A state liquor board investigation into bars in New Jersey discovered that little has changed since Prohibition; bars on the boardwalks of the Garden State are still serving swill and charging customers premium prices.As this piece in Slate explains, what you get is often what you don’t want:
“In one instance, a bar in New Jersey mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch,”writes Brent Johnson in the Star-Ledger.* “In another, a bar filled an empty liquor bottle with dirty water and passed it off as liquor.”
One thing that leaps out of this story: most drinkers are wasting their money when paying for premium brands. Most people can’t really tell the difference between the expensive hooch and the off brand stuff, and after a couple of snootfuls many can’t tell the difference between expensive liquor and rubbing alcohol.One can read this story as a sad commentary on the morals of New Jersey saloon keepers, but it’s also a sharp satire on the vanity of consumers. Liquor marketers know exactly how to play to the public’s insecurities and to the pathetic desire to look like a sophisticate that so many of us nourish in our foolish hearts. Human folly isn’t going anywhere, and every year a bright new crop of 21 year old wannabes walks up to the bar and orders something they think makes them look mature, but it’s worth remembering what the Good Book has to say about this kind of foolish preening: Vanity, vanity, and a striving after wind.