Kramer vs fakers

The media has been reporting about the fake liquor that abounds in Beijing. Gee, they are only about five years behind on that one. Since there are fakes of almost everything out there (brake parts, anyone?), counterfeit booze gets amazingly little attention, especially given the health risks. What should an imbiber do? One option is to stop drinking. Too harsh? Perhaps stop drinking in those 20-kuai, all-you-can-guzzle places would be more reasonable. On top of this, find a bartender you trust and do your own part to spot fakes.

I ran into Austin Kramer, bartender extraordinaire at Midnight, in The Bookworm and he told me five ways he keeps fake alcohol out of his drinks. 1. Make a layered shooter: Since non-legit alcohol has a different density, it will settle differently. 2. Look at it. Some alcohols are off enough that a glance is enough to spot a fake. 3. Shake that bottle of vodka and check the bubbles. When coarser grain alcohol is for the real thing, the bubbles will be bigger. (Don’t do this with gin or expensive whiskies). 4. Smell it. An experienced bartender can often identify fake booze with a sniff. 5. Check the labels. Counterfeiters often use obvious dot matrix printouts, make typos, leave off fine print, and use inks that run (look at the bottles on a bar’s shelves and see if any labels have smudges.). Yes, the average consumer may not be able to take all of these measures, but at least some bartenders out there are keeping watch. Look for more information on counterfeit alcohol, including Whisky and wine, in coming issues.

(From Beijing Boyce X, first emailed on February 10, 2006)