Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: A Shaker Full Of Legalities

I can just picture the scene.

A concerned parent is out strolling through the park with his/her offspring(s) when, suddenly, a wild-eyed pervert leaps out of the bushes and starts mixing a cocktail right in front of them.

Oh, the horror!

Utah state legislators are pushing to be sure that never happens without a legal penalty being attached. They’re actually trying to restrict restaurants from making mixed drinks in full view of minors. Senate president Michael Waddoups says proposed legislation is necessary to protect the “safety and mental future of our children.”

If he and any like-minded colleagues have their way, restaurants that serve drinks will be forced to remodel if their bar isn’t screened off from the dining room.

In other beverage legal news:

–When it comes to taking people to court to protect terms applied to wines and spirits, the French take a backseat to no one. Woe to any competitor who misuses such terms as “champagne” and “cognac.”

However, a court in Paris recently put a spin on that situation when it ruled that a French firm must cease selling a spirit it calls “tezcal” because the word is too similar to “mezcal,” a version of tequila.

The suit was brought by the DCE Ultramarine company, which distributes mezcal in France. It said La Martiniquaise, the company distributing the controversial spirit, were likely to confuse shoppers.

The term “mezcal” is protected by the International Denomination of Origin status for agricultural products and foodstuffs. The court fined La Martiniquaise $40,000 and ordered it to remove all “tezcal” bottles from shops.

Mezcal is one style of drink made from the agave plant and, by international agreement, is a Mexican-only beverage. At one time, it was a low-end drink, with 100 percent blue agave tequila on the opposite end of the scale. However, as the global market for agave-based spirits has steadily grown in recent years, more distillers have been producing purer and more flavorful mezcals. There are eight varieties of agave approved for mezcal production. The most commonly used is the espadin agave.

— The state of Kansas has never really made the jump from being a “dry” state to one that allows full-strength beer to be sold in supermarkets and liquor stores. Now, both houses of the state legislature are considering bills that would end the requirement that beer sold in such outlets may not have an alcohol content greater than 3.2 percent.

Senate President Steve Morris said similar bills have failed before and he foresees well-organized resistance again from businesses seeking to avoid competition.

The weak beer, also known by the rather unappetizing name of “cereal malt beverage,” came into vogue as a way to sold legally, then as an exception to selling to people under age 21.

However, advocates for the change point out that the market for 3.2 beer, first introduced in 1937, largely disappeared in 1985 when the state raised the minimum drinking age to 21. — (William M. Dowd covers the global adult beverage field online at .(c) 2009 Hearst Newspapers