Infusing controversy: State police liquor crackdown leads bars to pursue new law
Michael Reed talks bartending the way a lot of guys discuss sports. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
Michael Reed talks bartending the way a lot of guys discuss sports.
“Dale DeGroff is considered King Cocktail,” Reed said. “He’s one of the most visible bartenders in the world besides Tony Abou Ganim.”
As bar manager at Mai Thai, Reed specializes in infused liquors, making vanilla-infused cognac with fresh Madagascar vanilla bean, lavender-infused gin and other designer cocktails.
Or at least he used to until a couple of weeks ago when the state police shut those drinks down.
“It’s really a question of having an archaic regulatory structure,” Reed said.
The Idaho State Police’s Alcohol Beverage Control confiscated infused liquors from a handful of Boise establishments during a routine inspection the weekend of Feb. 2. It issued no fines, but let the raids serve as warnings of a newish interpretation of a prohibition-era law.
Idaho makes more than $50 million a year from the sale of liquor, but once a mixture goes into a barrel it becomes difficult to prove the bar bought the liquor from the state, easier for a bartender to lie about the quality of the liquor and – perhaps – increases the risk of over-service.
“There really is no adversarial intent there,” Reed said of the Alcohol Beverage Control’s crackdown. “There’s no hostility. They’re just trying to enforce the law the way they think it has been written.”
Reed and others want to rewrite law, preserving their right to three crucial drink-making steps: guaranteeing the quality of a product by premixing, aging mixtures in wood for as long as eight weeks and changing the taste of a product using infusions.
Until the legislature does pass a law approving those changes, fans of some of Mai Thai’s signature drinks will find themselves cut off.
“[They] will be missed,” Reed said of some of his infused cocktails.