You've heard about Pegu Club's troubles with the NYC Health Department over raw eggs in cocktails (now happily resolved). It now seems as if we might have some homegrown troubles brewing, and for absurd reasons -- the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been citing and fining bars in San Francisco for serving homemade bitters and elixirs, all due to a ridiculously outdated Prohibition-era law:
Technically, it's illegal to modify liquors, per a Prohibition-era law that was put in place to ensure the public that bars wouldn't tamper with the alcohol, unbeknownst to the customer. Obviously, nowadays, pretty much all of the well-known "artisanal" cocktail places make their own house syrups and whatnot, and it's unlikely that a yuzu bitter (or whatever is in that 10-ingredient drink) is misleading the public. It's one thing to crack down on underage drinking, but it's another to take aim at the outdated laws, which one bar owner described as the equivalent of issuing multiple jaywalking tickets all of a sudden.
The article only describes "a well-known cocktail hotspot" for getting busted for serving infusions, and I haven't heard anything through the bartending grapevine as yet. This is great though, isn't it? Because the State of California is rolling in cash and manpower and has absolutely nothing better to do than harass bars for serving infusions and housemade bitters.
Sounds like it's time for us to write or call our Assemblypersons, especially if this behavior keeps up.