Mixed Spirit Beverage Task Force gains approval on final day; Bills to create mixed spirit beverages category die for the 2023 session

A joint resolution that creates a 10-member task force of lawmakers to make recommendations on the distribution, sales and taxation of cocktails-in-a-can gained approval on the final day of the 2023 regular session. The governor signed it into law June 16. The Mixed Spirit Beverage Task Force is to meet within 60 days and submit recommendations for legislation to the governor by the fifth day of the 2024 regular session.

Meanwhile, two bills that would have required mixed spirit beverages to be distributed through a licensed wholesaler and sold through retailers licensed for either on-premises and off-premises consumption had a public hearing May 31 but died for lack of action.

The Senate Tourism Committee conducted an hourlong hearing but did not vote on SB321 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and SB194 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and Singleton.

The two Senate bills would have created a new category of ready-to-drink liquor beverages called mixed spirit beverages. Under both, a mixed spirit beverage was defined as being packaged in a single-serving container of no more than 16 ounces that contains no more than 12.5% alcohol.

The 55-page-long SB194 would have required beverage distribution though exclusive wholesaler franchisee licenses, while the 34-page-long SB321 did not include the exclusivity provisions.

Curtis Stewart, administrator for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, testified that the cocktails-in-a-can that would have been allowed in convenience and grocery stores under these bills would contain three times as much alcohol content as the average beer. “The content is too high,” he said.

The legislation would have also increased the distribution network for these beverages from about 900 stores to more than 7,000 stores, Stewart said, which would give underage drinkers better access to beverages with a higher alcohol content.

In Alabama, liquor and liquor-based products can be sold for off-premise use only at private package stores (more than 700) and state liquor stores operated by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (about 200).

Grocery and big-box retailers spoke in favor of the legislation, while package store owners and soft-drink bottlers testified against it.


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