Liquor Infusing Illegal in Iowa (Unless You Buy it from the State)

Old-school, hand-crafted cocktails have been exploding in popularity for several years now. Great cocktail spots have sprung up in cities and towns across the country. (Jacob Grier, a friend and fellow Reason contributor, was the first person I knew personally who recognized the impending craft cocktail boom.)

Recently a restauranteur in Iowa thought he'd capitalize on the phenomenon by infusing his own liquors. You can pretty much guess how that went.

When Kurt Friese began building a handcrafted bar for his restaurant, Devotay, he had visions of creating cocktails with his own infusions and bitters.

But then he found out about an Iowa law that prevents restaurants and bars from selling liquor which is stored in anything but the original packaging purchased from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

According to sections of Iowa Code 123.49, establishments with a liquor license also cannot have any liquor on the premises that has been infused with contents such as fruits, vegetables or herbs, with the exception of mixed drinks or cocktails made for immediate consumption.

Whole thing here.

Though tasty, this isn't excactly rocket science we're talking about here. Infusing liquor involves cutting up some fruit or whatnot and covering it with booze for a few days. That's about it. Really.

So what's the big deal? I'd look right to the section of Iowa code that mandates Iowa bar and restaurant owners must purchase all their hooch from the state. While this makes Iowa "one of nineteen control states that, since the repeal of prohibition, directly control the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages," it also gives the state an incentive to force bars to purchase pre-infused liquors from the state. Lo and behold, a state guidance document, Investigating Infusing (PDF), urges just that practice in lieu of infusing one's own liquor:

In order to keep up with the demand for infused spirits, the Division recommends licensees purchase liquor that has been infused by the manufacturer. We currently carry a number of products infused with fruits such as pineapple and passion fruit as well as citrus and ginger.

Reason's had the recent skinny on state liquor news in Utah, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington State.

Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go hereTo follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Though tasty, this isn't excactly rocket science we're talking about here. Infusing liquor involves cutting up some fruit or whatnot and covering it with booze for a few days. That's about it. Really.

    Except for the sticking the fruit up your ass.

  • Anal-Fixated Libertarian||


  • Robert||

    That's how Drinky Crow would do it. Except without the fruit.

  • Rich||

  • Detour||

    Try to focus, Rich.

    And now, back to our story.

  • Rich||

    Thanks, Detour. I needed that.

  • ||

    Hey Baylen! Put up a byline! Oh, and welcome!

  • Baylen Linnekin||

    Thanks. Looks like the squirrels fixed it for me.

  • Atanarjuat||

    I'm going to shamelessly and rudely put an off-topic link here: an interesting blog post entitled The Case Against SpaceX.

    As an advocate of commercial spaceflight I can understand why many find it difficult to write objectively about SpaceX - which is arguably the poster child of this nascent industry. As a result, the majority of negative commentary about our darling comes from a horrible "journalist" like Andy Pasztor at The Wall Street Journal or a traditional aerospace mouth-piece like Loren Thompson at Forbes. An occasional coherent comment on a blog or space forum may be accepted by the space community as containing a nugget of truth, but these are easily filed in the don't-think-too-hard-about basket and forgotten.
  • Auric Demonocles||

    I know they make too much use of the old-boys-network for their hiring, though that's true of most places.

  • Detour||

    Try to focus, Atanarjuat and Auric.

    And now, back to our story.

  • ||

    Infusing liquor involves cutting up some fruit or whatnot and covering it with booze for a few days.

    I have made quite a few fruit liqueurs this way:
    2C chopped fruit, 3C 40% vodka and 1C sugar is a good start, adjust from there to taste.

    Now if only we could legally distill for home use in the US I could actually make a decent amaretto and anisette.

  • kinnath||

    Strawberries and Rum instead of vodka.

  • Ska||

    I go with pineapple cubes and dark rum.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Peaches and shine.

  • T||

    Bacon, bacon fat, bourbon.

  • ||

    Was it you who once linked to a recipe for this (I think it was quite some time ago)? I am a fan of both bacon and bourbon and kinda want to give this a try.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    The Bakon Mary from Slater's 50/50 saved my life once... or at least prevented a massive hangover.

  • T||

    It's easy peasy, Dags. Cook up a batch of bacon, pour the grease and the bacon into a jar, and pour bourbon over top. I used Evan Williams, I think? Old Forrester might be good, too, as it's my go-to inexpensive bourbon these days. I wouldn't use an expensive bourbon, as you're pretty much going to kill any subtlety in the flavor of the bourbon.

    The grease sits on top so every day or so give it a shake. After 2 or 3 weeks, you have bacon and bourbon all in a glass. It's like magic.

    I think I'm having a bacon mary with leftover thanksgiving tonight.

  • ||

    Awesome. This will be my holiday project.

  • Robert||

    Why don't you infuse it in the animal, as they did on a Simpson cartoon with the festive alco-hog?

  • Robert||

    2C, 3C? Homeopathic cocktails?

  • Brendan Perez||

    No Skittles vodka? Fuck them!

    I did 10 skittles per oz and made 15 bottles-one for each flavor in the classic (red), tropical (blue) and berry (purple) bags.

    It's well received at parties and tailgates. Chill it, serve with club soda. Smells exactly like skittles, tastes close, strong vodka flavor straight.

    I may experiment with something like 20+/oz. next time.

  • Homer Simpson||

    Homer: Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau?

    Apu: Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it.

    Homer: Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack and a couple of bags of Skittles.

  • Brendan Perez||

    I remember that episode. Sounds god awful.

  • Robert||

    Oh, that kind of Skittles. I thought until I read further that you meant the disks of fried mash.

  • ||

    I clicked over to Baylen's Twitter, and I like how he and his SO use "non-husband" and "non-wife." I was wondering what you call someone you are partnered with but don't plan to marry and that does the job nicely. I may avail myself of such titles at some point in the future, 'cause it just doesn't sound all that dignified to call a man in his damn 40's your "boyfriend."

  • ||

    "Partner" is good for those situations.

  • ||

    Whatever happened to POSSLQ (Person Of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters)?

  • Ted S.||

    "Sugar baby" or "sugar daddy", depending on who's got the financial pull in the relationship. :-p

  • AZ||

    Preserved lemons cured with herbs (basil or rosemary mainly) give a delicious salty-tart-herbal flavor to vodka that makes an excellent summer drink with some tonic.

  • Robert||

    So you don't sell the liquor infused with fruit, you sell the fruit soaked in liquor.

    Why am I the only one who thinks of these things, and why am I not rich? Seriously, I'm an extremely capable person and yet I have no paying job and no money. And someone I'm partnered with just got mad that I went after business she turned down.

  • ||

    Seems like a pretty genuibe deal to me dude. Wow.

  • ||

    This a perfect example of an issue that Libertarians could use for good publicity and to gain support from both the left and the right. "Support local food production and small business" sounds better than "cut regulations so that Big Business can do whatever it wants," which is what the left thinks when it hears the word "deregulation."


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.