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California bellies up to the bar for infused liquor

Cocktail lovers can rejoice, as California Jerry Brown today signed a bill ending the state’s ban on infused alcoholic beverages.

SB 32, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, updates state law to recognize the widespread artisanal practice of infusing small amounts of alcohol with fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices for use in cocktails. The fight for the bill dates back to early last year, when state liquor regulators started cracking down on Bay Area bars.

Leno said today he’s pleased Brown saw the need to change the regulations. “In San Francisco and other cities where tourism is critical to the local economy, restaurant owners have been asked to stop serving infused cocktails in the name of an outdated law written decades ago,” he said. “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.”

The bill was supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, California Chamber of Commerce, Family Winemakers of California, California Music and Culture Association, California Restaurant Association, San Francisco Small Business Commission, Small Business California and various individual small businesses.

In this age of hyper-partisanship, apparently nothing unites lawmakers like a threat to their booze. The state Senate had passed SB 32 in June on a 39-0 vote, and the Assembly passed it in August on a 78-0 vote. The bill contains an urgency clause, so it becomes law immediately.