California bars rejoice as infused alcohol ban lifted

on 25/09/11 at 7:28 am

Booze News

In this city famous for food and drink experimentation, so-called “craft” bartenders have fought for three years to overturn a Prohibition-era state law that banned bars from infusing flavors into alcohol.

Bartenders, worry no longer.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law repealing the ban on imbuing alcohol in bars and restaurants with fresh flavors.

The antiquated law was forgotten until 2008, when the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control — after noticing an increasing number of Bay Area bars infusing booze with their own flavors — issued an advisory telling its licensees that “rectification” of distilled spirits at their businesses was illegal.

While no bars or restaurants ever received fines or were cited under the law, owners in San Francisco, where the practice is common and growing quickly, said the fear of fines or revoked liquor licenses stifled creativity and a burgeoning new business. There were reports of raids on some city bars by ABC, and stern warnings of fines.

“At the end of the day, no one would be telling a chef that they can’t take a beautiful Italian olive oil and mix it with a clove of garlic and make a great garlic olive oil,” said Josh Harris, a bartender and owner of The Bon Vivants, a cocktail and spirits consulting company, who helped organize an online petition in support of lifting the ban.

“To us, it’s the same thing.”

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