Option to buy 190-proof alcohol in Wisconsin may run dry

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2013 - 8:42 AM

2011 death is prompting action; Minnesotans make border runs.

The cocktail recipe calls for boiling apple juice, cider, cinnamon sticks and sugar, then adding a whole bottle of 190-proof Everclear.

Minnesotans who like to make “Apple Pie in a Jar” this time of year have to run for the Wisconsin border to get the highly concentrated alcohol, its sale outlawed in the Gopher state decades ago. But if some Wisconsin lawmakers and advocates have their way, the option of driving to the state next door could dry up.

A bipartisan bill is slated for introduction in the Wisconsin Assembly to ban 190-proof or higher spirits from Dairyland liquor store shelves.

Wisconsin Reps. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, and Terese Berceau, D-Madison, are working to pass the bill after the 2011 death of a 22-year-old man who drowned in a swimming pool after drinking a punch made with the potent alcohol. The Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse requested legislation a couple of years ago.

“People are totally unaware of how much alcohol they’re consuming” when the clear alcohol is mixed with other liquids, said Julia Sherman, coordinator of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School. “The potential for misuse is higher.”

Jacque pointed out that 190-proof alcohol is banned in at least 15 states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa.

“Safeguarding the health and safety of Wisconsinites far outweighs whatever reason there could possibly be for human consumption of intoxicating liquor containing 95 percent or more of alcohol by volume,” Jacque wrote in an e-mail. “It is poison and has sadly proven its destructive potential.”

At President Bar and Liquor Store in Superior, across the border from Duluth, about a case or two of Everclear goes out the door each month, cashier Crystal Andrews said.

Hudson Liquor, right across the Minnesota border, carries three brands of 190-proof grain alcohol and sells a couple of bottles a week, some to Minnesotans, manager Ross Freeman said.

Cocktail blogger Randy Hanson has made a few trips to Hudson from St. Paul specifically to buy 190-proof alcohol to make his own bitters, limoncello and even syrup for a homemade cola soft drink.

Highly concentrated alcohol is better for extracting and carrying oils from lemons, oranges, vanilla beans and other flavorings, he said. With today’s “cocktail renaissance,” people are eager to make their own drink ingredients, he said.

Now living in Oregon, Hanson, who writes on summitsips.com, acknowledged that he’s a different kind of customer than those trying to pack a wallop into a fruity punch.

While he respects the opinions of those hurt by someone’s death involving the product, he said, there are responsible uses for it.

“To ban something simply because it falls within a category or has a particular incident behind it … we could ban everything,” he said.

Beverages aren’t the only use for the potent alcohol.

Ted Bauer, owner of an industrial laser marking company called Accumark Inc. in Hudson, sporadically uses it to make a chemical reaction when printing bar codes and serial numbers on stainless steel. Going to the liquor story is easier than ordering from an industrial supplier, he said.

He doesn’t drink the stuff, though: “It just can’t be good for you. I see what it does to metal.”

 

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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