less altruistic operators" allegedly busted this week — 13 — were TGI Fridays.
TGI Fridays is absolutely the first place I think of heading to when I want to drink a premium scotch. Same for everyone else, right?

Skyler said...

Sounds like Ensign Pulver.

edutcher said...

Mr Roberts, you mean.

Just shows how wussy the country is.

You call that rotgut?

We used to give that to the Indians.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If you can't tell the difference between premium scotch and rubbing alcohol, you deserve to drink the swill.

Chip S. said...

The peat-moss garnish threw people off the scent.

SteveR said...

DBQ-exactly

MSG said...

Bottles of rubbing alcohol threaten you with "serious gastric disturbances" if you take it internally. Yet the underlying news report says that no "health issues" were reported. Does this mean that the warning on the rubbing alcohol bottles is merely a bluff?

Chip S. said...

Does this mean that the warning on the rubbing alcohol bottles is merely a bluff?

I think it means they watered down the drinks.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ooh, isopropanol and caramel food coloring. My favorite!

Seriously, drinking that might kill you.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Nomennovum,

Notice how they have to use all these fancy tests to determine whether the stuff marked "Scotch" is just rubbing alcohol with caramel coloring or the real deal.

That's because a taste test would be inconclusive.


I would hazard that they serve that only when they're quite sure that the customer is already too drunk to tell the difference. If you presented that sort of concoction to a sober customer, I think he'd notice.

(I'm reminded of the Wedding at Cana. Part of the point of that little vignette was that Jesus turned the water into better wine than had been served before the wine ran out, and the guests were perplexed, because the rule was to put the good stuff out first, and save the swill for when the guests were already too far gone to care or notice.)

TerriW said...

If you've got a 4 in 5 chance of getting the right alcohol, you're doing better than your odds of getting the right fish.

TerriW said...
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Expat(ish) said...

Odd, can anyone else find that device on the internet to find out exactly how it works?

I must be slipping - I can usually find stuff like that.

I'd love to know how it works - I believe it could do some neat stuff with specific gravity, etc to get a good approximation. But maybe it's a chromatograph in a box - that would be way cool.

-XC

Seeing Red said...

Was someone watching "Mr. Roberts?"

Expat(ish) said...

Still can't find it, but here is what was said in the UK:

The Brand Authenticator is a portable spectrometer (or spectrophotometer) which identifies 10 pre-selected wavelengths ranging from 220 to 360nm from a 1ml sample injected into a 1mm path flow cell.

It calculates, using an algorithm which is based on the sum of the squared scores for the absorbance rate of the 10 wavelengths, an SSZ (statistical measurement) score and relates this to brand files for a number of whiskies held in the authenticator’s databank.

It measures 27cm long x 9cm wide x 10cm deep and weighs 1.75 kg. It is powered by a 20 V rechargeable battery that enables approximately 2 hours continuous use.

The Brand Authenticator is calibrated to authenticate Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Teacher’s, J & B Rare, Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Johnnie Walker Red Label, Dewar’s whisky and Jameson Irish whiskey.

A second Brand Authenticator is being developed to authenticate Martell VS, Courvoisier VS, Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam bourbon and Captain Morgan Rum. It is held in the IFSP UK office to screen samples sent in.


http://stevebeasant.mycouncillor.org.uk/2008/12/13/trading-standards-use-new-weapon-to-detect-the-true-spirits-of-christmas/

-XC

wyo sis said...

"This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face of the consumer"

And it could kill people. Rubbing alcohol is poison. Why isn't that a crime?

Sam L. said...

Swill be a name perfecte.

Brew Master said...

Photonics & Analytics LTD is the UK company that manufactures the device from what I can find.

Not much out there detailing how it works other than what Expat(ish) has unearthed.

It hasn't been around for very long, references to Truespirit Authenticator stem from around 2012.

Spectral analysis is how it is used, and preloaded with profiles of specific brands seem to be the method used to make determinations if a product is authentic.

Lem said...

You've got a 4 out of 5 chance of getting what you ordered.

I have another good reason to give it up altogether.

No that it makes any difference, at this point, I'm an alcoholic.

Nomennovum said...

Drink beer straight out of the bottle. It's the only way to fly unless you know the bartender.

ErnieG said...

The impression I got from reading the story was that they used the brand authenticator to get evidence of substitution of cheap liquor from the top shelf stuff. Then they raided the offending bars and seized 1,000 bottles. This is only my speculation, but it is likely that the bottles with the undrinkable concoctions were window dressing, used by a small bar to give the impression of being well stocked and prosperous. At least I hope so. Serving that stuff would not only be fraud, but even attempted murder.

Dante said...

And it could kill people. Rubbing alcohol is poison. Why isn't that a crime?

Why don't they arrest people with HIV who have sex without informing their sex partners with attempted murder?

Given the number of deaths from AIDs, I would say that's much worse. That's 583,000 deaths in the US alone.

ErnieG said...

I couldn't find this on a search, but I remember reading that in some places the law required that the seal on a liquor bottle had to be broken in the presence of the customer.

Dante said...

Oh, and it's a crime against women too:

Today, the main route of transmission for women is through heterosexual sex, and the main risk factor for them is non-protection and the undisclosed risky behavior of their sexual partners.

John said...

Or require Guala caps. Most distillers produce bottles with Guala caps.

These are 1 way caps that make it impossible to put anything in the bottle once the cap has been applied at the bottling plant.

Some restaurant chains buy them to prevent dishonesty in their bartenders.

Some distilled spirits companies sell only Guala cap bottles to customers like cruise ships to prevent refilling.

There is a distillery down island that does a nice business selling rum in 55 gallon plastic drums to cruise ships. They put it in Bacardi bottles or used to before Bacardi started with the Guala caps.

In this case, the customer was actually benefiting. Bacardi is pretty nasty stuff as rum goes. Mainly suitable for lighting charcoal. The bulk rum was the same stuff that they sold at a premium in bottles so the customer got a much better rum than the Bacardi.

If you want to taste a really good sipping rum, that you can drink straight or with a splash of water, look for Ron de Barillito. Two stars on the neck is an excellent rum. 3 stars is hard to find but even better.

If you know the family and can get some 5 star, you will think you died and went to Heaven.

I quit all alcohol in 1984 and I can still remember how good that rum used to taste.

John Henry

John said...

Guala cap info here

http://www.gualaclosures.com/en/chiusure_di_sicurezza/

ndspinelli said...
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Elliott A said...

"In Jersey, everything is legal unless you get caught" Bob Dylan

Geoff Matthews said...

Wouldn't the rubbing alcohol make you blind?

Baron Zemo said...

Another reason why no good Republican should vote for a Rhino like Chris Christie.

New Jersey is just fucked up.

Dante said...

Wouldn't the rubbing alcohol make you blind?

Rubbing alcohol makes you ill (throw up, I think) as it is isopropyl alcohol.

Methanol is the stuff that makes you go blind.

On isopropyl alcohol:

Isopropyl alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic agent whose toxicity closely resembles that of ethanol, with which it shares strong structural similarity. Like ethanol, isopropyl alcohol's precise mechanism of action in the central nervous system (CNS) remains uncertain. Changes in membrane fluidity and/or function, and interactions with neurotransmitter receptors, are believed to account for the CNS effects of alcohols and other simple hydrocarbons. There is a linear relationship between the molecular weight of alcohols and their sedative effects: as size increases so does sedation. Thus, isopropyl alcohol is marginally more potent than ethanol at comparable concentrations.

In untreated animals, the median lethal dose lies between 4 and 8 g/kg. Many sources estimate the lethal dose to be 250 mL in humans (eg, less than 400 mL of a 70 percent solution). It is important to recognize that, with treatment, adults and children have survived much larger ingestions


That's about 20 beers worth of ethanol.

Palladian said...

Wouldn't the rubbing alcohol make you blind?

No, that's methanol, which is metabolized into formaldehyde and formic acid which can destroy the optic nerve, as well as cause metabolic acidosis.

But isopropanol is toxic by ingestion, so the rubbing alcohol "scotch" place was poisoning people.

Palladian said...

Isopropanol is metabolized into acetone by the body, ethanol into acetaldehyde.

Palladian said...

I'm familiar with the differences between alcohols because I was poisoned by methanol years ago from using it as a solvent in a series of drawings I was making.

virgil xenophon said...

Sorry, John Henry, but Haitian "Rhum Barbancourt" tops my list, preferably the 5-Star, (8 yr-old) tho 3-Star will do ok too. The 15-yr-old Estate Reserve is a little pricy for every-day sip-sip. They double-distill their rums in copper pots like cognac.

mariner said...

Dante,
Why don't they arrest people with HIV who have sex without informing their sex partners with attempted murder?

Given the number of deaths from AIDs, I would say that's much worse. That's 583,000 deaths in the US alone.

Arrest gay people?

Surely you jest.

KLDAVIS said...

When it comes to cane/molasses distillates, it's Rhum Agricole or nothing. La Favorite is a great blanc, St. James for the vieux stuff.

ken in sc said...

I once ordered Scotch and soda in Mexico. It tasted funny and I sent it back. The next one tasted the same. I thought I was being given a mickey. I left. Later on I learned, that in Mexico and Montreal, you have to specify “Club Soda" to get a Scotch and soda there, otherwise they will give you any old kind of soda pop with your Scotch.

Drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log.

Mian said...

One big angle everyone seems to be missing here: it's highly possible that employees were the ones diluting the liquor and pocketing the proceeds. (Happens all the time...although there are honest bartenders out there, believe me, many are NOT.)

Bar owners/franchisees have a lot invested in their businesses and licenses and I think most of them would not risk it on something so obvious and destructive. Bartenders? Well, they're bartenders.

Joe said...

Is the overall point that booze is so vile that nobody can tell the fucking difference?

(Reminds me of the tests where they put cheep wine in expensive bottles and all but one of the "connoisseurs" rattled on about how wonderful it was.