California Repeals Alcohol Infusion Ban
Perry said the ABC’s actions had dampened sales at some bars and heightened anxiety among operators interested in working with infusions.
“I can't say it slowed sales; [it] felt more like harassment,” said Bottle Cap’s Gowdy, who recalled an ABC enforcement action at San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch bar when he worked there.
“They were infusing vodka and gin with cucumber and rye with pear [and] at least a case of each was dumped, possibly a tequila infusion as well,” Gowdy said. “In addition, their sister bar, Rickhouse, had to dump large quantities of infusions.”
As a result, Bourbon & Branch pulled several [infused] drinks off the menu and changed a few to fresh cocktails, Gowdy said.
Amanda Bowman, general manager of E&O Trading Co. in San Francisco, explained that her modern Asian restaurant “pulled our infusion jars” upon hearing that ABC said bars and restaurants were prohibited from selling the products. “We [had] had the jars prominently on display behind the bar and thought it was best to play nice until we knew exactly what was going on.”
Bowman said her staff used fresh fruits and muddling to try to re-create the flavors of infused products, “but often those cocktails were more work for less flavor.”
“I would say our bar program did change for a while, but our sales did not suffer,” she added.
For instance, the restaurant’s popular Lanai cocktail was made with pineapple- and vanilla-infused rum before the ABC crackdown. Before the law changed this week, “We tried different rums and syrups and muddling fresh pineapples and the drink was never the same,” Bowman said. “Our guests are thrilled the old recipe is back.”
— Alan J. Liddle