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