Alcohol

Oklahoma City Cops Say Infused Liquor Is a Crime

A bar manager was busted for flavoring vodka with bacon.

|

KOKH

The Pump, a bar in Oklahoma City, used to be known for Bloody Mary cocktails featuring vodka infused with flavors such as bacon, garlic, pickles, and jalapenos. That was before the bar's manager, Colin Grizzle, was arrested last April for mixing those ingredients into distilled spirits, which according to Oklahoma City police is a clear violation of state law. Now The Pump's owner, Ian McDermid, is asking the state's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE) to decide whether the cops are right.

"You should see the look on people's faces, the laughs, when you say my manager went to county lockup for three days because we put strips of bacon inside a bottle of vodka," McDermid told the Oklahoma City Journal Record. But to the Oklahoma City Police Department, it's no laughing matter. "They found bottles of alcohol were being emptied, contents put in the liquor and [the liquor] put back into the bottle," MSgt. Gary Knight told KOKH, the local Fox station. "Obviously this is a violation of law. You cannot pour alcohol out and pour anything back into the bottle then serve it. You simply cannot do that. Regardless of what you're putting in it, even if it's just water."

KOKH

Knight is referring to Title 37, Section 584 of the Oklahoma Statutes, which says "no holder of a mixed beverage…license shall refill with any substance a container which contained any alcoholic beverage on which the tax levied by Section 553 of this title has been paid." Violations are punishable by up to six months in jail.

It seems unlikely that legislators meant to ban liquor infused with other flavors, which is the very basis of a "mixed beverage." In an interview with KFOR, the NBC station in Oklahoma City, Brett Behenna, a local defense attorney, argued that police are misapplying the law. "If you were to change the alcohol that's in there, change its content, either decrease it, dilute it with water, some other substance, that would be in violation of the statute," Behenna said.  "When it says 'refill,' that seems to connotate changing it with some other kind of liquid, and I don't think that happened in this case."

John Maisch, a former ABLE attorney, has asked the commission to address the issue. "If the restaurants are doing something unlawful, then they need to be notified that it's unlawful," Maisch told The Journal Record. "There are dozens of restaurants throughout the state of Oklahoma that are infusing drinks, so if it's illegal then someone has neglected to tell them."

McDermid said he is losing some of his brunch business to competitors who continue to serve drinks featuring infused vodka. Customers "ask for it every brunch, and they're always disappointed," he said.

McDermid nevertheless does not plan to infuse again unless he gets permission from regulators. "We are seeking clarification from the ABLE commission as to whether infusing spirits is legal and what method of infusion is acceptable," he told KFOR. "We simply want to play by the rules, we just need to know what the rules are."

Lest you think this sort of arbitrary cocktail meddling is limited to benighted locations such as Oklahoma, which has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, California regulators also have been known to take a dim view of flavor-infused spirits. California law prohibits bars from engaging in "rectification," defined as "any process or procedure whereby distilled spirits are cut, blended, mixed or infused with any ingredient, which reacts with the constituents of the distilled spirits and changes the character and nature or standards of identity of the distilled spirits."

[Thanks to Dan Dunlany for the tip.]

NEXT: Brickbat: Unhealthy Viewing

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE)

    They botched a perfectly good opportunity for the perfect acronym. This group should be ALE!

    1. Ah,Newcastle Brown Ale,one of my favs,along with Bass,and any Samuel Smith;s.Damn limeys make some good beer

    2. I guess they needed their Federal Alcohol Intermediary License in better order

    3. My Co-Worker’s step-sister made $13285 the previous week. She gets paid on the laptop and moved in a $557000 condo. All she did was get blessed and apply the guide leaked on this web site. Browse this site….
      This is what I do________ http://www.Trends88.com

  2. Do the two halves of a Boston shaker each count as a ‘container’ for purposes of this law? If so, you’ve outlawed all mixed drinks.

    1. Spirit-only drinks are generally stirred, so only the potentially less alcoholic ones.

      Gotta make sure people drink less, after all!

    2. What good is it to have the power and not use it? They need to jail someone now and then to justify their jobs.

    3. A Boston shaker never contained taxed alcohol.

  3. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure-grain alcohol?

    1. We have never wondered anything about you. That topic just doesn’t come up that often.

      1. (((anti)))

        1. Apathy is only anti-interest.

          1. That is interesting.

  4. Huh. So what are people supposed to do after they have poured liquor (or whatever else is covered by the tax in question) into a glass and consumed it? Pitch the glass in the trash? If the city’s reading of the law is right, doing anything else is illegal, and there law is unconditionally overbroad.

    1. Oh, it’s even worse than that, if you consider one’s *stomach* to be a “container”.

      1. And that piss with cost you, too.

        1. It’s refilled containers all the way down!

    2. The alcoholalcohol isn’t taxed in the glass. Read the fricken article.

  5. I’m thinking a bar named The Pump could’ve infused the vodka with something worse.

    1. +1 special sauce

  6. By even arguing the law is being misapplied, it is justifying the law that does exist. As if it would be legitimate to arrest someone for watering down a drink instead.

    It only exists for these cunts in government to extract maximum revenue in the first.

    1. Yes, how dare they put ice in the drinks, diluting the potency.

  7. Lest you think this sort of arbitrary cocktail meddling is limited to benighted locations such as Oklahoma, which has some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, California regulators also have been known to take a dim view of flavor-infused spirits. California law prohibits bars from engaging in “rectification,” defined as “any process or procedure whereby distilled spirits are cut, blended, mixed or infused with any ingredient, which reacts with the constituents of the distilled spirits and changes the character and nature or standards of identity of the distilled spirits.”

    Um, isn’t that any mixed drink at all? Or even a drink with ice?

    1. Damn, I guess I was breaking the law for years pre-mixing and refrigerating bottles of Martini’s.

  8. McDermid nevertheless does not plan to infuse again unless he gets permission from regulators. “We are seeking clarification from the ABLE commission as to whether infusing spirits is legal and what method of infusion is acceptable,” he told KFOR. “We simply want to play by the rules, we just need to know what the rules are.”

    Sigh.

    1. His business depends on the whim of the enforcers. It’s doubtful he can afford to take a principled stand.

      1. Yeah I know it’s very costly. I don’t really begrudge him for that. But if you look back at how prohibition fell, it’s because most people decided not to “play by the rules”. I suppose the state has learned not to tighten its grip so hard or when to be selective.

  9. Guess every other legitimate crook in Oklahoma City has been caught. Every murder, assaulter, rapist, arsonist, thief, etc. You know, the tangible crimes…

    1. They’ve decided on a bottom-up policing strategy.

    2. The cops here ARE the rapists.

  10. McDermid nevertheless does not plan to infuse again unless he gets permission from regulators. “We are seeking clarification from the ABLE commission as to whether infusing spirits is Slither.io custom skins legal and what method of infusion is acceptable,” he told KFOR. “We simply want to play by the rules, we just need to know what the rules are.”

    1. Not even a good attempt at dude.

  11. “no holder of a mixed beverage…license shall refill with any substance a container which contained any alcoholic beverage on which the tax levied by Section 553 of this title has been paid.”

    “They found bottles of alcohol were being emptied, contents put in the liquor and [the liquor] put back into the bottle,” MSgt. Gary Knight told KOKH

    So the answer is to put the infused beverages into decanters instead of back into the distribution bottles.

    1. You beat me to it. There’s probably a law against that too.

    2. Note the important words in the quote, “on with the tax is levied…” The state is afraid they’re not going to get their cut.

    3. Why not just stuff the bacon rashers (or whatever ingredient they want to infuse into the vodka) directly into the bottle, rather than emptying it first? Wouldn’t that also solve the problem?

  12. These laws are intended to prevent unscrupulous bars from taking empty bottles of expensive hooch and refilling them with cheap grain alcohol and flavor packets. Because, let’s face it, far too many people have no idea what they are really tasting.

    http://redheadoakbarrels.com/p…../essences/

    It would seem the easy solution to this issue is to not put the liquor back in the original bottle – instead put it in another self labelled container. Which, really, is what any ethical food/drink seller should be doing anyway.

    But maybe there is another law against that. In which case that is the one that should be changed.

    The only thing that should be in a labelled bottle of hooch is exactly what came from the bottler. I suppose you could add a secondary label, but then that gets into the issue of what the customer can actually see.

    1. Or you could just tell the customer that you put a strip of bacon in their stoli.

    2. It is a crippled attempt to babysit barkeeps like almost fucking everything else the goddamn claptrapping suited boars shuffling the arrogant marble halls snidely write into their violent social scripts.

      1. I like you.

    3. Restaurants have been sued for giving you a Pepsi (because that’s what they have) when you ask for a Coke. That’s why damn near every waiter/waitress will ask you “is Pepsi okay?” if you ask for a Coke and they only serve Pepsi.

      I find it hard to believe that the alcohol industry can’t do the same and instead requires the local footpads to bust some heads in order to keep the brand pure.

  13. So if I mix soda water in my whiskey, I am a criminal?

    1. Mixing scotch or bourbon with anything is a hanging offense.

      1. Worse, they could force him to drink the stuff.

        1. Agreed. Even George Thorogood knew to stagger them.

          1. Well,he was bad to the bone,

            1. What’s up? The rent MFer.

          2. That don’t confern me.

  14. There goes my idea for a bar with Slushee/Vodka drinks.

    1. Bourbon Street thanks you for the lack of competition.

    2. As long as you don’t put it back in the vodka bottle you’re ok.

  15. “You cannot pour alcohol out and pour anything back into the bottle then serve it. You simply cannot do that. Regardless of what you’re putting in it, even if it’s just water.”

    ESPECIALLY if it’s water!

  16. Not to nitpick… but every time a barkeep pours from a bottle, he is also refilling the bottle with air. Lock his ass up! We gotta protect the people! Think of the children!

  17. His mistake was to put the “flavored” vodka back into its original bottle.
    He should have used a plain bottle (one that had had its label stripped off).
    He then could have used a marker to write the name of the flavor on the bottle.
    Of course, laws like this go back to the days when every bottle of booze that was emptied had to be “broken” to prevent its re-use. Which were common until there were a rash of cut hands by bartenders, bar-backs, and clean-up personnel and OSHA took a dim view of the requirement.

  18. Screw the government. We don’t need it to tell us how to make our Bloody-fucking-Marys.

  19. The government proves, once again, that there is NOTHING it won’t stick its big fat nose into.

  20. it’s unamerican to not allow bacon to be added to things at will!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.