Dear Salty, Last night I went to a bar that I’ve never been to and I ordered my usual gin and tonic with my preferred brand; almost immediately I could tell that it wasn’t my brand, even though I watched the bartender pour it from the bottle I requested. My theory? The bar is diluting upper shelf options with well liquor and charging a premium for it.
I was completely uncertain how I should have approached the bartender about it, so I remained silent. They could have just as easily denied the whole thing! But at the same time, I don’t think I should have had to pay a higher price for lower quality. How should I handle a situation like this in which I feel that I’ve been cheated by the bar?
Some folks might be skeptical, but this bait-and-switch does happen—even though it’s illegal. Of course, there could be other, less shady explanations for why your drink tasted different. Maybe the bartender used a weird brand of tonic, or the lime wedge had been sitting out since the time of my last date.
But I’m going to take you at your word. If you suspect a bar of this, you have a couple options. You can speak up—“Did I ask for Hendrick’s? This doesn’t taste like it usually does”—though you’re right that this probably won’t change much about your order. Maybe the bartender would offer to replace your drink. (May I suggest a bottled beer?) But it would let the bar know that—if they’re doing something slimy—you’re on to them.
But what you should really do is… snitch. Report this bar to authorities so they can properly investigate and throw the book at these liars. Your state liquor control commission should have a website with contact information. Some even have online forms where you can anonymously report this type of fraud. Because the state misses out on tax money when bars refill or substitute liquor bottles, you bet your behind the government takes this stuff seriously. Hopefully you’ve also made your own substitution and stopped going to this bar entirely.
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