Age Gates & Other Liquor Laws

New book details the questionable history of alcohol in America.

Have you ever wondered why you have to supply your birthday to look at an alcohol-related website, even if it doesn’t sell booze? It seems intrusive and ineffective. And is, in fact, unnecessary—there’s no law requiring “age gates.” 

But there are plenty of other wacky alcohol laws. Richmond’s C. Jarrett Dieterle, the nation’s leading alcohol policy expert, among other titles, recently published Give Me Liberty and Give Me a Drink! 65 Cocktails to Protest America’s Most Outlandish Alcohol Laws (Artisan Books, $16.95). In the book, he recaps alcohol history, profiles “spirited patriots,” and details liquor legislation—then matches a cocktail recipe to each absurd example. You’ll both laugh and wince when you learn Louisiana banned mini bottles of booze; gas stations in Indiana can only sell warm beer; and here in Virginia, happy hour advertising became legal just last year. It’s a fun collection of conversation starters and cocktail recipes. Plus, Dieterle often calls for Virginia-made spirits and mixers, and lists them in the Resources.

C. Jarrett Dieterle

Still wondering about the age gates? Dieterle doesn’t cover them, but a little digging revealed that, even without a law, most alcohol trade associations require them of their members, presumably as a way of preventing underage drinking. And it might be working. In 2018, significantly more European and Scandinavian teens reported binge drinking than American kids. Maybe those inconvenient age gates help keep kids away from alcohol until they’re old enough to “drink responsibly.”

Reason enough to keep typing our birthdays.


Click here for Dieterle’s recipe for a Boilermaker, along with its history. This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue.

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