Brett Snider, Esq.
Chicago is a town that is known for infusing and imbibing liquor as much as it’s known for the Prohibition-era musical of the same name.
It’s a city steeped in jazz and bathtub gin, and even Chicago resident Oprah Winfrey has gotten into infused liquors.
But before you quaff a jalapeno-infused tequila sunrise, consider these laws affecting liquor in the Windy City:
1. Rectifying v. Infusing Spirits.
Infusing vodka with a tangerine essence may not be the same thing as making moonshine, but Illinois (along with other states) define rectifying as any process by which a liquor is made stronger or different by a process other than distillation.
When liquors are infused with sugary ingredients, especially fruits, for long enough, they begin to ferment, which in turn raises the alcohol content.
It is possible for this to be considered manufacture of liquor?
2. Beer, Wine, and Infused Spirits.
The infuser’s saving grace may come from a slim provision in the Illinois Liquor Control Act which allows an Illinoisan to make wine, cider or “other alcoholic liquor” from fruits and veggies so long as they aren’t distilled.
So a nice pear and ginger-infused vodka can be legally concocted, but it has be used exclusively for private consumption. In other words, you can’t sell it.
This same law also allows for hospitals, doctors, and dentists to use alcohol for medicinal purposes… so it might not be rock-solid.
3. Can Bars Make and Sell Infused Liquors?
Every establishment that wants to sell any liquor, much less infused, needs to be licensed with the proper permit by the state of Illinois.
Once licensed, a mixology bar should be able to legally infuse liquors as part of preparing mixed drinks.
However, a bar cannot sell a bottle of its own pre-infused liquor, and using a Ketel One or other original liquor bottle to house your homemade infusion may be illegal. For answers to more specific questions regarding Illinois liquor laws, you may want to consult an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney.
- 10 Secrets to Perfect Liquor Infusions (The Huffington Post)
- Liquor Licenses (City of Chicago)
- Is It Illegal to Make Moonshine? (FindLaw’s Blotter)
- How to Get a Liquor License (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise)