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6 Weird Alcohol Laws From Around the Country

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The laws that govern alcohol may make your head spin more than the booze itself. Specific drinking statutes vary by state, and fully understanding the language of these laws can be difficult. We’ve put together a list of some of the more surprising laws from around the country. Remember to drink responsibly (and legally).

1. YOU CAN CARRY ALCOHOL ONTO A PLANE, BUT YOU CAN'T DRINK IT DURING YOUR FLIGHT.

Per the FAA, “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder [e.g. flight attendant] operating the aircraft has served that beverage.” If you’re still not sure, consider this: People report that fines for first-time offenses range from $3000 to $5000. Looks like you'll have to settle for the $11 mini-bottles they serve in-flight.

2. BARTENDERS AT RESTAURANTS IN UTAH MUST WORK BEHIND A TRANSLUCENT PARTITION.

These structures are known as “Zion curtains,” and they were put in place to make drinking less glamorous to impressionable kids. In the 1960s, before bars were legal in the state, the idea was born in social clubs where glass partitions were the norm. Almost 50 years later, the requirement was lifted—but only for a year. In 2010, the regulation was put back into place [PDF]. Meanwhile, researchers have found that there’s no actual data to back the idea that the partitions help curb underage drinking.

3. IN ALABAMA, BOOZE LABELS CAN'T BE TOO SEXY OR PROFANE.

Seven years ago, the state of Alabama rejected the sale of a Hahn Family Wines bottle because the label featured a nude nymph. Although it had been sold in the state for three years, it was vetoed for being inappropriate. The state prohibits advertisements that include “any person(s) posed in an immodest or sensuous manner,” and the wine label was found to fall under this code. Luckily for Hahn, the ban caused a bump in sales.

4. IN INDIANA, BARS AND RESTAURANTS THAT SELL "BY THE DRINK" MUST ALSO SELL MILK.

According to Indiana state law, establishments that sell individual drinks must “have food service available, at all times, for at least 25 persons.” At minimum, they have to serve soup, sandwiches, coffee, milk, and soft drinks. Hey, at least some of those ingredients can be used in cocktails!

5. AS LONG AS YOU'RE UNDER THE LEGAL LIMIT, YOU CAN DRINK WHILE DRIVING IN MISSISSIPPI.

It may sound like a joke, but Mississippi doesn’t have open container laws for drivers, just as long as they stay beneath the legal threshold of intoxication. If your blood alcohol content is over .08 and you’re stopped, you will qualify for a DUI and any and all relevant legal charges and punishments.

6. IN OKLAHOMA, MOST BOOZE HAS TO BE SOLD WARM.

Under state law, beer, wine, and spirits over 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) must be sold at room temperature in stores. Currently, legislation is being moved through the Oklahoma House of Representatives state to allow refrigerated beer and wine sales. But for now, you’ll just have to wait for your beer to chill.

BONUS

Some of the craziest laws have recently been repealed or updated, but no list would be complete without these out-of-date favorites.

UNTIL 2014, YOU COULDN'T BUY MINI BOTTLES IN LOUISIANA.

Though you can get a daiquiri at a drive-thru daiquiri stand, you couldn’t buy 100 mL bottles. Luckily, the bill allowing their sale was signed into law in June 2014.

UNTIL RECENTLY, YOU COULDN'T BUY A DRINK ON ELECTION DAY IN KENTUCKY OR SOUTH CAROLINA.

Politics may drive you to drink, but you couldn’t buy alcohol while polls were open in Kentucky or South Carolina until 2013 and 2014, respectively. Count your lucky stars.

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What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
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If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
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The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

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