Fancy Infused Liqueurs and Pre-Mixed Margaritas in Peril in Tennessee!


Credit: SusieFoodie / photo on flickr

Ah, summer. The perfect time for a nice cool pitcher of sangria. Or perhaps something a bit higher end—a cocktail featuring house-made mint-infused liqueur made by a fancy mixologist.

Late last week, all that summertime fun seemed to be in jeopardy in the Volunteer State, with Tennessee alcohol regulators announcing that on July 1 they would begin enforcing a 2006 law that prohibits restaurants and bars from infusing alcohol with food products.

While the most obvious interpretation of this law would have banned your local watering hole from experimenting in-house with flavored liqueurs (flavored spirits from licensed distillers would still be legit), the wording is vague and could also prohibit sangria and other kinds of drinks that are pre-mixed to allow flavors to blend. 

A Nashville TV station reported on Monday

[Food law expert Will Cheek] said the enforcement of the law could have an impact on tourism in Tennessee. Cheek contends the state is becoming known for high-end food and cocktails.

"So we're going to lose some of the coolness factor that Tennessee's had," Cheek said.

Cheek said he, and others affected by this law, plan on taking the issue to Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

And so he did. By yesterday, legislators were singing a different tune

Keith Bell, [Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission] director, said in a statement that the decision [to suspect enforcement indefinitely] was made in order to "formulate workable guidelines and definitions so as to gauge the growing and changing taste and desires of the consuming public."

Bell and the alcohol regulators maintain that the infusions are still technically illegal, however, which leaves restaurants and bars in a state of limbo. Drink up while you can, Tennesseans!

More on cocktail crackdowns from me and Reason TV

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  1. Nobody needs infused liquor.

    1. Someone slept through the 2012 election cycle.

  2. Here’s a workable guideline for you. Let restaurants decide what they’ll prepare and me decide what I’ll order.

    1. Who do you think you are?! An independent, responsible adult human being? You can’t be trusted with decisions of such import!

      1. *Whom* do you think you are? It’s a self-answering question!

  3. There was a pretty sizable backlash against the TN ABC board when this news came out and so far it looks like cooler heads will prevail.

    Tennessee has had a long history of good ole boy liquor distribution networks (Thank you Gov. McWherter!) lobbying the various regulatory boards successfully to allow them to monopolize the market. They’ve been fading over the last couple decades, but this whole issue was an example that they can still rattle some cages when they want to.

    We will see if they go through with the July 1st deadline but from what I’ve heard they are backing off.

  4. Local to me (southern Indiana):…..t-citation

  5. OT: Coat made of chest hair. I don’t want to know what the matching hat is made out of.

  6. This’ll be the big liquor distributors putting the squeeze on TNABC and nothing more.

  7. a 2006 law that prohibits restaurants and bars from infusing alcohol with food products.

    So does Federal law, equally stupidly, and equally generally without enforcement.

    This is why every law should be enforced – so there will be pressure to remove them, rather than having them hanging around until it’s convenient to use them to “get someone”.

  8. So no more dirty martinis or screwdrivers or bloody marys huh.

  9. It concerned me when a restaurant I love gave me homemade limoncello, because it’s an awesome place with awesome owners, and I didn’t want the state (PA, so you know it’s possible) to shut it down. Haven’t seen they offer it since then.

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