You Need to Know This Brilliant Bartender Trick to Cleaning Out Glass Bottles

published Nov 27, 2017
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

When you’re totally snooping on somebody’s shopping list, there’s no other word for it. You’re not being “curious” — you’re just being straight-up nosy. But I couldn’t help it. Left to my own devices for a minute while I was at my favorite local cocktail lounge in Louisville reporting on their new cocktail menu, I spied a scrap of paper. There among the scrawled lines noting limes, sugar cubes, mint, and rosemary was an item that made me furrow my brow: cheap rice. Not just rice. Cheap rice.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

One of these things is not like the other, so I had to fess up to my snooping. When Jeremy, the bar owner, returned, I pointed at the list. “What’s the deal with the rice?” I asked.

Jeremy is a sparkly-eyed, high-energy kind of guy anyway, but at this question he perked up another notch. It’s his trick, he confided, for cleaning bottles. They make their own syrups and such there, see, and all those tall, narrow-necked bottles are a pain to clean. It turns out this is a bartender trick for easily cleaning sticky residue from all those bottled concoctions.

All you have to do is add a handful of dry rice and some soda water to the bottle, he explained, shake it up, and boom! Gunk is gone.

Brilliant! I couldn’t wait to try this little experiment myself. The worst thing, when it comes to icky bottles in my house, is when I’ve left flowers in them for too long. Standing water + that powdery stuff you put in there to keep the flowers fresh (does that even work?) + living thing = green slime and general grossness inside the bottle.

I like to use everyday objects like water carafes, glass milk jugs, and bourbon bottles as vases and I’ve always had to carefully separate them from the vessels I’d actually use for serving because, no matter how many trips through the dishwasher they take, they never seem quite clean.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

So when I found myself with a bottle in need of some serious cleaning, I raided my pantry for the bartender’s secret weapon and got to work, using a handful of rice and enough soda water to fill about a third of the bottle and then shaking vigorously.


The bad: It was kind of a pain to get the rice into the narrow-necked bottle. I ended up pouring it into a measuring cup to tip it in, and plenty still went overboard (if I’d had a funnel, I would’ve used that). And after my shaking action I realized I had a bottle of fizzy rice water to dispose of (and don’t have a garbage disposal). I tried pouring out just the water, but gave up quickly and just dumped it all in the sink (with a drain stopper in place) and then had to clean the sink.

The good: It was effective at getting the gummy residue and spots out of the inside of the bottle and it was fun to play bartender and shake, shake, shake.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The verdict: If I had several bottles to clean at once, it would make the cleanup mess worth it. I’ll still run bottles through the dishwasher to sanitize them, but now I feel like I can use the same bottles during food and flower service and keep this cleaning trick in my pocket in between.

How do you clean the insides of narrow-necked bottles?