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Artisanal = illegal


cdh
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Read all about it: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/mbauer/detail?blogid=26&entry_id=57788

Coming from a legal background, and liking good drinks, long ago I did look at some liquor laws and they did seem to outlaw most of the craft of bartending if taken at face value... it appears that somebody in California has started taking that state's liquor laws at face value. It would appear that you're on shaky legal ground if you do anything to booze other than open the bottle and pour it into a glass.

What we call artisanal, the law calls adulterated. How could we change the law to keep a control on unethical dives selling watered down well spirits poured into top shelf bottles, while still allowing a cocktailian bartender to practice his craft?

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Seems excessive. Taking this to a logical extreme, it would appear mixing rum with coke would not result in mixed drink, but rather an "adulteration." But, this line from the article says it all: "This law may be great for the spirits industry who are now making a fortune infusing alcohol with various flavors..." As is typical, our corporate overlords are the ones who make and ensure enforcement of our laws.

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[T]his line from the article says it all: "This law may be great for the spirits industry who are now making a fortune infusing alcohol with various flavors..."

That's the sentence that jumped out at me, too. Somebody's waving their Zippo under these inspectors' butts, and it isn't John Q. Public.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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This is just the latest show of force by the ABC of California. For instance, there are a couple of clubs here in San Francisco that do live music and are 18 and over...the deal is, if they want to serve booze, they also have to serve food and the food sales have to count for at least 50% of their revenue. Of course, at these kind of places that's almost impossible to accomplish, and all the ABC is doing by fining/shutting these places down is stopping people aged 18-20 from hearing live music.

I think it really comes down to the budget crisis here, and the state is willing to do ANYTHING to raise a little money.

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Seems excessive. Taking this to a logical extreme, it would appear mixing rum with coke would not result in mixed drink, but rather an "adulteration."

Exactly. By that definition, all cocktails are illegal. And that statement about changing the alcohol content; Anything you do can only reduce the alcohol content, not increase it, so what's the problem?

"Barkeep, I'll have a whiskey and water."

"My apologies, dear patron, but I'll have to serve you the water on the side. Were I to add it to your whiskey, it would change the alcohol content of the spirit, which, under the laws of the Sovereignty of California is not allowed."

Furthermore, anything that "changes the character and nature of vodka" can only be an improvement. And I challenge the claim that mixing sugar and citrus juices with vodka "initiates a maturation process." They seem to have no clue what they are talking about.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Seems excessive. Taking this to a logical extreme, it would appear mixing rum with coke would not result in mixed drink, but rather an "adulteration."

Exactly. By that definition, all cocktails are illegal. And that statement about changing the alcohol content; Anything you do can only reduce the alcohol content, not increase it, so what's the problem?

From the wording of the advisory, it's based on liquor law - as opposed to, say, health & safety.

Isn't the idea that the abv stated on the bottle is somehow legally certified - so if I buy a legally-mandated-size shot of legally-monitored spirit that says 40% alc on the label, I know what I'm getting ? Watering down is a big no-no.

Of course ultimately the bar is left to do the measuring. How does it work ? Is the manufacture and sale of optics legally restricted ? And how about measuring cups ? Is serving from them in front of the customer mandatory ? In practical terms, a bar could use a measuring system that splits the infusion made from one bottle into the 20 or 30 or how ever many shots come from a bottle in that jurisdiction, but my guess is the law related to serving liquor will outlaw it. Bars - not all bars, of course - have shown in the past they can't be trusted to come up with a fair measure, unregulated.

One way around the problem would be to make your infusions so strong that a few drops or a teaspoon will flavour a whole glass of drink - then add it to a measured shot of spirit. In the end you're slightly over-serving spirit - but there's no control over what you charge for your flavourings and mixers. Workable for many infusions, probably not for all.

Lastly, if you went the legal route there's a hole to pick in "... reacts with and changes the nature...", because of the difference between reacting and mixing: "reacting" having a specific meaning involving exchange of atoms between molecules, like acid + base = salt + water. But as someone said already, there's a whole world of trouble and expense between evading legal pressure and engaging through the courts.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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This is just flat out silly. I understand that there have to be laws governing not allowing greedy restaurateurs to replace cheap rot gut well vodka into the empty Belvedere bottles, and there absolutely should be laws governing those sorts of adulterations. But this is just an over reach. And this is coming from the state that named my limoncello recipe one of its Top Ten recipes of 2004 in the L.A. Times. Doesn't add up somehow.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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It's probably because Governor Schwarzenegger's good buddy Danny Devito has his own brand of limoncello. :wink:

Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen I think we might have a winner. Wouldn't be the first time a politician did a favor for a buddy, right? :wink:

Interestingly, there are no Capital Grille locations in California, so the Stoli Doli martinis remain safe in the other states. But what about all those bars/restaurants in San Francisco (e.g. Sip, Elixir, Etiquette, etc.) that are infusing various liquors for their specialty cocktails? There's certainly been enough press about those places and drinks. What of all that? I'm sure there are a million places in L.A. that do the same, not to mention the upscale places in Napa and Sonoma that are undoubtedly doing it as well. Will there be an ABC taskforce running around to write "warnings" like parking tickets?

I wonder if a "low enforcement priority" is quite the came thing as a "NO enforcement priority"?

This is beyond stupid. Let's see how long this lasts. Seems like they're creating their own worst nightmare in terms of enforcement.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I'm sure the ABC law pre-dates Schwarzenegger by a long time.

That's not to say there isn't protectionism involved here - the liquor lobby (everywhere, not just in California) is huge and well funded. And they get listened to. Why? Tax money. I don't know the California statistic, but for the US, revenue from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) accounts for a full one third of the income of the US Government. There's a reason the BATF agents used to be called "revenuers".

But the odds of this having to do with the Governator knowing DeVito are slim.

And for those worried that this means all mixed drinks are also illegal, their memo issued in 2008 to clarify the law, clearly states that this does not apply to mixed drinks prepared for immediate consumption.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

My T shirt site: Guy Bling

My NEW Ribs site: BlasphemyRibs.com

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And for those worried that this means all mixed drinks are also illegal, their memo issued in 2008 to clarify the law, clearly states that this does not apply to mixed drinks prepared for immediate consumption.

Right. So, for example, you're allowed to muddle caraway seeds in your rye whiskey a la minute, but you're not allowed to make caraway-infused rye.

--

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So would this law be applicable to, for example, restaurants making their own vanilla extract?

The distinction between potable and non-potable spirits might mean that the crackdown will not be extended to bitters, extracts, and tinctures. See here for a more informed analysis than I'm capable of.

 

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Part of the problem here is that in order to 'Rectify' spirits, one needs a particular license, right? And if you have that license, you can't sell what you make directly to someone in a drink - You'd need to sell it to a bar who'd then be allowed to mix it into a cocktail.

So, silly question: Can a bar have someone (An employee or pseudo-employee, I guess?) get the license, whip up the infusions and then 'Sell' them to the bar? (I use sell loosely here. Presumably precisely at cost).

I'm not a lawyer, but if the rectifier's license isn't too hard to get, that could be a temporary solution. At least until the laws get changed to something sensible in 20 or 30 years...

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This is an extremely odd use of the word "rectify." There are, as far as I know, two meanings of "rectify" that could apply here: the chemical meaning and the legal meaning.

To a chemist, "rectify" means to purify or separate out impurities, usually via repeated distillation. Infusing alcohol with another substance, then, would be the opposite of rectification in this sense.

To a lawyer, "rectification" is when the court orders certain changes in a legal document to correct errors (in the US it's typically called "reformation"). This doesn't seem to apply either.

FWIW, "rectifying" in the context of booze generally means refining and purifying the distillate via multiple distillation.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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It would appear that the ABC is actually using the word "rectify" incorrectly even according to their own licensing information.

A Type 08 "Rectifiers License" says that "this type of license is frequently referred to as a "distilled spirits rectifier's license", which is incorrect since the license also permits the rectification of wine. This licensee is authorized to cut, blend, rectify, mix, flavor and color distilled spirits and wine upon which excise tax has been paid and, whether rectified by the licensee or another person, to package, label, export and sell the products to persons holding licenses authorizing the sale of distilled spirits (Sections 23016 and 23368). This licensee may sell distilled spirits and wine without the need for any other license, but he/she may not sell wine to a person who does not hold a license that also authorizes the sale of distilled spirits. A rectifier may also elect to function as a distilled spirits wholesaler, but when doing so, he/she must comply with all of the provisions applicable to a distilled spirits wholesaler (Section 23371)."

It seems as though they are looking at all the things one can do with a rectifier's license (viz., "cut, blend, rectify, mix, flavor and color") and then call that all "rectifying" because it's done under a "Rectifiers License." It's interesting that they distinguish "rectify" from "flavor and color" in the description of the license, and then appear to combine them under one definition when they say that "rectification is any process or procedure whereby distilled spirits are cut, blended, mixed or infused with any ingredient. . ."

In any event, it seems pretty clear from the license description -- particularly the reference to excise tax -- that this wouldn't be easy for a bar or restaurant to obtain.

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Is this strictly a California issue?

Is there any suggestion, other than speculation, that this is the beginning of an effort by large liquor companies to outlaw infusions nationwide?

I've been half-following this issue, and it just seems like another dumb liquor law in a country full of dumb liquor laws. But maybe something bigger is afoot.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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This is an extremely odd use of the word "rectify." There are, as far as I know, two meanings of "rectify" that could apply here: the chemical meaning and the legal meaning.

To a chemist, "rectify" means to purify or separate out impurities, usually via repeated distillation. Infusing alcohol with another substance, then, would be the opposite of rectification in this sense.

[...]

FWIW, "rectifying" in the context of booze generally means refining and purifying the distillate via multiple distillation.

This is interesting to me because that is always how I have understood the meaning of the word in the booze context, and yet a regular at work will often say that he is "rectifying" his glass of Scotch by adding miniscule amounts of ice or water until the alcoholic heat has been reduced. The guy is a world-class bloviator and talks out of his six more often than not but when this topic came up I wondered if maybe he knew a definition of the word I did not. I should add that the guy is a university professor--in Chemistry. Yes, he has a PhD. No, he doesn't normally really know what he is talking about (but is very opinionated nonetheless).

Where does this alternate usage come from?

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Is this strictly a California issue?

Is there any suggestion, other than speculation, that this is the beginning of an effort by large liquor companies to outlaw infusions nationwide?

AFAIK making in-house infusions is against the code in every state. It's just hardly ever enforced.

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To a chemist, "rectify" means to purify or separate out impurities, usually via repeated distillation. Infusing alcohol with another substance, then, would be the opposite of rectification in this sense.

[...]

FWIW, "rectifying" in the context of booze generally means refining and purifying the distillate via multiple distillation.

This is interesting to me because that is always how I have understood the meaning of the word in the booze context, and yet a regular at work will often say that he is "rectifying" his glass of Scotch by adding miniscule amounts of ice or water until the alcoholic heat has been reduced. The guy is a world-class bloviator and talks out of his six more often than not but when this topic came up I wondered if maybe he knew a definition of the word I did not. I should add that the guy is a university professor--in Chemistry. Yes, he has a PhD. No, he doesn't normally really know what he is talking about (but is very opinionated nonetheless).

Where does this alternate usage come from?

The earliest usage of "rectify" means, more or less, "to put right." However, almost concurrently (c. 1450) we see the chemical usage meaning "to purify or refine (any substance) by a repeated or renewed distillation, or by come chemical process; to raise to a required strength in this way; also to flavor (a liquor) with some substance during rectification." There is a later usage that means "to put right by calculation or adjustment" that was mostly used with respect to adjusting compass readings starting in the 1500s. (This all from the O.E.D.).

I imagine your customer would assert he is saying that he is "putting the scotch right" by lowering the proof "by calculation." It seems like a stretch to me -- especially given the far more common usage within the context of distilled spirits. Even if one is using it poetically, it has a connotation of purification, refining and "righting" by removing things (errors, substances, impurities, etc.).

It's interesting to me that the ABC in California seems to have taken the position that infusion and rectification are the same thing. Alcohol often is flavored with something and then rectified (e.g., gin, absinthe, etc.), but a straight infusion isn't rectified in my book, nor according to any definition I've ever seen.

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