Your area's mini-bottle experience?

Someone here just mentioned the movement to repeal the mini-bottle provision of the South Carolina constitution. Apparently, it got a blurb on TV last night.

Almost every major article I’ve read on this subject says that in the 1970s, when the SC const. amendment was passed, other states and regions had similar laws. None of them list those states and areas (except maybe Utah, the last state to give up a minibottle law, in 1990), and I’d like to know.

I don’t want to mock or defend the practice, I just want to know where it was tried, and what variations there were in various jurisdictions. Personal experiences would be interesting, too.

I was too young to drink in the 1970s. To me it was just another legal absurdity surrounding alcohol. It became part of my portfolio of “odd facts” to pop into a conversation and make jokes about. Now I’m more interested in the facts.

I don’t know about any laws regarding mini bottles and bars, but it was only in the last two years or so that you could buy the mini bottles at liquor stores here in Texas. I’ve never seen them in bars, so I don’t think bars were allowed to sell them at all. They probably still aren’t, but I can’t say.

So it seems like the mini-bottle situation in Texas is opposite of SC.

I should explain the SC situation, for those who haven’t come across it.

In SC, bars have to serve from the kind of 1.75 ounce single serving “mini-bottle” commonly seen on airlines or near the checkout counter of liquor stores. They also have to serve the entire bottle to the customer. This leads to some interesting situations. For one thing, in the rest of the nation, a "shot’ averages 1-1.25 oz.

Mixed drinks in SC are a bit problematic. The proper ratio of vermouth to gin/vodka in a classic dry martini is at least 1:7 (and a lot of people like them ‘drier’, with less vermouth and more gin/vodka). Since you have to serve the entire vermouth bottle, the martini would have to be at least 8oz! For martinis, I suppose they just splash in a dash of vermouth, and give you the rest of the mini-bottle on the side, but for many drinks, which contain multiple liquors, they literally serve them in “pitchers” The traditional example, apparently beloved by TV/print media if you go by the photos they use, is Long Island Iced Tea. Customers often order one, and split them around the table. I guess solitary drinkers either stick to simple drinks or drink heavily.

In SC, along with the rather bizarre defenses of the practice by vested interests, there seems to be a lot of resistance to the change, which is pretty common for law changes everywhere. I can’t help but laugh when I hear the many variations on the theme that “free pour” is too complicated for bartenders and management (the rest of the world seems to manage, and I’m sure Neolithic bartenders did, too). It’s no reflection on the intellect of South Carolinians, but it does make for funny sound bites like “Well, I’m not used to counting. It’s too complicated.” [counting seconds of pouring through a standard nozzle is a way of measuring the amount poured, if I understand correctly].

The SC law is back aswards from any states/provinces I’ve where I’ve had experiences. I know that as recently as 2 years ago, mini-bottles could not be purchased at liquor stores in the city of Chicago. You could get them in the suburbs, but not from liquor stores in the city. But, the downtown area hotels have mini bars in their rooms, so you could sell mini bottles in Chicago, just not from liquor stores.

I also worked in a county in Ga where you could ONLY send mini bottles up to guest rooms. IOW, if you had someone coming in and you wanted to send up a bottle of whiskey and a note, you couldn’t send up a litre, you had to send up mini bottles.

Pouring only from mini bottles seems absurd to me, I mean glass or plastic, the recycling would be a mess. Plus, I would imagine bartenders find it very time consuming to open a bottle each time they need to make a drink. Bottle for bottle controls couldn’t happen. Well, they could but you would need someone full time to count the mini bottles.

Here is the article for anyone who’s interested.

And from the article:

Ordering a Long Island iced tea now involves a bartender breaking open six different mini-bottles: tequila, vodka, bourbon, gin, triple sec and rum. With 1.75 ounces a mini-bottle, that’s 10.5 ounces of liquor in the drink, Knott said.

Maybe I’ve been drinking at the wrong bars.

I don’t know if it was covered on the regular network news, but The Daily Show had a bit on it, for those who might want to catch the evening rerun.

In Nevada, mini-bottles are novelty items.

Allow me to finish…

I find it interesting that the main opponant to change are the booze distributors. I would imagine that the mini-bottle is the highest “profit per unit”.

The myth of “you get stronger drinks using the mini-bottle” is bull. Nothing prevents the barman on the trigger from dispensing 2, 3 or 5 oz. of booze into your glass. Actually, there is a great incentive for him to “cheat” and give the customer a stronger drink in exchange for a bigger tip. The money goes in his pocket, not the bars. Far more difficult to do this with the mini-bottle, where it would be realitively simple to count the empty bottles and match that to the register totals.

Ah, who cares? I only drink beer anyway, and I brew my own.

I am in South Carolina and I am a drinker.

The use of minibottles in this state make drinks very expensive. For example, order a White Russian in S.C. and pay $9.45. Order the same drink in North Carolina and the price is $4.25.

Quite frankly, sometimes there is so much alcohol in the drinks, they don’t taste very good.

I’ve heard that was the purpose of the original mini-bottle laws - to stop cheating - but since then, bartenders have started serving weaker drinks, so that while a mini bottle might have meant a weaker drink 30 years ago, it means a stronger drink today.

To mirror Jplacer’s example, one of my favorite run-of-the-mill Mexican joints in Charlotte is called “El Cancun”. A Long Island Iced Tea at El Cancun in Gastonia, NC or University Area in Charlotte costs $5.95. Across the border in Rock Hill, SC the same drink costs $16.95! Of course it’s much larger than its NC counterpart, but who the hell wants to pay that much for a mixed drink, even if it is double the size?

With all due respect, I think this is probably more of a poll than a question with any factual answers.

However, here is an earlier thread on the subject, with a link to an even earlier one:

And, so far as bartenders giving out 5-oz drinks, maybe it happens, but I’d think a restaurant/bar manager is going to wonder where the hell is all his liquor going, compared to the amount he’s counting in the till.

But I’ve never been one, so maybe not.

General Questions is for questions with factual answers. IMHO is for opinions and polls. I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator