Gin Tonic, Caipirinha etc.: A Legal Analysis

Our colleagues at CMS Hasche Sigle do not only publish an excellent German-language blawg, they also dare to tackle questions that you always wanted to know the answer to, but were afraid to ask – I felt I had to share this one with you, and provide an English language summary: “What is the legal status of that drink in front of me, and what are my legal remedies if the bartender is cheating?”

As you might have guessed, Germany being a codified, civil-law system, there are well-defined rules governing the use of calibrated glasses, the Calibration Act (Eichgesetz), and the Calibration Ordninance (Eichordnung). Sec. 9 Calibration Act requires the glass that your bartender fills to be calibrated. It must bear a mark that shows the volume. But if things stopped here, it would be too easy: Sec. 3a Calibration Ordinance exempts such drinks from the requirement to use calibrated glasses that “contain alcohol and are mixed immediatly prior to being served from more than two sorts of drink (liquid drink component)” (alkoholhaltige Mischgetränke, die unmittelbar vor dem Ausschank aus mehr als zwei Getränken gemischt werden).

So let’s apply this to our favorite G&T: It contains Gin and Tonic. That’s only two liquid drink components, and the exemption does not apply. A calibrated glass must be used. But what about the ice? Well, it’s not water (yet), hence can not be construed as “drink” for the purposes of Sec. 3a Calibration Ordinance.  The slice of lemon is legally irrelevant as well. Same for Caipirinha: sugar cane rum and lime, two liquids, sugar and ice do not count.

Finally to the remedies, if there is not enough liquid G&T in the glas, as the ice takes up volume: Unfortunately, CMS advise us that, precisely because of the ice, the G&T is not a proper drink, but “liquid food sui generis”, and hence, we have to live with what we get – as long as the glas is calibrated. Kudos for getting that sorted!












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