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.