Home of the Real Hangover
Lush has been serving genuine alcohol since it first opened in 2003.
As you may or may not know, this is no small feat. Estimates of the circulation of fake alcoholic products in China typically range above 80%. Whether you consider that to be 4 out of 5 bottles or 4 out of 5 bars, its a scary realization - Especially considering the serious consequences of consuming such fake products. At Lush we don’t stand for that. We’ve put in place numerous restrictions and safeguards to prevent any fake products from ever crossing over our bar when you order. Weekly spot checks, monthly stock checks, and more keep our distributors on their toes, because they know that we won’t accept a shipment if the alcohol even looks or tastes remotely tampered with because we’ve built our reputation on serving a real product.
Below is some valuable information on fake, or “adulterated” alcohol. Take some time to educate yourself so that you can make sure that you don’t accidentally put something into your body that doesn’t belong there:
Adulterated alcoholic beverages are alcoholic products that have been illicitly tampered with, for instance, by criminally diluting them with water, purposely putting them into new containers to conceal their true origin or adding toxic substances to manipulate the qualities of alcoholic beverages.
- Principal types of adulteration include:
- Time/temperature/food coloring cheats: Raw spirits (freshly distilled) that are tampered with to appear to be aged like authentic alcoholic products. To use whisky as an example: when whiskey is aged in the barrels that give them their distinctive flavors and colorings, that color and flavor come through over the course of many years. In the case of adulterated whiskeys, this can be imitated with artificial coloring or by storing the alcohol in rooms that are artificially heated, which infuses the fake product with coloring and flavor much faster since the raised temperatures increase absorption rates. That increased temperature, along with potentially dangerous or non-existent standards of safety result in a potentially dangerous product. Imagine “fresh whiskey” with food coloring and caramelized sugar coloring.
- Substitution: Probably the most extensive form of adulteration. True alcohols are the results of very specific processes, temperatures, and safety measures. To stay with the whiskey example: a true whiskey contains not only ethyl alcohol (ethanol), but also numerous other components that come from the entire distillation and barreling process. So the flavors and components come from either the source material (grain, sugarcane, fruits, etc), the fermentation or aging process, and even the types of wood in which the whiskey is barreled. Bootleggers and counterfeiters are looking to get a product out as fast and as profitable as they possibly can, and so all these time constraints and safety measures are completely skipped over and instead they’ll take a base alcoholic substance and mix it with artificial flavoring to make it taste “like” whiskey. Imagine a bottle of Baijiu mixed with a few tablespoons of “whiskey flavoring” from a chemist or even just fake flavoring cooked in some back alley kitchen somewhere.
- Refilling with cheaper product: This happens often in China. Bottles of real product are collected and then refilled and resealed by counterfeiters to appear like the authentic product. Most times these bottles can be filled with alcohol made from the methods above, and other times they are simply refilled with a cheap similar product, or sometimes watered down long before they arrive at the bar. Imagine ordering a nice bottle of 18 year old whiskey and instead getting a beautiful bottle that’s filled with a cheap alternate brand. This also happens quite often with beers like Corona or Carlsberg (amongst many others) that are filled with Yanjing or some other cheap alternative. When you can buy a big bottle of Yanjing and fill 2-3 bottles of Corona with it and sell it at 10 times the price, it’s no wonder the counterfeit alcohol business is so lucrative all over the world.
- Spotting fakes:
- Stick to brands you know. If it’s an unknown brand, check the internet for a website and more information about the product to ensure the product you are receiving looks authentic.
- Check for a serial number. Not all brands have serial numbers, but many do and you can find them on the cap, back label, or printed on the backside of the label if you look into the bottle. Again, remember that not all brands have serial numbers, but if it’s a brand that you know should have a serial number and the bottle you’re being offered doesn’t have one, then it’s likely a fake.
- Check the bottle thoroughly. Some brands have specific etchings or particular specifications for their bottles. Look for tampering or improper seals. Sometimes it can be the result of counterfeiting and sometimes just improper shipping and handling. Make sure the labels are on straight, or that the positioning is consistent with other bottles.
- Check for mistakes in spelling or printing.
- Compare across a few different bottles.Alcohol production is a science, and so coloring of the liquid, bottle design, and the caps/seals should all be the same across multiple bottles.
- Also check that multiple bottles are all filled to the same level. Counterfeiters fill bottles by hand, whereas mass produced commercial alcohol is done by machines to exact levels. If multiple bottles are filled to varying levels, it’s either a sign of tampering or miss-handled products.
- Trust your nose. The worst fakes smell of nail polish, rubbing alcohol, baijiu, or moonshine.
- Trust your taste buds. If it doesn’t taste right, don’t drink it. This goes along with sticking to brands you know, but a good rule of thumb I have is to get a straight shot of the alcohol before I get a cocktail, then if the alcohol tastes right, I’ll make the cocktail I order a double and pour the rest of the shot in. I’d rather waste a few rmb and know to avoid the alcohol than wake up the next day cursing the world for the fake alcohol hangover.
Finally, be careful. Fake alcohol has existed in the world for longer than any of us has been alive, and estimates are than more than 60-70% of alcohol consumed is adulterated worldwide. In best case scenarios you have an extra-strength hangover, while in worst case scenarios people have experienced vision loss and even death. While those cases are extremely rare, it is common to experience headaches and vomiting long before those symptoms would surface through legitimate products. If you believe you have imbibed potentially dangerous counterfeit alcohol, often times your body will try and expel the substance naturally, but forcing yourself to be sick can help to get it out of your body much faster.
Here as well, is a copy of the article Time Out Beijing wrote in 2005 on the subject of fake alcohol: