A New Way to Drink Oneself to Death on Vacation

The latest take on the chain of deaths in the Dominican Republic — and some deaths receiving less attention at resorts in Mexico — has to do with counterfeit alcohol.

The case for this is that resort owners are under pressure to reduce costs, and imported alcohol is expensive and carries high taxes on top of the import costs. For that reason, beverage managers may turn to less legitimate sources of alcohol. These alternative sources may either manufacture or import cheaper product without government knowledge or inspection. What might you find in the bootleg product? Methane, for one, plus an array of other poisons and carcinogens. The FBI has taken alcohol samples back to its crime lab in Quantico. No report has been released.

Slightly less sinisterly, workers may drink beverages in mini-bars and replace it with something else to hide what they did. In one case, a soda bottle was reported to contain bleach. Very tasty!

The problem isn’t limited to the Dominican Republic. There have been reports of deaths after drinking from minibars in Punta Cana, Cancun, Bahia, as well as at resorts in Asia. Travelers are encouraged to watch their drinks being made and check the integrity of bottles before consuming what’s in them. The US State Department issued a warning about counterfeit liquor after the death of a Wisconsin woman in 2017.(2) At that time, the Mexican government seized counterfeit liquor at 31 resorts.(3)

Of course, this is all very good PR for Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The former has a plentiful and quite legitimate local rum supply. There’s no market for bootleg when the real stuff is all over the place. And Puerto Rico is under US jurisdiction, with little tolerance of illegal imports of anything.

Something to think about when planning the next trip to the Caribbean.


  1. Carly Baldwin, “Toxin Exposure Possible In Dominican Deaths, Rutgers Prof Says,” Patch.com, 19 June 2019. https://patch.com/new-jersey/newbrunswick/toxin-exposure-possible-dominican-deaths-rutgers-prof-says
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/us/mexico-state-department-alcohol-warning/index.html
  3. https://www.safeproof.org/fake-alcohol-mexico-resorts/
  4. https://nypost.com/2019/06/13/authorities-eyeing-bootleg-liquor-as-potential-cause-of-dr-tourist-deaths/
  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/dominican-illicit-alochol-may-have-killed-tourists-report-history-2019-6

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