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U.S., Russian drinkers not happy with the new rules, but it's all relative

February 25, 2013

Congratulations to the American public, which has had the guts to stand up, look deep within its soul and boldly say with unified voice: “We are not drunk enough.”

Forget the sequestration, universal health care, immigration, gun control, deficit reduction and entitlement reform, all of which get a collective “meh” from the public. But mess with our booze and up go the barricades and down comes the Bastille.

This all began when the distillers of Maker’s Mark whiskey apparently got ahold of the manual entitled “How to Successfully Change a Proven Product” written by the marketing team that brought us New Coke.

Maker’s Mark was “suffering” from a run on its product, which threatened to empty out its warehouses before a new batch of bourbon would be ready. Since the whiskey needs to age for a half-dozen years, there was no option of ramping up production.

So, instead of reverting to a classic market decision and raising prices, Maker’s Mark instead proudly announced that it would water down its bourbon, thereby reducing the alcohol content from 45 percent to 42 percent.

Well. The thought of walking around 3 percent less drunk than they had been before did not sit well with the nation’s whiskey drinkers, most of whom are apparently up at 2 in the morning drinking and messing around on social media sites.

Say what you will about the frivolity of Facebook, but it is not about to sit idly by while its users sober up. A mass outpouring of disapproval got Maker’s Mark to change its mind, which allowed the American public to turn it’s attention to the next pressing issue: Do you really get five full ounces when you order a glass of wine?

Acting on complaints from the spirit-swilling public, inspectors in Washington, D.C., apparently satisfied that every other aspect of life in the nation’s capital was running smoothly and properly, swooped in on city bars with beakers and measuring cups — and woe to the bartender who was only allotting 1.49 ounces per jigger.

But as fascinating as the liquor culture is in the United States, it is even more fascinating in Russia, which apparently could teach us rookies in the United States about the finer points of sauce consumption. So much so, in fact, that Putin has made it his mission to sober up the public.

Some of the mass consumption of alcohol in Russia became apparent, oddly enough, when the big meteorite struck Russian soil. News reporters wondered why everyone happened to have a video of the event, seeing as how relatively few people, you would think, walk around all day with a video cam pointed skyward for no apparent reason.

However, it turns out that a lot of Russians strap cameras to their dashboards to document the antics of crazy, drunken drivers and looped police officers. So, now that the whole world has stepped up to start YouTubing hilarious episodes of Russian vehicles pinwheeling across the highway, Putin is saying enough is enough.

As part of this general effort to improve public health, the government has now banned smoking in public places.

Remember how we were always taught that the Communist Soviet Union was inferior to us because the government controlled every aspect of people’s lives? Curious then, that it would take them a decade longer than us to quash the freedom to smoke.

But the real kicker in this new, healthy lifestyle initiative is that, according to press reports, is that “beer will be designated as an alcoholic beverage instead of a food.” This means that all those street-corner stands in Russia that sell beer the way we sell wieners have to go away.

That’s a bit depressing. Take away Russia’s alcohol and you take away its soul, at least as I understand it.

But, if any Russians are too pained by the new rules, they are always free to move here.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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