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Jun 30, 2008 02:42 PM

Laws about selling home made liqueur?

I've been really into making home-infused fruit liqueurs (Japanese plum wine and other fruit stuff), and was wondering if it would be illegal to make cocktails out of it and serving at a restaurants.
I know that in Japan, this is legal... but I am no longer in Japan! Other laws pertaining to home made alcohol in Japan also states that you can't make it with any grains or grape fruits.

I'm in California atm... I've been looking online, but can't find much!

Thank you!

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  1. I didn't look it up, but I can't imagine it would be legal. Liquor sale and distribution is highly regulated in the US and, in general, I think you'd have to be licensed to sell something alcoholic to a restaurant.

    Now, if you own a restaurant and already have a liquor license, it might be a different story.

    1. Almost 100% sure its illegal to sell your own liquor. The taxman loves alcohol and they'll do anything to tax it. I've heard that one bar that distills its own liquor has to actually sell it to the state, ship it off, buy it BACK, then they can sell it.

      Now I think that bars and restaurants can get away with making their own liqueurs (infusions) because they are merely adding flavor the the alcohol. Since they don't distill or otherwise mess with the ethanol they are ok... infusions are like a big cocktail anyway right?

      Of course if you don't have a liquor license, selling drinks is not likely going to fly. And trying to resell bottles is whole nother mess.

      Maybe if you GAVE your creation away to the restaurant it would be little different than an in-house creation. I probably wouldn't go telling your ATF friends though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: trojandude

        Yea, was a little confused about that...
        There is a sushi bar that I frequent that sells their own strawberry wine. Now it tastes like plum wine, only strawberry, so I am assuming that they infused it themselves. I would ask the owner about it, but at the same time I don't want to push the wrong buttons.

        I am hoping to open a tapas bar in the future, and wanted to feature my collection of infusion fruit liqueurs. Thank you for your insight!

      2. There are definitely laws that surround this topic. Assuming you purchased your base liquor at a retail store, then the tax on the alcohol is paid. The laws that affect you more in the scenario you outlined are resale taxes and liability.

        1. You have to be a federally licensed by the Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB- formerly part of the ATF) Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) to SELL anything made with alcohol. It doesn't matter if you infuse store bought spirits or distill them. You have to be a legal distillery. It was because of making my own homemade liqueurs that led to me opening my artisanal distillery.

          If you have a bar or restaurant with a liquor license you can infuse and macerate with spirits; and sell servings, but not by the bottle.