When temperance backfires

[South Carolina is] the only state in the nation requiring bars to serve all hard liquor in minibottles. The minibottle's place behind the bar is even enshrined in the state's constitution. Mini-bottles are those cute little single-serving bottles you see on airplanes and in hotel refrigerators.

The law was originally passed under pressure from the temperance movement who opposed "free pour" because it created the opportunity for bartenders to "sweeten" a drink. By requiring the liquor to come from a fixed-sized bottle, portion sizes could be kept under control.

This worked great for a while. But then social pressures shifted and economics started happening. Across the country, the typical size of an alcoholic beverage started shrinking. But South Carolina's drink size stayed the same, because the size was mandated by law. The result: absurdly huge drinks, like the Long Island Iced Tea that comes in a pitcher. South Carolina ended up with the stiffest drinks in the country, exactly the opposite of what the original drafters intended!

The very people who helped West pass the minibottle law as a way to limit consumption -- the teetotalers and religious conservatives -- are now helping Hayes's bid to abolish the law.

The effort to repeal the law has been going on for many years, but somehow it always falls short. Maybe this year...

[Raymond is currently on vacation; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (9)
  1. Gregor Brandt says:

    Never mind that amount of garbage that puts into our land fills……geez


  2. Ben Hutchings says:

    Glass is easily recyclable so it shouldn’t be a problem. The bottle tops are another matter though.

  3. Tony Cox says:

    Why not use the UK solution. Alcholic drinks must, by law, be poured in standard measures. For beer, that means pint glasses either designed to be filled up to the brim, or with a marked ‘pint’ line on them. For hard liquor that means poured using standard sized shot measures, either using a measuring cup or (more frequently) via a device attached to the bottle which dispenses the required amount each time it’s used. This keeps the idea of a standard measure (which could be varied by law over time if required), but eliminates the hassle and extra garbage generated by separate mini-bottles.

    The standard measures help pubs and bars to track their costs more easily, and it means that customers know how much alcohol they are getting. Customers are protected both ways – they won’t get ripped off with a short pour, and they won’t get an unexpectedly or deceptively stiff drink. It also means there is more sense in asking for doubles.

  4. Carmen says:

    Tony: Because then South Carolina would end up like Utah, and no one outside of Utah wants to be like Utah.

    Utah uses a elctro-mechanical dispenser system on bottle tops to control the exact amount of alcohol in each drink, and there can only be a certain amount in any drink. 2.5 ounces I think, which means many mixed drinks are either tiny, or simply can’t be served.

  5. and imagine the poor bartenders having to restock all those little bottles at the end of the night? wow…rip my fingernails out ;-)

  6. hehe, I love to see things like that backfire! :)

  7. Stick says:


    Do your research before you open your mouth please. I have worked for BFI for a number of years. We put glass in the landfill. Glass is too heavy to process in a cost effective manner and almost all of it ends up in landfill. Virgin plastic is still much cheaper than recycled glass. Some is used for road base at the landfill, but 95 percent goes to fill. Dumbass.

  8. Ben Hutchings says:

    "Do your research before you open your mouth please."

    Maybe you should have done some research into this blog and found out that the tone of discussion here is usually a little more polite.

    "Glass is too heavy to process in a cost effective manner and almost all of it ends up in landfill."

    Maybe that’s true where you are. I see that transportation costs can make it uneconomic. However, if the mini-bottles are only needed in South Carolina surely they should be made there, so the glass waste would not need to go so far. Besides which, since they’re apparently a standard size it might well be possible to reuse them (after washing) rather than recycling them.

  9. A Bigger Stick says:

    I don’t think glass varies by density across the country, Ben Hutchings.

    They still use mini-bottles on airplanes and they are sold in Georgia, and probably other states, for those who like to smuggle liquor into their favorite collegiate sporting events.

    If recycling is so effective, then why do municipalities have to coerce citizens to recycle? Why don’t municipalities pay the citizen for recyclables that they want to recycle and charge the recycling company for all of that recycled material they collected for them?

    Because there is no market for it.

    Why is there no market for it?

    Because it is not scarce.

    Why isn’t it scarce?

    Because there is plenty of glass factories and silica to make those cute little bottles.

    And it continues to be cheaper to just throw it away.

Comments are closed.