Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NYC Bars That Take Advantage of Innocent Drunk People

I've been meaning to do this for a while, where "this" is defined as identifying the bars and clubs in New York that make an honest effort to pull a fast one over on us innocent lushes.

I'm only presenting three this morning, but I can guarantee you that I've run past quite a few more and I'm destined to encounter new ones each weekend I venture out of the "alcohol safe zone" that is my Sapphire & Kettle harboring freezer. This, my friends, is the only reliable place in town, at least when it comes to getting what you pay for.

I feel qualified to disclose this information to the drinking public as:

A) I worked in the bar/club industry for way too many years after I graduated college

B) Because I drink a lot

C) Because I conduct frequent tastings of unopened alcohol bottles as compared to the shit being poured at the fine rip-off NYC drinking establishments.

Fine NYC Drinking Establishment #1

That said, our first offender is Music Box, a trendy bar (no sign outside...very cryptic!) in the Village (West? East? I don't remember. I was drunk). I walked in desperately needing a drink. After all, I was with bad company -- my roommate.

I ordered one of my regulars: Absolute Mandarin and Soda. What I instead got: well-Vodka, a dash of Triple Sec and Soda. As I have no shame, I called bullshit on the bartender 2 times, then, on the 3rd try, made him open a new bottle. While he did make an honest attempt to help me out, it was obvious that he knew I was right. I told him to taste it and he said he had gum in his mouth... A likely story, indeed.

Another explanation for the fake alcohol sensation I experienced -- one which I've witnessed at a bar I've actually worked at, is that after half of the bottle's gone, it is replaced with well vodka (or well-brand alcohol of your choice. Example: Jose Cuervo replaced with Montezuma. That is so wrong). The result is a half real, half fake combo disaster! As a disclaimer, I even used to make the bar I worked at open new bottles for my *free* drinks.

Anyway, I don't recommend ever going to Music Box, even though their fake alcohol drinks are only $6 a piece. If you decide not to heed my gracious warning, I suggest you order from the curly-haired guy. The other guy doesn't know how to pour.

Fine NYC Drinking Establishment #2

Our second offender is Doc Watsons on the UES (79th and 2nd, if I remember correctly). I feel bad calling them out for their fake alcohol because the bartender was so nice. In fact, I didn't. She rewarded me with a sufficient pour and a smile. Of course, I know that smile is no more than an apology. She knows it's fake. I know it's fake. But what can she do? It's her boss who commands her to enact ILLEGAL practices in order to keep her job. I just wouldn't suggest supporting said practices, i.e. Don't Go There. Ever.

Fine NYC Drinking Establishment #3

Our third and last offender, is Fizz, a club in Mid-town. Fizz is a criminal on different, yet equally disgusting, charges. If you look at the receipt below (might have to click on it to make it bigger) you'll notice that the bar automatically adds a 20+% to your bill. I bought 3 drinks at $11+ each. Even though I was sauced when I got the bill, I remember thinking that $41 for 3 drinks was pretty pricey. At least the alcohol was real, I guess. I graciously added an $8 tip and handed it to the bartender. The next day I noticed that the bastard actually got me for $15. No wonder he was all smiles. So, not only does Fizz automatically add a tip exceeding the extremely generous %20 they might have typically received from their drunken customer, they too make no mention of the fact and let you tip them double. Bonus: You're tipping them on the cost of your drinks combined with the stolen tip. Isn't this illegal? I thought automatic tips only occurred for parties over 6 or 8. Well, then and in Europe, where a further tip isn't expected.

I will never go back to Fizz again. I strongly suggest you don't either.

Do I feel bad outing and boycotting these establishments? No. For one, not many people will have the pleasure of reading this enlightening post. And two, a 32 oz bottle pours a suggested 32 drinks (although a good bartender will pour at least an ounce and a half). At $6 minimum - $12 maximum per NYC drink (assuming 1 1/2 ounces), that's anywhere from $128 - $256 per bottle. A bar buys a bottle for $18 - $25 bucks each. At a mark up of, oh say, 140% or so, I'd say we, the paying drunk customers, deserve real alcohol! Plus, these actions insinuate that drinkers - their bread and butter - are stupid. I don't think we're stupid. Just a bit not-sober...

Unfortunately, I think there will be more updates to come.


bufflo said...

#1 You should have switched to Grey Goose+Soda, he wouldn't be able to "fake" that. Or maybe. But Absolut is pretty generic.

#3 That's interesting. And it was all drinks, no food? I guess if you're gonna be drunk, I love being one too, you should always pay upfront for each drink. Or share the tab with someone sober enough to read it by the end of the night. Now, I understand why it's an issue in this case, but as a former bar maid/waitress/whatever, do you really think 20% is a lot for a tip? My friends (the ones who used to work in bars) are always on my ass about "tipping starts at 20%!" I don't really have a problem with that, but then I expect some kind of service too. Just opening a bottle of beer feels more like a tip of $1/drink.

Gigi said...


In response to #1: That's the problem, they think we're stupid and can't tell the difference. We might be drunk, but we're definitely not stupid. D orders Grey Goose and has the same problem. It's especially obvious when we order shots. BTW, Absolut Mandarin is actually pretty good.

In response to #2: My problem is not the 20% IF I choose to give it to them. This bastard put over 20% on the bill, and then I added 20% on top of that amount. That's not cool. I tip 20% on food, but not drinks. When I bartended, I laughed at people who game me over 20% to poor vodka on ice. Trust me, bartenders think we're stupid. Of course, we've probably perpetuated this idea...

A Concerned Fan said...

Don't blast the Doc! Great atmosphere, great beer, and great bartenders. Besides, you shouldn't go there for hard alcohol anyway. Pubs are for beer, my dear.

Gigi said...

Ahhh, so we meet again, A Concerned Fan.

I don't care what "Pubs are for," if they have a full bar and they're willing to serve it, they need to do it right. That means not marrying the alcohols!

As for their food: mediocre at best. The croutons in the French Onion soup left something to be desired.

Chad said...

So, wow... An icredibly informative post!

Bahrain drinks at their priciest run at 3B.d. That's close to 9 dollars, u.s.

From what I remember in NY the cheap drinks were 7 to 9, but I only really hit up two bars. You have confirmed again that the coolest city ever has rediculous drink prices.

...A guide that the masses should read!

bufflo said...

I have to go to Bahrain! I wonder if all Muslim countries are great for cheap alcohol, I've only been to two (Egypt and Indonesia) and they were cheap.

The thing about NY/living in NY is that after a while it feels normal to pay $13 for a bottle of Corona; $15 for a vodka+cranberry (for some girl); $100/night; $500/week, all on entertainment. Or, maybe that's just me.

Cherokee said...

Ahh, I miss Bahrain. Drinking was so cheap.... especially being a female. We could drink free most of the time.... and thats from the bars themselves.. not men buying our drinks.

And as a new bartender, I have to say that I would think making the drinks correctly would result in bigger tips.... Yes, the club I work at has its way of doing things, but I always do things my own way. Therefore, come on down to Texas and I'll make you a drink and you can tip me 20%+. I don't mind and I won't laugh at you. I promise....

Chad said...


13 dollars for a Corrona? I just choked on my debit card. That's insane.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are decently priced drinks. Bahrain's prices are nuts. Plus they're in constant debate about whether or not they will continue the allowing of sales and if it does, in fact, draw tourism like the clubs say. -It sure as hell brings the Saudis over every thursday.

Then there's Ramadan... and life stops for a full moon cycle.

Paulina said...

Is "innocent drunk people" not a contradiction in terms?

Cherokee said...

Hmm, well, I didn't drink Corona...but Smirnoff Ice's were about $9 a bottle which was a bit much.... thats why I drank the free stuff a majority of the time. Sorry Chad.... I should have said it was cheap for females to drink in Bahrain...For Males, its a whole different story.

A Concerned Fan said...

I'll go to Bahrain if Michael Jackson will let me buy him a drink. Then maybe we can cuddle. Mmmmmm....good times.

-Macaulay Culkin