Tag Archives: infusion

ABC Retreats from Ban on ‘Infusion’ Mixed Drinks

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s executive director retreated Monday from plans to begin enforcing on July 1 a law he had interpreted as prohibiting restaurants from soaking fruits and juices in alcoholic beverages to create “infused” mixed drinks.
Critics had disputed the legal interpretation and said the prohibition would hurt the business of bars and restaurants that cater to customers with specialty drinks.
In an emailed statement, Keith Bell said the TABC still believes “the process of manufacturing infused alcoholic beverages, not for immediate consumption” by those holding only a liquor-by-the-drink license is a violation of a 2006 law and ABC rules.
“The TABC nevertheless determined it to be in the public interest that the regulatory enforcement of this prohibition be indefinitely suspended,” Bell said.
The retreat came after a Monday morning meeting between Bell and representatives of groups who disagreed with his interpretation of the 2006 law, including the Tennessee Hospitality Association and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“There was a full and frank discussion of the matter and what was intended and what was not” by the 2006 law, said Dan Haskell, general counsel and lobbyist for the Tennessee Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants and motels.
With enforcement of the ban on infused drinks suspended, Haskell said he now anticipates further discussion on whether the ABC needs to change its rules or the Legislature needs to clarify the law in the 2014 session.
The law in question dealt with distilleries, effectively allowing them to sell products they make on premises that amount to a pre-mixed drink — Jack Daniels Lemonade or Jack Citrus, for example, produced by the whiskey distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.
Bell decided earlier that the language of the law prohibits anyone but distilleries from mixing fruits and juices with alcohol if they are then stored and not consumed immediately. Such storage could raise health concerns, he said.
“I think calmer heads will prevail,” said Haskell, contending the the state Department of Health, which inspects restaurants, would have raised the issue if there were any health concerns. Connoisseurs believe some period of time is needed for the “flavors to marry up,” he said.

More on ABC’s Alcohol-Soaked Fruit Flap

A controversy over the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s move to ban restaurants from soaking fruits and the like in booze to create a mixed drink (previous post HERE) is getting more attention… and may be left for legislators to resolve.
From WPLN:
The issue centers on who’s allowed to make infusions–where an ingredient like fruit soaks in alcohol to flavor it, often for several days. Tennessee’s ABC says in looking back at a law from 2006, it found that in some cases, making infusions requires a distiller’s license, which restaurants can’t get.
In an email, the commission says despite what some people fear, the rule does not apply to drinks like margaritas or sangria. But Nashville lawyer Will Cheek warns restaurants that infuse liquors don’t want to risk having their license pulled.
“If you’ve got pineapple and fruit sitting in a vat of vodka, you need to be pulling that stuff out–it needs to be gone by July 1st.”
When the Tennessee Hospitality Association sent a letter arguing the commission is misinterpreting the rule, Cheek signed on, representing a couple major restaurant chains. If the commission won’t budge, Cheek says the matter could end up before state lawmakers next year.

And this excerpt from Cari Wade Gervin’s thorough review of the dispute, its history and ramifications:
Bell says he’d be fine with a law change–he says he’s encouraging people to look at newly passed legislation in Iowa that better regulates “Mixed Drinks or Cocktails Not For Immediate Consumption.” But according to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division, that law requires pre-mixed batches of drinks to be disposed of within 72 hours if not consumed. Bars are also required to keep records–for three years–detailing when each and every batch is made and disposed of, along with the recipe, the ingredients, and the names of the person who made the batch and the person who disposed of it.
We asked Sohn if this seemed like a practical solution. She laughed loudly.
“Yeah, no,” Sohn says. “It would be very wasteful. … If they changed it to that, we probably still wouldn’t bother with infusions.”
Scanlan says he hopes TABC will reconsider its actions, but Bell doesn’t seem inclined to do so.
“I’m going to have to apply the law as it is right now,” Bell says. “I’m pretty certain we’ll start issuing citations sometime in the next few weeks.”


See also a Chattanooga Free Press editorial, opining that “the fun police are back, and this time they have their sights set on making sure that you won’t be able to sit back and enjoy a house-infused liquor at your favorite restaurant or neighborhood bar.”