The Bartender Conspiracies: NJ Bars Switching Out Booze For Rubbing Alcohol

Thank God, it’s real booze! Last week, bars – including a lucky 13 TGI Friday restaurant in the great state of New Jersey – were caught substituting real rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring for real brands of scotch. These busts must have similar agencies in other states clamoring to find out if their own licensed premises are playing games.

In my experience, this isn’t happening much around town. I do believe that some places are putting cheap vodka into empty expensive vodka bottles for their comps. Promoters may be getting the cheap swill in bottles that are more impressive. A "beggers (or promoters) can’t be choosers" attitude does pop up from time to time. This is, of course, a no-no.

As I go from joint to joint, I sometimes see a bartender taking the last drops from one bottle and pouring it into a less empty bottle of the same brand. This practice, called "marrying," is also a no-no, but most bar staffs don’t know that. Some think that bending down and staying out of sight makes it O.K.

I have seen a bartender pour a last gasp of one scotch into a more expensive scotch bottle. I asked him about it and he told me “nobody ever says anything.” I, as you guys know, only drink a couple or three times a year…whenever I have sex… but when I do, I drink Irish. I can always tell the difference between brands. Although all of them will get you there, a patron has a right to get what he or she orders. Especially when they are paying a premium price for what is supposedly a “premium” liquor. How do they get away with it? I guess this time they didn’t.

Luckily, nobody got hurt during the rubbing alcohol switch, which says a great deal about the stomachs and experiences of the patrons of the great state of New Jersey. Rubbing alcohol does the trick, but can also cause great harm to things like eyes.

How a scotch drinker could not tell the difference between this swill and the real stuff is strangeness… Is the faker an incredible mixologist? Are only really drunk patrons served this booze, alluding to a conspiracy that includes both management and bar staff? Why fake scotch when vodka seems easier and is sold at an exponentially greater rate? Was vodka also done but missed by authorities?

These questions are making me dizzy. I’m going to go get a drink. I’ll sip it for taste and hold it up to the light first.

Expert-Approved V-Day Dinner: Thanks To Find. Eat. Drink. App

Imagine this: it’s Valentine’s Day, and you’re dining on truffle pizza with your date at a restaurant beloved by her favorite chef. You’re both whispering and giggling over champagne-infused cocktails only a top mixologist would approve. And what your date doesn’t know, is that back at home you have a box of her favorite chocolates that happen to be her favorite baker’s # 1 choice. But how would you know that every bit of your night has been expert-approved? The answer: the new Find. Eat. Drink. iPhone app, the world’s first travel guide curated by the top people in the culinary world.

In NYC, it’s easy to get lost in the bitter Yelp rants about service, and tied to your humdrum going-out routine. The recently-launched Find. Eat. Drink app brings you back to the reason you moved to New York in the first place: you want the best. And there’s no better place to turn than to the app’s catalogue of 340 experts – chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, and artisans – who are pioneering the trends and recommending restaurants from 120 cities across the world. Each recommendation comes with a profile of not only the culinary pro, but also the establishment they so love.

The expert-touch extends beyond the app’s content; FED (acronym intentional) is created by former Food Network producer and host Robin Dorian, and Nick Bumstead, former manager of Chambers Street Wines. The app is an extension of FED’s official website, which has the same concept as the app, and a blog that’s updated multiple times a day.

Plus, the app is just really, really good looking. It’s orange and sleek, and all so easy to use. Actually, it’s too easy; there’s no reason you shouldn’t be downloading it for free and using it tonight. There’s still time…

Download the Find.Eat.Drink. app here, and follow Bonnie on Twitter.

Industry Insiders: Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, the Gurus Behind Bar Lab

When it’s time to get your drink on, Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi are the men to know in Miami. The mixology gurus behind Bar Lab, a consulting service respondible for the cocktail menus at such nightlife mainstays as Gansevoort South hotel and W South Beach, embody an encyclopedia knowledge of spirits, mixers, garnishes, and glassware. This knowledge has won them devoted fans across the Magic City. So what’s the secret to their booming success? The two alchemists fill us in.

How has mixology changed over the years?
Elad Zvi: It has changed a lot and is always evolving. A while back, bartenders were using sugar-based juices and not-so-good ingredients. Now it’s all about freshness and the quality of your product.
What are some mixology rules that you’ve broken? 
Zvi: One of my favorites is the belief that classic cocktails should only be made certain ways; today there are many ways to make a classic, like frozen or tiki-style.
Your thoughts on wine.
Gabriel Orta: Wine is great! So many different wines in the market right now are actually great for cocktails. Some of my favorite wine regions are Portland, New Zealand and Argentina.
Pairing cocktails with your meal…yay or “wine-only” territory?
Orta: Yes!!!! More and more chefs are doing this now. Cocktails permit for more ingredients that actually support the meal. We do a monthly pairing dinner with different chefs in Miami, with great success.
Where do you go to hang out and drink?
Orta: In Miami we like to hang out at The Dutch, Sra. Martinez, Tropical Chinese; but really, our favorite place to hang is the ocean. It’s the best place to get inspired.
What makes the cocktails you design so out-of-the-ordinary?
Zvi: We always use ingredients that are unique and exotic. We like ingredients from the Middle East, India, Asia, and South America.
What do all master mixologists have in common?
Orta: We all come from the hospitality industry, so no matter how much we have accomplished or know about the art of cocktailing, we are all here to give our guests a great experience.
Is there a spirit or an ingredient you won’t use?
Zvi: Spirit-wise, I like them all. But the one fruit I wouldn’t touch is durian. The smell and taste is just too strong. It overpowers everything.
What is the next frontier in mixology?
Orta: Now is all about the ice; from shaved ice to block of ice to different shapes, ice is one of the most important ingredients in a cocktail. Also, cocktails on tab…instead of draft beer, you can have a Manhattan or a margarita on tab made from fresh ingredients.