Whether you’re looking to save a few bucks each month or just need more cash to funnel into your drinking habit, you probably keep an eye out for cheap booze when you’re out and about. There are millions of people just like you, which is why bars offer daily drink specials and liquor stores have sales on various types of products. This is also why some companies make booze that may have an appealing price tag, but not such an appealing taste.
Because of all of these reasons, there is no shortage of counterfeit alcohol being produced around the planet. While you may think this is a problem that’s largely confined to the developing world, as some countries don’t have the resources to pursue counterfeiters, guess again. Counterfeit booze may be getting sold in an establishment right by you, even if you live in a seven-figure neighborhood with marble sidewalks.
So what is the danger of counterfeit alcohol? Is it something you should really be concerned about? Yes, unless of course you don’t drink, don’t have any friends, or are sociopathic.
What is counterfeit booze?
Essentially there are two types of counterfeit alcohol: The type that is made to at least resemble a half-drinkable product and the kind that is complete trash. While the first kind is really annoying and could make for a “well that sucks” kind of evening, it’s the latter that could really ruin your night or worse.
Although lots of booze enthusiasts can tell if the wine or spirit they’re drinking tastes a little different than normal, there are plenty of people who can’t. So, criminals make counterfeit alcohol, slap a brand-name label on it and pawn it off as the real deal.
Even if someone at a convention notices that the high-end scotch they just ordered tastes worse than stuff that’s normally in the discount bin, the counterfeiters are long gone. Although it may not taste great, or quite foul in comparison, at least the fake product is made with ingredients that normally go in spirits.
The other kind of counterfeit alcohol is much, much, worse, since there’s either very little or no effort at all to make it taste good. Often this type of counterfeit booze is made through watering it down or adding abhorrent things like fuel or antifreeze. Obviously, you don’t want to be drinking that, even if it still gets you “hammered.”
Why is counterfeit booze out there?
While you have to be a pretty callous and awful human being to sell something to people that might hurt them (real booze aside, of course), the main reason counterfeit alcohol exists is money. Whether counterfeiters make a product that’s supposed to resemble the real thing, or some sort of liquid that no living thing should drink, the end goal is profit.
Alcohol is a huge industry and there are millions of drinkers who are always looking for a deal. Typically counterfeiters approach stores, restaurants, bars, or even folks on the street and offer what they claim is the “real thing” at a much lower price. According to some estimates, one-third of the world’s alcohol supply comes from illegitimate sources. Yes, 33% of it! Scary!
How can you tell whether alcohol is fake or not?
If you’re a store owner who sells booze, or you work in the hospitality industry, don’t buy alcohol from some dude who claims he bought “way too much” whiskey for his cousin’s wedding. Only buy your alcohol from reputable distributors or the manufacturer itself.
Double-check the product’s bottle make sure it’s packaged in the usual container. Also look at the bottle’s label to see if there are any irregularities in the brand’s logo, or if there’s any other issues like spelling mistakes or incorrect information. Also check to see that it’s been properly sealed. That’s a good rule to follow at all times.
Then, of course, there’s the smell and taste. If the booze gives off a strong odd odor that smells like chemicals or fuel, then you don’t have to be a genius to realize it shouldn’t be ingested. If it tastes like something is very, very wrong with it, don’t drink it. In addition, if you noticed that the liquid is unusually layered or there’s sediment at the bottom, then that’s another solid indication you have a counterfeit product.
What can happen to you if you drink counterfeit alcohol?
If you end up buying some low-end substitute that’s supposed to be a $200 bottle of scotch, then other than getting extremely hung over, you might be okay. That said, if you suspect you’ve purchased counterfeit alcohol, don’t drink it! Even if you’re way out in the middle of nowhere for your buddy’s stag party.
Depending on what’s in the counterfeit booze, you could end up being violently ill, or worse, if you drink it. Signs that you’ve downed nasty counterfeit alcohol include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and drowsiness. While you may be thinking that sounds like what happens after you’ve downed a case of beer, this will happen much, much quicker.
If you suspect you or someone you know has ingested counterfeit alcohol and they’re becoming ill, take them to a doctor immediately. In extreme cases, people can incur liver damage, go blind, and even die. That’s not a good way to duck out of your family reunion.