TikTok's Cocktail Catfished, Explained

Another day, another wave of drama circulates on TikTok. You may have heard or seen videos on the app complaining about the size of popular cocktails, like the martini and the old-fashioned. The complaints are mainly that the amount of liquid in the drinks proportional to the size of the glass is a "scam," claiming the glasses could hold more but bartenders choose to skimp on it. Some have dubbed this online debate "cocktail catfishing," declaring bartenders are tricking customers into believing they are being served a full drink.


Bars Are Scamming You! 😱🍸

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Here's the truth: cocktail catfishing isn't real. At best, this scandal is simply naive hysteria circulating among young people who might not have much experience with drinking or mixology. At worst, it's attention-seeking behavior. Sure, we all want to feel like we're getting the most bang for our buck when we go out drinking, especially with costs rising due to inflation. But, allow us to explain why receiving a martini that's not filled to the brim, or sipping an old-fashioned with a huge ice cube, is not a global conspiracy to defraud bar-goers.

How many ounces is a standard martini?

While cocktail glassware comes in all shapes and sizes, the US National Institute of Health, a government agency, defines a "standard drink" as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Cocktails consist of a mix of spirits and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients. But, they all typically have 1.5 to 2 ounces of spirits. That means your cocktail will vary in size and serving method, depending on how many non-alcoholic ingredients are incorporated. 

This is the whole reason spirit-forward drinks, like the martini and the old-fashioned, are served in smaller sizes. A traditional martini recipe consists of gin or vodka, vermouth, and one non-alcoholic ingredient: the olive or lemon twist garnish. It is typically served at 3 to 3.5 ounces, which does not fill a martini glass to the top, but is actually above the NIH's definition of a standard drink. Filling a 6-ounce martini glass to the brim would be four to five standard drinks. Basically, you would get sloshed on one, if you don't slosh it on yourself first.

Is ice in a cocktail a scam?

Now let's talk about ice in cocktails. Specifically, the giant ice cubes that are popular in whiskey cocktails and negronis. If you've been following the cocktail catfishing discussion, you've definitely seen videos of people pulling giant ice cubes from their glasses to reveal a half-full rocks glass. Yes, it can be disappointing to realize the glass you just paid $15 for is mostly ice. But, it goes back to what is a standard drink. Large ice cubes like this are used in spirit-forward cocktails that already contain a standard drink's worth of spirits, plus 1 or 2 ounces of other ingredients. The drink is still small format, 3 to 3.5 ounces like a martini.


Would you pay 15€ for this drink? #scam #drink #icecube

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In fact, the reason bartenders use those giant single cubes instead of smaller cubes or crushed ice is because the large cubes melt slower. Your drink stays cold for longer without being watered down. So actually, by using a giant ice cube, the bartender is looking out for you and making sure you have a better drink experience. The vast majority of bartenders are not scammers. They are people pleasers who enjoy serving customers delicious, creative beverages. It's called hospitality — and you should tip them well for it!