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California Cracks Down on “Rectification” of Spirits


Limoncello Infusion

Photo Credit: Ventura Limoncello Company, Ventura, CA

California mixologists and bar owners take heed, the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) is actively cracking down on bars and restaurants currently practicing the art of distilled spirits infusion. This recent crack down comes as a result of an industry advisory report the ABC released on the Rectification of Distilled Spirits in On-Sale Premises. The report states:

It has come to the attention of the Department that some on-sale licensees are exceeding their license privileges by engaging in rectification of distilled spirits in violation of Section 23355 of the Business and Professions Code.

Rectification is any process or procedure whereby distilled spirits are cut, blended, mixed or infused with any ingredient which reacts with the constituents of the distilled spirits and changes the character and nature or standards of identity of the distilled spirits.

One example of rectification is, but not necessarily limited to, creating products such as “lemoncello” or “limoncello” in which sugar and citrus products are combined with vodka and stored, initiating a maturation process which consequently changes the character and nature of the vodka, and possibly its alcohol content.

The simple mixing of alcoholic beverages with other ingredients for immediate consumption is not considered rectification.

I’m extremely puzzled by the ABC’s use of the word “rectification“. When I think of rectification, I think of Everclear or Moonshine — not limoncello.

Anyone who has ever consumed an alcoholic beverage prepared with an infused liquor can attest that this so called “act of rectification” is a key component to the art of mixology. Telling a mixologist that he cannot infuse distilled spirits is like telling a chef that he cannot marinate his meat, which is absolutely ridiculous. But, I’m not a chemist so I cannot say with confidence that infusing vodka with sugar and lemons does not change its alcohol content. But being a mixologist myself, I can state that I have my doubts. 


  1. Wine Dog | Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    The ABC thinks it’s important to crack down on high end restaurants making their own after dinner digestivo? How evolved.

  2. sonja | Thursday, February 25, 2010

    The state is over reaching. While infusing vodka with lemon and sugar does decrease the alcohol content, (think- simple syrup contains water) this is a dumb move by the state. Next thing you know all drinks will have to come prebottled. I don’t see Hendricks making a bottled G&T.

  3. Robert | Saturday, February 27, 2010

    So sad! Shoot an industry when it’s finding a way to grow and peak. Of course ABC could find a way to ensure safe handling practices are followed, but cracking down on something using the letter of the law rather than its intent is sad indeed in these tough economic times.

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