Mini bottles are a great way for consumers to try small amounts of alcohol without buying a full bottle — or they’re a way for children to conceal their underage drinking without getting caught.
Those were the main arguments for and against reintroducing mini bottles to Utah’s liquor stores and bars, presented to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services Commission in a public hearing Tuesday.
Commissioners are considering a rule change, to bring mini bottles — which hold 1.75 ounces of booze — back to Utah after a three-decade absence. No final decision was made Tuesday; the commission will continue to take public comment through Oct. 17.
Kelly Duerr — representing the distilling conglomerate Sazarec, which is DABS’ biggest supplier, selling dozens of brands including Seagram’s V.O., Yukon Jack and Southern Comfort — testified that mini bottles “allows consumers who bake or cook [with alcohol] to buy only what they need, and it also allows people to get a little taste of luxury brands,” she said.
Duerr added that small portions allow for control of calories and alcohol consumption, and that because minis would only be sold in state liquor stores, youth access would be just as restricted as any other type of alcohol.
Those speaking against the return of mini bottles cited the ease by which people — particularly children — could carry them undetected.
“Mini bottles are available, concealable and potent,” said Walter Plumb, president of the nonprofit Drug Safe Utah Education, which advocates against vaping and other recreational drug use.
Gayle Ruzicka, president of the influential conservative lobbying group Utah Eagle Forum, said that when her 47 grandchildren visit on Sundays, they’re fascinated by the little hotel bottles of shampoo and lotion she brings home from her travels. “Why wouldn’t they be fascinated with these little mini bottles?,” she added.
Both sides cited the same source at different moments of the hearing: A 2017 Salt Lake Tribune article about the history of the mini bottle.
Heidi Baxley of Southwest Behavior Health Center, who argued against approving mini bottles, cited comments by Ken Wynn, former executive director of was then called the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, who is quoted as saying that they “were a favorite for underage drinkers and made for a stronger drink than what was recommended by federal health officials.”
DABS executive director Tiffany Clason countered that take, pointing out that it wasn’t a direct quote from Wynn. “I wanted to point out for the public record that it does go over and review the history of mini bottles,” she said, adding that Wynn also also quoted as saying he’d wished mini bottles had stuck around because “people deserve a good drink for the money they pay.”
The mini bottle was introduced to Utah bars in 1969, replacing the old habit of customers brown-bagging their own liquor into the bars.
The bottles were done away with in 1990, with exceptions in hotel mini-bars and on airline flights. Utah bars were allowed to put metering devices on full-size liquor bottles, dispensing just 1 ounce (and, later, 1.5 ounces) per drink — contributing to Utah’s reputation for watered-down drinks.