What’s in a serving size? Servers and sellers should remain vigilant as higher-alcohol beverages hit the market

wine bottlesIf you’ve taken your TAM® training, you know that a standard serving size for alcoholic beverages refers to 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol, 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, which are 40% alcohol by volume. Knowledge of these standard serving sizes is very important, and can be helpful when you are observing patrons for increasing signs of intoxication. You can estimate how much alcohol they have consumed. However, it has become increasingly common for wine and beer to have a higher than standard amount of alcohol by volume.

As reported by Health 24, it’s not uncommon for many wines to now register at 14-15% alcohol which throws off the standard five ounce serving. While a standard beer may register around 4-5% alcohol, the increasing number of microbrews and premium beers with higher alcohol content are also throwing a wrench into standard serving calculations. Finally, consumers can purchase flavored malt beverages which are packaged in bottles and sold at convenience, grocery and liquor stores across the United States. They can range anywhere from 5-12% alcohol depending on the choice. With all of these variations, it’s easy to see how patrons can easily consume more alcohol than intended. And, as a result, quickly become much more intoxicated.

Knowing this, servers, bartenders and anyone else responsible for service and sale of alcoholic beverages has a very important job on their hands… knowing how to spot an intoxicated guest, and knowing when to intervene or cut them off. As a server, it’s important to make sure that your guests are having an good time, are served exactly what they ordered, and remain respectful of the establishment and others without being over-served. What do bartenders and servers need to know, and how can they use this knowledge to provide responsible beverage service? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Read the labels and be knowledgeable about alcohol levels in the products you offer. If you have a bottle of wine or a beer on the menu with high alcohol content, it may be worthwhile to print the alcohol percentage on your menu, or at least be knowledgeable enough to answer guest questions about the alcohol content. A server can also politely mention the higher than average alcohol content to any guests ordering that beverage. A simple, “Here’s your beer. Just so you are aware, this particular bottle has a 10% alcohol level, so this is about double the standard alcohol serving,” would be appropriate.
  • When serving and observing guests, don’t just consider a drink’s potency, consider the serving size as well. Even if you are serving a standard 5% alcohol beer to a guest, if they are ordering a 16 ounce pint glass instead of a 12 ounce bottle, then this is still delivering more alcohol than one standard single serving. As always, remain observant.

To learn more about safe beverage service and any warning signs to watch out for in patrons, take our alcohol awareness course and get TAM certified.

Resources

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Safe Beverage Service – Higher ABV Wines Require Special Consideration

Wine ABVIf you’ve taken your TAM® Card training, you know that all alcoholic beverages are not created equal. A standard serving size means 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol, 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, which are 40% alcohol by volume. This calculation helps when you are observing your guests for increasing signs of intoxication. You can easily estimate how much alcohol they have consumed and act accordingly to keep things safe.

However, it is becoming increasingly common for wines to have a higher than standard amount of alcohol by volume (ABV). Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself when opening a bottle of wine for patrons, but the standard 12% ABV isn’t always the norm. As reported by Health 24, it’s not uncommon for many wines to now register at 14-15% ABV, which throws off calculation on a standard five ounce serving.

Additionally, as reported by FWx, a new study suggests the ABV listed on a wine label might not be correct. The study indicated that nearly 60% of the 100,000 bottles tested came back containing a higher percentage of alcohol than was listed on the label. The average overstatement was roughly 0.42%, which might not seem like a lot. But, it could still lead hospitality professionals and guests to underestimate the amount that has been consumed, and put them at risk.

With variations like this, it’s easy to see how patrons can easily consume more alcohol than they intended to, and much more quickly reach unintended levels of intoxication.

So what does this mean for you as a service professional?

  • Read the labels and be knowledgeable about alcohol levels in the products you offer. If you have a bottle of wine or a microbrew on the menu with high ABV, consider including the alcohol percentage on your menu. A server can also mention the higher than average alcohol content to any guests ordering that beverage. A simple, “Here’s your beer. Just so you are aware, this particular bottle has a 10% alcohol level, so this is about double the standard alcohol serving,” would be appropriate.
  • When serving and observing guests, don’t just consider a drink’s potency, consider the serving size. If you’re offering bottle service, it is very important to keep an eye on guests and keep a tally of how much they are consuming. And even if you are serving a standard 12% wine to a guest, if they are ordering a tasting sampler with three 3oz glasses, or a larger 7oz pour, then this is still delivering more alcohol than one standard single serving.

To learn more about safe beverage service and any warning signs to watch out for in guests, complete an alcohol awareness course with TAM® of Nevada.

Wine Tasting with Your Groceries? Whole Foods Invites Customers to Sample the Selection

Alcohol awareness training isn’t just for bartenders and servers in Nevada. Grocery and convenience store clerks and cashiers in Clark and Washoe Counties are also required to obtain their TAM® Cards (Nevada Revised Statutes). Off-premises liquor sales account for a major chunk of sales in Nevada, and employees of these establishments need to be just as familiar with the Techniques of Alcohol Management® as those who are serving drinks to bar patrons. Given this, Nevada off-premises professionals are already in a great position to support a move to bring bars into one of its upscale grocers… if Whole Foods brings this new feature to its Nevada locations! That’s right, the upscale grocer known for organic and locally sourced items is looking to expand its offerings in an effort to entice customers to stay longer, enjoy the selection of goods, and boost sales of beer and wine.

According to an article by Bruce Horovitz in USA Today titled, “Whole Foods Tests Bars Selling Craft Beer and Local Wine in its Stores,” Whole Foods has made the decision to open bars in about a dozen of their locations across the country serving craft beer and local wine. If the response from thirsty shoppers is positive, chances are good that even more locations across the country will start offering this service. While Whole Foods isn’t trying to compete with traditional bars, it’s clear they think this service will appeal to their niche market.

What do you think about this surprising move by Whole Foods? Do you think grocers are inviting trouble by allowing their shoppers to linger in the store over a glass of wine? According to spokeswoman Kate Lowery, Whole Foods certainly isn’t worried about a rowdy crowd. They’ll be checking I.D. when necessary and monitoring guests, just like any other bar. Kudos to Whole Foods for exploring this new bartending market! Read more of Bruce Horovitz’ article here.

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© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Bon Appetit! Food and Wine Pairings 101

There are only 174 Master Sommeliers in the world, and 16 of those call Las Vegas home, more than any other U.S. city (Mastersommeliers.org). Not everyone can be a polished wine aficionado, but a server can demonstrate their skill and competence to their guests with some basic knowledge about food and wine pairings. An understanding of what basic combinations go together best, and the skill to recommend a bottle you have on hand to pair with a meal will impress your guests and demonstrate your knowledge. Here are some tips every service professional should know:

  1. Match the texture of the food with the texture of the wine. If you’re going for a hearty or rich meal, make sure to pick a robust wine that will hold up to the textures and the flavors, and vice versa (Real Simple).
  2. When choosing a wine, take the sauce and preparation into consideration, not just the meat. Many people rely only on the meat when choosing the wine and stick with the old standby that white wine goes with white meat and red wine with red meat. However, the sauce is often the dominant flavor in a dish, and a buttery, smooth chardonnay can pair beautifully with pork or steak, when it’s finished in a cream sauce (Wine Country Network).
  3. Always follow personal preferences! Ask your guests what their favorite wines are: some people just don’t like red wines, wines from a particular region, etc. Spices, aromas and flavors appeal to people in different ways, so help your guests to follow their taste buds’ preferences to find something they will like.

Another suggestion for some wine education, and a helpful tool to boot, is Natalie MacLean’s Wine & Food Matcher. Pop in any combination of dishes and/or wines (or cocktails!), and the tool will make suggestions for pairings.

A little help goes a long way, and now you’re well on your way to feeling confident in making suggestions for tasty and memorable combinations. What are your favorite food and wine pairings?

Resources

The Court of Master Sommeliers – Membership

5 Keys to Pairing Food and Wine – Real Simple

Food & Wine Pairing Tips – Wine Country Network

Nat Decants – Wine & Food Matcher

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada