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8 Times People Sued Over Booze

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Alcohol can inspire some ridiculous behavior—and we’re not just talking about regrettable tabletop dances. Over the past eight decades, people have gone to court again and again on behalf of their favorite libations. Here are eight of the craziest liquor-laced legal disputes.

1. The Battle for Bacardi

What’s in a name? Quite a bit if that name is Bacardi. In 1936, just three years post-prohibition, the family-owned rum company took legal action against several New York bars and restaurants that were serving so-called Bacardi cocktails using lesser-quality liquor. In the eventual New York Supreme Court case, attorneys for Bacardi brought in Justice John L. Walsh’s own bartender to testify. (He swore he only ever used Bacardi in the judge’s favorite rum cocktails.) Swayed, Walsh ruled that mixing a Bacardi drink without the eponymous rum was “subterfuge and a fraud” on behalf of the consumers.

2. A Dark ‘N Stormy Showdown

Fun fact: a Dark ‘n Stormy isn’t really a Dark ‘n Stormy unless it’s made with ginger beer and—this is the key—Gosling’s Black Seal rum. In the late 1970s, Gosling’s, the manufacturer behind the dark liquor, began trademarking their version of the Dark ‘n Stormy in Bermuda (where the company is based), North America, the Caribbean and across much of Western Europe and Asia. (They forgot about Australia—oops.) To this day, they take their legal claim seriously, going after any rum-producing competitor who dares to suggest that its liquor can be used in the cocktail. (Tweaking the name a little isn't enough to escape their attention: in April, Gosling's went after black rum producer Proximo Spirits for their "Kraken Storm" recipe.) In an interview with The New York Times, company president E. Malcolm Gosling Jr. said they defend the trademark “vigorously, which is a very time-consuming and expensive thing.” 

3. A Major Pain

In 2011, Pusser’s Rum—a company that has trademarked their signature Pusser’s Painkiller libation —filed suit against New York City bar Painkiller. Their complaint: that the popular Lower East Side tiki bar had stolen their name and their drink. (The bar's version of the fruit juice, rum, and cream of coconut cocktail was made without Pusser’s liquor.) In the settlement, the owners of Painkiller agreed to change the bar’s name, abandon the use of the term Painkiller and their namesake drink (unless it was made with Pusser’s rum), and turn over their website domain. Two years later, the newly dubbed PKNY folded up its cocktail umbrellas for good when the owners were unable to renew the bar’s lease. 

4. Wax Off

In 2012, Maker's Mark successfully sued the producers of Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia tequila, claiming the red wax coating atop their bottle deliberately resembled the bourbon brand's trademarked seal and would cause confusion among consumers. Eventually a three-judge panel in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Calling the signature red wax seal an “extremely strong” trademark, the panel ruled that Beam Inc.—the manufacturer of Maker’s Mark—could stop rival alcohol companies from using a similar seal.

5. Partner in crime?

In 2013, five Idaho inmates blamed it on the alcohol by filing a $1 billion lawsuit against several top booze companies. The prisoners—serving time for crimes ranging from grand theft to manslaughter—sued the likes of Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller Brewing, and the owner of Jim Beam whiskey, asserting that their products had led them to commit crimes. (Without an attorney, they drafted the litigation themselves.) “I have spent a great deal of that time in prison because of situations that have arose because of people being drunk," convict Jeremy Brown said in his affidavit. "At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive." Unfortunately for the prisoners, their suit was thrown out by the judge presiding over the case, who wrote that "…it is commonly known to the public that alcohol poses an obvious danger—encompassing many different subcategories of danger—to those who choose to consume it." 

6. Beer Smear

In 2013, Anheuser-Busch was sued by beer-drinkers across multiple states for allegedly watering down 11 of their beers. (Among the quaffs targeted: Budweiser, Bud Light Platinum, and Black Crown.)  The consumers—who said they received their information from a former Anheuser-Busch employee—claimed the company added water and CO2 in the final stages of the brewing process, lowering the alcohol content by three to eight percent. The beer enthusiasts sought $5 million in damages, plus a court order that would require a corrective advertising campaign. But in 2014 the suit was dismissed when an Ohio judge ruled Anheuser-Busch’s alcohol content was within 0.3 percent of the amount stated on the label—the range required by the Federal Alcohol Administration.

7. Small-town Spirit

A Chicago law firm filed a class action lawsuit against Templeton Rye in September 2014, claiming the Midwest company intentionally misled consumers. Their advertising campaign said that they brewed the craft whiskey in small-town Templeton, Iowa (population: 358), using a Prohibition-era recipe. But in reality the spirit was distilled in a (gasp!) Indiana factory, following directions from a stock recipe. In January, the Des Moines Register reported that the lawsuit was on hold for mediation, signaling a settlement may be forthcoming. In the meantime, the company has announced plans to start printing labels declaring the whiskey is distilled in Indiana and bottled in Iowa. 

8. "The Antithesis of Handmade"

Last September, Tito’s Handmade Vodka faced a similar fate. A class action lawsuit was filed in California, saying the Texas-based distillery cannot possibly be manufacturing the 15 million bottles they sell annually “in an old fashioned pot” as the label claims. "The vodka was made, manufactured and/or produced in massive buildings containing 10 floor-to-ceiling stills and bottling 500 cases an hour using automated machinery that is the antithesis of 'handmade,' “ reads the lawsuit. By May 2015, at least eight class action lawsuits had been filed challenging the company’s use of the term “handmade.”

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New Pop Chart Lab Poster Is a Boozy Blueprint For Making Classic Cocktails
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Pop Chart Lab's posters combine design with data, and their latest offering—a full breakdown of the ingredients in 60 classic cocktails—is no exception. From the exact ratio of gin and tonic that should go into a G & T (2 ounces and 4 ounces, respectively) to the garnishes you'll need to make a proper Tom Collins (a maraschino cherry and a lemon twist), the 3-foot-by-2-foot "Constitutions of Classic Cocktails" artwork teaches mixology basics you'd typically learn in bartending school, sans tuition fee.

In addition to mainstays like the Negroni and the Whiskey Sour, the poster also includes relatively obscure drinks (ever heard of the Golden Dawn, or the Journalist?), which you can attempt after drinking your way through your favorite concoctions. Before you know it, you'll be explaining to your friends the intricacies of why you should stir martinis instead of shaking them (sorry, James Bond), or the difference between a highball and a Collins glass. Bottoms up!

"Constitutions of Classic Cocktails" costs $37, and is currently available for pre-order. Shipping begins on Friday, October 20, 2017. (To see the poster's details up close, visit Pop Chart Lab's website and click on the diagram.)

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Attention Beer Lovers: A London Brewery Is Hiring a Professional Taste-Tester
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Beer lovers aren’t given many chances to discuss their passion for imbibing at job interviews. But a new open position at London's Meantime Brewing Company lists that expertise as one of the top qualifications. As Fortune reports, the brewery is seeking a professional beer taster to help improve its products.

The brewery’s part-time employee will “join the panel brewers as they taste, discuss, and pass opinion on a range of different beers,” according to the job listing on LinkedIn. On top of steady access to free booze three hours a week, the taster will receive a competitive salary “with beer benefits.” As the description reads: “Yes, this could just be the best job in the world.”

Meantime isn’t just considering any casual beer drinker for the role. Their ideal candidate will have a precise palate that can distinguish “chocolate malt from dark malt” and “Fuggles from Cascade hops.” They will also have an understanding of global consumer markets, a functioning knowledge of English, and an extensive beer vocabulary. The brewery is located in the London borough of Greenwich, so applicants who aren’t local should be willing to relocate.

Founded in 1999, the Meantime Brewing Company made its name on the beer scene with signature beverages like their London Lager, London Pale Ale, and Yakima Red. If you’re interested in joining the team, post 30 words on your LinkedIn profile explaining why you deserve the gig, along with any photos or videos that may help your case, with the hashtag #pickmemeantime. The company will narrow down the pool to three candidates for an in-person beer tasting before deciding their top pick. Meanwhile, you can prepare for the job by brushing up on your beer facts.

[h/t Fortune]

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