Squeezing the Health Violations

When the New York Times turns its investigative skills toward the mundane details of life, the result is often pleasingly surreal. This is the case with the recent story “A Corona, Please, and Don’t Hold the Lime,” which reports on New York City health inspectors cracking down on bartenders putting lime in Coronas with their bare hands.

How else are you supposed to put a lime in a Corona? Well, according to the story, the health inspector suggests plastic gloves or tongs. So the Times reporter set out to ask several bartenders to adopt one of these techniques. The reactions are priceless. Says Dale DeGroff, a former bartender at the Rainbow Room and author of The Craft of the Cocktail:

It’s been accepted practice for 200 years in New York that a bartender will twist a lime in your gin-and-tonic. Can you imagine bartenders wearing rubber gloves and how ridiculous that would be?

As another New York Times piece back in March pointed out, it’s not even clear that gloves prevent the transmission of illness. Gloves get dirty just like hands, and while employees might think to wash a dirty hand, they’ll often assume the gloves are just fine, even while switching from handling raw meat to ready-to-eat food. Latex can also cause allergies, while vinyl contains a possible carcinogen.

And the always-smart Law for Food blog points out that “According to the FDA, most bacteria cannot grow in solutions with pH lower than 4.6. Also according to the FDA, limes have a pH of between 2.0 and 2.8.”

Over at Serious Eats, Adam Kuban suggests that some entrepreneur should come up with a bar robot that can mix drinks. “Between pours,” he writes, “it could dip its ‘hands’ in boiling water for sterilization before lime-ing a drink.”