State lifts old ban on infused alcoholic beverages

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into immediate effect a senate bill on Sept. 21 which ended an outdated, state-wide ban on infused alcoholic beverages.

SB 32 — proposed by Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco — officially lifted an old law in California prohibiting the sale of alcohol that is mixed with fruit, spices, vegetables, herbs or any other food product.

Leno worked with many supporting local organizations in San Francisco to write this bill, according to a press release from his office. These institutions include the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, San Francisco Small Business Commission and Family Winemakers of California.

Ali Bay, Leno’s press secretary, said the original ban on infused alcoholic beverages was approved in post-Prohibition days for public health reasons.

It only came to prominence in recent years when bars and establishments in popular California cities began selling cocktails — technically prohibited under the law, as cocktails contain alcohol that is infused with other flavors — to attract customers and promote tourism.

“In 2008, the (Alcoholic Beverage Control) started cracking down on establishments in San Francisco that were selling infusions, because infusions had become increasingly popular,” Bay said. “And according to the long-written law, it was illegal.”

Leno’s press release noted that an estimated 50 percent of San Francisco area bars already created and served infusions prior to the bill’s passage. It promoted SB 32 as an “update” to simply “modernize” state law.

The bill included an urgency measure, which meant that it entered into effect as soon as Brown signed it last Wednesday.

Establishments in California will now be able to legally sell alcoholic beverages infused with any sort of flavor or food. Bay commented that she has even heard of some people mixing alcohol with products such as bacon.