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.

Time for a Toast: Women, Cast Your Ballots

Raise a Prohibition cocktail to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who drafted Amendment XIX. Enacted today in 1920, it gave American women the right to vote.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton drafted an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give American women the right to vote and introduced it to Congress, where it sat in limbo for over four decades.

Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment took effect and there was much rejoicing. However, alcohol was illegal at the time, with Prohibition having just gone into effect seven months earlier, so any "legal" celebratiions had to be dry. Of course, we all know that didn’t stop the booze from flowing. And although supporters of suffrage generally endorsed the temperance movement, the right to vote gave rise to a new brand of post-World War I feminists who threw off constricting Victorian corsets to embrace the frisky, fun-loving flapper lifestyle. And that meant cigarettes, the Charleston and fastening a flask to your inner thigh to sneak booze into speakeasies.

LET’S GET DRUNK AND MAKE LOVE

The emerging feminism found a voice in The New Yorker‘s "Tables for Two" column, penned by Lois Long, who Cambridge historian Joshua Zeitz described in his 2007 book Flapper as "one of the most insightful observers of sex and style in Jazz Age America." Looking back at her life in the 1920s, Long later summed up the flappers’ fast-living philosophy: "All we were saying was, ‘Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love.’"

But not all literary ladies of the Roaring Twenties were so keen on the flapper movement. Dorothy Parker (who turned 27 just a few days before the 19th Amendment was enacted) took a jab at the fad in her poem, "The Flapper," saying that their "manners cause a scene." The Algonquin doyenne also expressed a more moderate—and infinitely more sensible—approach to quenching one’s thirst:

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under my host.”

So cheers to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who gave America the 19th Amendment—and an excellent reason to tipple through the Roaring Twenties.

MIX IT UP: THE SOUTH SIDE COCKTAIL

For a perfect Prohibition cocktail during summer’s last gasp, you can’t go wrong with the South Side. Though named after the Chicago district where it was a favorite of mobsters during the dry years, the drink’s exact origin is still contested. New York’s illustrious 21 Club, for example, has laid claim to it. They use the following recipe.

Ingredients

2 oz. vodka, gin or white rum
Juice of one lemon
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. fresh mint leaves

Method

Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well enough to bruise the mint leaves and release the mint oil.

Strain into a chilled collins glass filled with ice.

Garnish with mint leaves.

Enjoy!

BY THE NUMBERS

37 – Number of years the 19th Amendment lay dormant in Congress (a period known as "the doldrums")

31 – Number of votes by which the 19th Amendment won passage in the Senate

51 – Percent of U.S. population that is female

18 – Percent of Congressional seats currently held by women

10 – Amount, in dollars, in 1912, of the budget of the Washington, DC, office of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)

41,368,000 – Number of Susan B. Anthony one-dollar coins minted

30,000 – Number of speakeasies in New York City during Prohibition

7,304,040 – Number of minutes Prohibition lasted

18,000,000 – Number of U.S. citizens who currently live in a dry county

Drinks on the Move: Chatting With The Ladies of Speed Rack

Not that Speed Rack founders Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix timed their charity and booze event to ease your guilt for not going out to Staten Island or Queens to volunteer, but it sure works out well. For the second year, these cocktail mavens have whipped together the best women in the drink making business to compete for the title of Miss Speed Rack NYC and subsequently, raise money for breast cancer research.

To win the crown, the ladies participating must impress judges with their speed and dexterity in a round-robin style, timed competition. The event takes place from 6 to 10pm on Monday, December 10 at Santos Party House, and costs $25 at the door. I caught up with Marrero and Mix and chatted about how they started and what it means for ladies in the world of bartending.

This is your second year doing Speed Rack, right?
LM:
Yes we began in New York City on June 12, 2011. Ivy and I approached industry friends and got brands to sponsor us. It was a crazy time to do any industry event between Manhattan Cocktail Classic and Tales [of the Cocktail]. However, we did it.

We sent out notices to NYC’s LUPEC [Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails] ladies to compete. Our great friends and mentors, Julie Reiner, Dale DeGroff, Audrey Saunders, and Jordana Rothman, volunteered to judge and the result was an exciting, nail-biting event that energized a movement.

What made you decide to do it again?
LM:
Frankly, it is an obligation. We had so much fun traveling the country and meeting so many amazing women that we knew that our mission was not finished. People were begging Speed Rack to visit their towns and it’s our vocation now.

IM: We decided to do it again for two reasons. One, because there are still so many female bartenders out there that can benefit from a platform like Speed Rack. And two, There is never an end to the amount of money to be raised for breast cancer charities. This year we are working with SHARE, a great organization that offers a support network to women, and sometimes men, who have been affected.

How did you come up with the idea?
IM:
Speed Rack started first as an idea that stemmed from a project a friend and I were asked to do that was about bartending. We were begged to participate in a project because we were female bartenders and there were no ladies around to do it, or so it seemed. I started to think about how odd it was that this project had no women.

I was a female bartender and I knew so many female bartenders. But, it didn’t seem like the food and beverage community knew that, like we were all living under a rock somewhere. So, I decided it would be great to create an event that created a platform for female bartenders to stand on to show the world just how awesome we can be. Then, I have always thought that people will pay for a drink no matter what, so why not make this double entendre go a bit further and have it be a breast cancer charity.

Lynnette Marrero and I became partners after we sat next to each other at a football game in April 2011. I had a slight idea of what I wanted and since Lynnette is the president of LUPEC NYC, she was the perfect pro-women partner. We talked, and then together we shaped Speed Rack into what it is today.

What, exactly, does the competition entail? 
LM:
It is the roller derby of cocktail competitions. Women are challenged to recreate the work they do on the busiest night of their lives working in a cocktail bar. Oh, and people who you completely admire walk in and want a round.

IM: It is like the March Madness of boobies and booze. The competition entails a preliminary qualifying round that the girls have known for about two weeks before the event. In this round, they make four drinks as quickly as possible and are competing against everyone. The top eight fastest move on to the bracketed girl-on-girl, round-robin-style competition that is open to the public. Then, we have the two girls, in two bars, in front of an all-star panel of judges. These judges select four classic cocktails at random and the girls go head-to-head making them.

Do you think women are making more waves in the bartending world?
LM:
I think women have always been making waves in the bartending world, you may just not have known their names. Women took to the bars during prohibition in Europe, during World War II, and in the 1970s and early 1980s. They fought extremely hard for their right to bartend and by 1980, bartending was the occupation in which women had the most liberating gains.

I happened to start in this industry when there were so few people in the cocktail world. Julie Reiner trained me at the Flatiron lounge in 2005, at that point, Audrey [Saunders] and Julie were some of the few American women in the small craft bartender world. I was promoted to bartender because I was willing to work hard, put in the time learning drinks, and I had a good palate. It was gender blind. You did, and still do, work long hours in cocktail bars. You need to be tough, have stamina, be able to make recommendations, and be ready to be tested on your knowledge. 

Who are some of the ladies that are pushing the boundaries in the bar and where do they work?
LM:
If we are looking at the current Speed Rack competition, we have Jillian Vose and Eryn Reece who both work at Death and Co., and Eryn also works at Mayahuel. Both women are leaders in the cocktail community in NYC. I have to say, because I can, that my partner Ivy Mix is pushing the boundaries. She is incredibly hard working and brings so many of her talents to the job. Her passion, business savvy, and tenacity are why she has achieved such accomplishments as 30 Under 30 for Zagat in 2012.

IM: There are so many, to single them out is hard, the list just goes on and on.

Holiday Gift Guide: Medea Vodka, Genius Bottle

Medea Vodka, a multiple-distilled, wheat-based vodka from Holland, literally spells “party” this holiday season. The bottle has a programmable LED display that can hold up to six different messages, each with 255 characters. The messages can be scrolled through when the display is turned on, and messages can be changed using buttons on the side of the bottle. Medea Vodka, $40.

NYE Mixology: Sambazon Acai Capiroska @ Ecco, LA

No break for you on Sunday, as our Mixology site continues the BlackBook-Grey Goose pregame guide for your New Year’s Eve beveraging. As usual, rather than bore you with merely a recipe, instead delight to the skills of the hottest bartenders at the coolest joints in New York in Los Angeles as they whip up NYE-appropriate concoctions while describing their own ideal evenings. Today in our Mixology Pros section: Chelsea at LA’s new eco-conscious temple Ecco creates a Sambazon Acai Capiroska.

NYE Mixology: Mistletoe Martini @ Campbell Apartment, NYC

BlackBook and Grey Goose continue our joint exploration of the perfect New Year’s cocktail on our Mixology site. We asked bartenders working the shakers at jumping nightspots in New York and Los Angeles to mix up their signature drink, all while relating their own perfect New Year’s. Tonight’s choice: Jonathan at NYC’s Campbell Apartment demonstrates the joy of the Mistletoe Martini.

New Year’s Eve Mixology: The Paradizo @ Cielo, NYC

Over on our Mixology site, your pals at BlackBook and Grey Goose guide you through a few of the season’s best cocktails. But why settle for a list of ingredients and tedious recipes when you can see the hottest bartenders from the coolest bars in New York and Los Angeles mixing it up? We’ll run one such video per evening from now until New Year’s Eve, just to give you the full range of possible flavor. As a bonus, the mixologists describe an ideal New Year’s Eve while whipping up their favorite concoction. Tonight in our Mixology Pros section: Mo at New York’s Cielo whips up a Paradizo.