Bell Pham and Von Huyn enjoying a lemon, lime and bitters. Ms Huyn considers it non-alcoholic. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Bell Pham and Von Huyn enjoying a lemon, lime and bitters. Ms Huyn considers it non-alcoholic. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Pub’s ban on lemon, lime and bitters sparks debate

THE teetotaller's staple glass of lemon, lime and bitters is at the centre of a brew-haha after a pub banned it for containing ­alcohol.

In what may come as a surprise to many, the aromatic key ingredient of the bar staple - Angostura bitters - has one of the highest alcohol contents of any mixer at 44 per cent.

But because it is used in tiny doses - usually just a few drops mixed with lime cordial and topped off with lemonade - the standard pub version of the drink does not officially count as alcoholic under liquor licensing laws.

 

The Panton Hill Hotel in Victoria imposed the policy after new Victorian laws prohibited the supply of alcohol to minors on licensed premises under any circumstances. Picture: Tim Carrafa
The Panton Hill Hotel in Victoria imposed the policy after new Victorian laws prohibited the supply of alcohol to minors on licensed premises under any circumstances. Picture: Tim Carrafa

 

"A standard lemon, lime and bitters drink contains mostly soft drink and a very small amount of bitters, it does not meet the definition of liquor," a Liquor and Gaming NSW spokesman said.

Under NSW law, an ­alcoholic drink is defined as a beverage which contains more than 1.15 per cent ­ethanol.

A glass of lemon, lime and bitters "doesn't make the threshold," said Australian Hotels Association NSW liquor director John Green.

"We're talking three to four drops of bitters over the contents - it's a drop in the ocean."

But a recent law change in Victoria has prompted one pub to crack down on the drink, banning it from being served to anyone younger than 18 and for staff.

 

Australian Hotels Association NSW liquor director John Green said a glass of lemon, lime and bitters “doesn’t make the threshold” if 1.15 per cent ethanol in NSW. Picture: John Appleyard
Australian Hotels Association NSW liquor director John Green said a glass of lemon, lime and bitters “doesn’t make the threshold” if 1.15 per cent ethanol in NSW. Picture: John Appleyard

 

The Panton Hill Hotel imposed the policy after new Victorian laws prohibited the supply of alcohol to minors on licensed premises under any circumstances.

"The way we make it, it is no longer just a couple of drops of bitters," the pub's duty manager Lynda ­Hunter said.

A Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation spokeswoman said a mixed lemon, lime and bitters would be considered an alcoholic drink only if a lot of bitters were added.

"The minor addition of bitters to a soft drink would not normally constitute ­liquor under the legal definition," she said.

 

NSW pubs were in no hurry to follow Victoria's lead.

Cameron Davis, who runs the Collector Hotel in Parramatta, said he had no plans to change his policy for lemon, lime and bitters and a ban was "overly ­cautious".

"I consider myself prudent and cautious, but I don't think I'd take action to prevent (serving it)," he said.

Parramatta woman Von Huynh, 43, does not drink alcohol but often orders lemon, lime and bitters when she is out with friends.

"I like the fizzy taste of it and its sweetness, I would consider it non-alcoholic," she said.

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