If you're going to be drinking this summer down the Jersey Shore, at least you can be more confident the shot of Lagavulin or Auchentoshan the bartender just poured you is actually high-end scotch, not dishwater.
That's because the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) led a statewide raid on Wednesday, the culmination of a sting operation called Operation Swill, in which plainclothes investigators went to 63 bars that had received complaints about mislabeled alcohol, ordered shots neat and surreptitiously took samples for testing. The ABC collected more than 1,000 open bottles of liquors from 63 license holders in 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties, then subjected all of the contents to testing.
They found that bottles from 29 bars, including 13 TGI Friday's franchises in Mercer, Monmouth and Middlesex counties–where I grew up–didn't contain the premium liquor the label advertised. In one case, it was caramel-colored rubbing alcohol, which is toxic. Yum. Most bars were accused of pulling the trick 14-year-olds have used for at least a century: refilling bottles of clear alcohol with water. One bar, though, used water “not from a tap.” Yum.
The TGI Fridays franchisee that owned the 13 accused restaurants, the Briad Restaurant Group, acted surprised this sort of thing might happen across a large swath of its holdings. To absolutely no one's surprise, it's doing its own investigation, as is TGI Fridays.
Let this be a lesson to New Jersey bar owners: New Jerseyans may occasionally be assholes, but we're not idiots. I'd certainly be able to taste the difference, though frankly, I'm not sure whether that's a virtue or a problem.