Monday, April 5, 2010

Prohibition by any other name

Prohibition, that long, national nightmare of officially mandated (and popularly ignored) sobriety, ended in 1933, and popular mythology has it that, upon its repeal, we all cracked open a cold one and lived happily ever after. Oh, if it were only so. In fact, the country's ambivalence toward alcohol -- at least as far as lawmakers and regulators are concerned -- continues. Stupid and intrusive laws still hobble the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol -- not outlawing the business but, in fine American fashion, just making it a little more difficult and painful than it ought to be.

For one thing, never mind that the cocktail is largely an American concoction, too many of our countrymen object to the idea of blending alcohol with anything that might make it yummier. Reporting on the consequences of a law apparently rooted in the fear that the road to damnation is often taken one bonbon at a time, the Raleigh News & Observer tells us:
Savage, a Raleigh chocolatier whose alcohol-spiced chocolates are - make that were - sold as quickly as he made them, has had to get even more creative than usual to keep the flavors his customers covet without the state-forbidden rum, scotch and beer he used as spices.

Someone from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services called him in late March, he said. "They told me I had to cease and desist" selling the most popular creations "because they contained alcohol," he said.
Mixing caffeine with booze has also come under fire (was Castro's rise to power sparked by the heady mixture of rum and coke?). Reason's Jacob Sullum reports:
In November the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned 27 manufacturers that they may be violating the law by selling alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine. Although the FDA allows the use of caffeine in soft drinks, it has never approved mixing the stimulant with alcohol. Unless the companies can demonstrate that this particular use of caffeine is “generally recognized as safe,” the FDA said, they have to take their products off the market.
And even bartenders mixing long-proven recipes are at risk from the pleasure cops. In states around the country, it's difficult for bartenders to get components for many traditional cocktails, and sometimes even illegal for them to manufacture their own mixers or to incorporate ingredients regularly used by chefs and pastry cooks -- like egg whites. Reason TV documents the hoops mixologists have to jump through in this interview with Todd Thrasher of the PX Lounge in Alexandria, Virginia.

But keeping your booze unblended won't keep you out of trouble. In San Bernardino, California, authorities have targeted alcohol that's too convenient.
Proponents say a new law called a "deemed-approved ordinance" would standardize city rules affecting liquor stores. Enacting this kind of law could make it easier for city officials to clamp down on the sale of "forties" and other single servings of beer and malt liquor that some officials and researchers link to alcohol-fueled crime.
Because Heaven on Earth will be at hand when you can only buy your beer by the case.

Alcohol remains mostly legal in most places in the United States. But officials seem eternally torn about the wisdom of letting us enjoy our drinks in peace. No, we don't have Prohibition any more. Instead, we get nags and nannies eternally fretting that we may actually be enjoying our booze.



Blogger akaGaGa said...

And let us not forget that all-American control mechanism of choice: taxes.

Here's a chart of taxes on distilled spirits by state:

April 6, 2010 6:58 AM  
Anonymous claude said...

These guys will make a comeback yet.

April 6, 2010 12:34 PM  

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