A Round of Mango Mojitos on the House: Infusion Is No Longer Rectification!
Gov. Jerry Brown has made California safe for lemoncello lovers and imbibers of Martian Martinis, bacon bourbon, cucumber gin, Bloody Marys tingling with habanero vodka and even Mona Lisa Green Monsters, margaritas infused with medicinal marijuana.
Up until the Democratic governor signed SB 32 on September 21, any cocktails made with “infused” alcohol sold by bars and restaurants violated state law.
Efforts by the state to enforce the law cast a pall on the burgeoning market of designer — and ever more exotic — cocktails enhanced by adding myriad flavors to the alcohol.
“In San Francisco and other cities where tourism is critical to the local economy, restaurant owners have been asked to stop serving infused cocktails in the name of an outdated law written decades ago,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat.
“This Prohibition-era statute did nothing more than punish California restaurants and small businesses that are using culinary innovations to survive in this difficult economy.”
Leno’s bill came in reaction to a crackdown by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on creators of drinks in which some substance is added to the alcohol – fruits, herbs, spices, vegetables, meat – that transforms its taste.
Makers of infused drinks were running afoul of the definition of what the law calls “rectification,” the department said.
A rectifier is someone who “colors, flavors or otherwise processes distilled spirits by distillation, blending, percolating, or other processes.”
To be a rectifier requires a separate license beyond what’s called an “on-sale” liquor license.
The catch is if someone holds an on-sale license – the type bars and restaurants have – they can’t also possess a rectifier license.
Same goes for supermarkets and grocery stores that have “off-sale” licenses.
Adding anything to vodka or rum or other distilled spirits that changes its character constitutes “rectification,” according to state regulators.
At least until Brown signed Leno’s bill.
Leno and supporters of his bill successfully argued that the law is archaic, aimed at preventing persons being served adulterated booze like moonshine.
California’s new law now distinguishes infusion from rectification:
A rectifier does not include “an on-sale licensee that colors, flavors, or blends distilled spirits or wine products on the on-sale licensed premises to be consumed on the licensed premises.”
Infusion is a local issue for Leno who says an estimated 50 percent of eating and drinking establishments in San Francisco serve infusions.
And, Leno argues, it’s an economic issue. The department’s warnings and subsequent crackdown yanked infusions off menus around the state, harming business.
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