by Max Brantley
(And surely no Arkie has ever filled an empty Bombay Sapphire bottle with Old Mr. Boston gin for pouring to home visitors.)
The New York Times reports that the operator of a popular restaurant/bar chain in New Jersey has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a consumer complaint about just such routine, profit-enhancing substitutions. Time was, this bait-and-switch was hard to detect.
But technology has entered the picture.
In this case, investigators — ordering their drinks “neat,” with no ice or mixers — took 150 samples from 63 licensed bars.
They tested the samples in a device called the True Spirit Authenticator, which is manufactured in Britain and was recently made available on the commercial market. Mr. Halfacre said he believed it was the first time the machine has been used in an investigation in the United States. Samples were also sent to brand manufacturers, where more tests were conducted.
In all, 30 of the 150 samples were not what they purported to be. In most cases, cheaper brands were used instead of high-end labels like Bombay Sapphire gin.
Arkansas ABC, got one of these on order?
This raises a whole set of other question about whether the expensive stuff really is better and whether drinkers are really as discerning as they say they are. I'm reminded of Calvin Trillin's important reporting on the inability of wine drinkers to tell the difference between red and white wines in blindfolded tests.
KISMET: An industry news release informs me that today, Aug. 1, is the 80th anniversary of Arkansas's vote to ratify the 18th Amendment and end Prohibition. Today, the alcohol business produces $97 million in taxes annually in Arkansas, the industry release notes.