California Repeals Alcohol Infusion Ban

Bars and restaurants free to age, infuse wine and liquors

California Gov. Jerry Brown last week gave bars and restaurants in his state something to toast when he signed a law making it legal to infuse wine and spirits with fruits, herbs, and spices.

Brown said Wednesday he had signed Senate Bill 32, introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association and California Restaurant Association, among numerous business trade groups and small businesses, supported the bill, Leno’s office said.

“I am pleased that the Governor has recognized the need to update an unnecessary regulation that has prevented businesses across California from making infused beverages available to their customers,” Leno said Wednesday in a statement. “This Prohibition-era statute did nothing more than punish California restaurants and small businesses that are using culinary innovations to survive in this difficult economy.”

Both chambers of the California Legislature unanimously approved the bill, which revised the state’s Business and Professions Code, originally intended to protect consumers from dangerous concoctions, such as moonshine.

The bill contained an urgency clause and became law immediately after Brown signed it.

“We are certainly cheering the repeal here at Bottle Cap,” said Pete Gowdy, bar manager of the 10-week-old, 103-seat restaurant and lounge in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. “We are barrel-aging a Vieux Carré cocktail — 10 liters — that will now be legal to serve. We’re also planning on one new aged cocktail a month as a cornerstone of the bar program.”

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