How Do I Ship Alcohol?

Every Christmas season shoppers the country over are buying presents for relatives in the form of bottles of wine, beer and spirits.  They’re thinking of stuffy in-laws who like their single malt and brothers who just want a taste of the local craft distillate. When they get the whole thing wrapped they get a severe shock at the post office when they try to ship it.

USPS

The USPS publication 52 on Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail lists liquor with a ABV of 0.5% or higher as prohibited.  That means the US mail is a no-go for anything even remotely drinkable.

Big Shippers

The two other major delivery services UPS and FedEx have the following to say.

UPS does not accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers.

And

Only licensed entities holding a state and federal license or retailers holding a state license may ship alcohol with FedEx. Consumers may not ship alcohol.

Several of these companies will ship to a licensed receiver if you are also licensed.  It took some digging to find, but the license they are talking about is a state permit to produce or sell alcohol.  In most cases this would be the same one you would have as a brewery, distillery, bar or winery.  It is possible that the shipping portion is an add-on to the basic license but this kind of thing varies from state to state so it’s impossible to say what the local regulations are for sure without a lot more digging.

What I can tell you is that the costs of a license vary all over from a $0 permit in Missouri to  South Carolina’s $650 fee.  Since each state would require a separate license and it appears you would need a license in both the state you are shipping from and the state you are shipping to, the costs add up quite quickly and the application lead times make last minute shopping impossible for such a simple purchase.  The need for 50+ license with appropriate rolling fees also means most breweries, wineries and distillers are not going to hold the requisite approvals to ship your purchase out of state.

Others

On the Grey Market side of shipping there are websites like Uship.com where one can proffer shipments to be taken by private services from here to there.  Since the jobs are bid on by the various haulers there isn’t a fixed price but the estimate tool on their site does allow you to select alcohol as your product.  I punched in two zip codes on either side of town, a trip of about 40 minutes in the right traffic and was presented with a bid of just over $200 for a 5 lb bottle of liquor.

Hand Delivery

If you have the desire, you can take the bottle to your loved one yourself.  According to the TSA you can take ,any quantity of alcohol (in checked bags) at less than 24% ABV as it isn’t regulated.  You may also take up to 5 Liters (a little over 6 normal bottles) of alcohol in you checked luggage so long as none of it exceeds 70% ABV.  Anything above 140 proof is right out.  For some more long winded and detailed info about taking alcohol into and out of the country see this post.

Carry-on still has the dumb limits on bringing liquids on board unless you managed to buy an overpriced bottle at the duty free shop.

One serious exception to the shipping rules are for wineries.  Several states, many of them big wine producers have joined a common cause pact.  Under this pact people may visit a winery, buy a bottle and have it shipped to their home.  The purchase is treated as if it occurred in their home state and the winery takes care of all the necessary paperwork.  This is a nice benefit if you’re taking a trip through Napa or seeing the sights of the Oregon Wine country, but not so great for beer drinkers or whiskey lovers.

Yeast Cultures

For years beer brewers have been shipping homebrew suds by calling the product live yeast cultures as a gentle fiction for shipping purposes.  If you absolutely must ship your product for the love of god don’t use the USPS.  It is actually a crime to do so where for UPS and Fedex it’s simply against company policy.  When using an alternate shipper ensure your bottles are packed in boxes without a lot of dead space.  Ensure adequate packing material to prevent impact damage.  Bubble wrap is preferred but inflatable pillows are also excellent if you can get them.  Lastly, don’t ship more than one bottle at a time.  If you have appropriate packaging you can risk it but the bottles are more likely to break each other than they are to fall to something outside.

Drinks on a Plane

AirbagI’m not a frequent traveler.  I seem to have found my location in the universe and seldom wander far from home.  On the rare occasion that I do travel, flight is not my preferred method.  I have nothing against it, it simply has gotten too hairy since the TSA started their security theater project.

In particular I dislike not having access to my own beverages.  Having to toss a perfectly good bottle of water and purchase another at the exorbitant airport prices is galling.  Even worse if you want to drink on the plane or in the airport you can have the added experience of highway robbery without ever leaving the plane.

In flight beverages can be even worse.  A single airplane bottle of crown royal that goes for $1.50 on the ground can run $7-$10 in the air.  Admittedly you can get a free coke and ice to go with it but that’s still a pretty hefty markup.

With a little careful planning you can drink on the plane and avoid paying out the nose for it.

It turns out that there is a little loophole in the TSA regulations.  You can bring any liquid through the security check so long as it is A) Less than 3.4 oz and B) fits into a quart size zip-top bag.  This means if you are willing to make due to hotel shampoo you can use that quart size bag to bring almost a dozen 50ml bottles of various alcohols onto the plane with you.

I have confirmed all of this through personal experience.

Even a couple of bottles of personal stash can make the difference between a good flight and a poor one.

Some things to keep in mind:
Don’t let the attendants see you open them, it’s just easier to avoid the hassle of having them tell you to put it away.
Plan your cocktails.  Getting free mixers from the drink cart is great.  Having a handful of single malts and a bottle of jagermeister to help them along is not.
Don’t overdo it.  Being drunk and disorderly on a plane is a great way to end up in federal prison.

Lastly, I came across this after my trip but I fully plan to snag a couple for road trips and future flights.

Jack Rudy Carry-on Cocktail Kit

Portland Distillery Crawl: Mk II

Distillery RowPortland’s Distillery scene is expanding and exploding.  A recent article about local distilling pegged the number of distilleries at just over 27 between Forest Grove and Troutdale.  This is a staggering number and even more so when you consider that I can think of at least 1 they missed.  In the state of Oregon at large there are 35+ that fall under craft distilling and likely several more that aren’t on the radar beyond a street sign.

In my original Post I outlined some basic stops for a good distillery crawl.  Since then at least 2 new locations have opened on distillery row and some new west side locations have become worth the trip out to the suburbs.

 

 

East Side:

There are two outliers on the Distillery row.  Wild Roots distilling is on NE 6th and Couch, this is easily 15 blocks from the next stop on the row.  Stone Barn Brandy works is on SE 19th and Sandy, 24 blocks from their next most southerly neighbor.  While Wild roots is new they have only two products listed, Stone Barn however has over a dozen at various times and is well worth the trip.  If you have to cut one or the other out for time I would suggest starting at stone barn and then parking near House Spirits and walking the rest of the row.

Some new eateries have sprung up in the last few years as well.  Next door to Bunk Bar is the Boke Bowl a relatively new asian food place that has some wonderful noodles, steam buns and drinks.

On 12th and Hawthorne is one of the best food truck pods in Portland.  Despite recent shakeups and the  threat of their lot being turned into mixed use apartments they have endured and signed a new lease, visit now for crepes, mexican food, whiffy pies and BBQ.  Plus across the street is Lardo.

Around the corner from Stone Barn is 50 Licks Ice cream where you can get a taste of Portland’s hand dipped ice cream culture AND cocktails in the same building.

West Side:

Less of a crawl and more of a road trip, but there are a number of places worth hitting up on the west side.  In the downtown area there are still the steadfast likes of Clear Creak and Bull Run Distilling, each close enough to hit in quick succession.

Far out in the depths of Tigard is Indio Spirits, with 11+ products on their menu and one of the older distilleries in the area they are well worth finding.  Their flights are small but have larger samples so bring friends and share to get a better idea of the full line.

Even further out in yet another unassuming business part you will find Bootleg Botanicals, Big Bottom Distilling, Tualatin Valley Distilling and Vertigo Brewing.  Located just off Cornelius Pass Road near Cornell, many are not open for tastings every day.  Their out of the way nature means zero foot traffic, so some like Big Bottom are only open on Saturday or by appointment.  Be sure to plan accordingly, check schedules and likely call ahead.  Knowing how distillers hours run they could forget to open entirely if they aren’t sure anyone is coming.

Planning the Perfect Crawl

Driving: First and foremost I cannot stress enough the need for a designated driver.  Not all of these places are close enough together to walk and given the versatility of Oregon weather you do not want to rely on your feet to get you everywhere.

Packages: Second, check out PDX Distillery Row.  At $20 it is by far the best value in the city for tasting what the various distilleries have to offer.  The passport is good all year which removes some of the immediacy in trying to hit all 7 locations in one day.

Dates are important, some of these places are not open 7 days a week.  Some aren’t even open 2 days a week so planning for any given day is important.  I recommend Saturday as a prime day, most places are open the longest on the weekends.

Time, some of these places have only 1 or 2 offerings.  Some have over a dozen.  The amount of time you and your group can take sampling at any one is going to vary greatly depending on the length of time you spend sipping and how long you spend listening to the patter about the drink itself.  In general tasting rooms are going to be open from around 11am to 6pm.  It is possible to hit up to 7 locations in one day if you get started early and have an experienced guide, otherwise plan to hit the places that most interest you first on the chance that you will run out of time to do them later.

Food.  Eat before, and make sure you eat something relatively filling.  There are any number of great places to catch lunch before you head out.  The Green Dragon on SE 9th has Rogue Brewing’s great selection of sandwhiches, Oven and Shaker does a great Brunch, hunt around it’s a great chance to find some out of the way Portland Food.

FOOD!  Take a snack break after your first 3-4 stops.  You’ve likely just downed the equivalent of 8-9 oz of random shots.  Time to take a quick breather and reload before you hit the next couple.  Grab some pie, or debris fries.  Take a half hour to work some of that stuff and get the better part of the botanicals away from your digestive tract.

Storage is important, if you’re taking more than 1-2 people with you be aware that you will buy things.  There is too much good stuff for anyone to pass up entirely and after three or four drinks your ability to say no to a good deal somewhat evaporates.  Carting an armfull of bottles around with you from shop to shop is a hassle.  Be sure your transport has space for everything and is handy for when you buy.

Costs:  While distilleries are not required to charge for their samples, most do.  The only one I’ve encountered that was entirely free was Clear creek.  Most others offer a single $5 tasting platter of 4-5 tastes.  Some will do $1 single tastes, others like Eastside have deluxe and premium flights that offer higher end offerings.  If you’re not doing the distillery row passport expect to spend at least $5 per person per location.  You can get this cost waived if you make a purchase in some places but not all.

Tools: Trav-L-Bar

One of the most frustrating things about drinking well is the general inability to make that experience carry over outside your home.  It’s all very well to allow people to see your collection, witness your skills with a shaker and partake of the libations you can craft when you have your entire collection at hand.  It is another very different animal to be able to replicate this kind of presentation on the fly.

I was lucky enough to be gifted this particular kit when my parents were cleaning out their garage, the provenance is uncertain but it’s entirely likely that this came down from my grand parents.  (Or my brother picked it up at a yard sale)  If you want a similar kit they sell on Etsy and Ebay for 40-60 will all the original parts intact and some even have the original tags.  This kit had more of the original pieces when I received it but i’ve modified and adjusted for my own uses.

drink photos 214 Here we see the outer case, plain brown but leather and of a very good wear.  The handles and latches are sturdy and comfortable.

drink photos 211drink photos 213

These are my shots of the interior.  I find it to be very well laid out with ample room for all the tools and kit one could want.

drink photos 210

Here is a much fuller shot of the internals.  On the right three compartments suitable for 750ml bottles of most descriptions, on the left there are straps for 4-6 cups as well as a bottle opener and cocktail spoon.  The part I like best is that the straps at the top left are adjustable so you can fit larger or smaller glasses as you need.

drink photos 215

This is part of my standard kit.  The Boston shaker I regularly use and my Oxo measuring cup.  The bitters and Grenadine will obviously fit but I find them a poor use of space given their size and the limits of the case.

drink photos 216

Here is the other half of my tools.  Left to Right we have 3 New Deal Distillery Shot glasses received as part of my many trips down distillery row and 1 Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery glass which I bought as part of my Devil’s Bit St. Patrick’s Day excursion.  The metal tray from the original case along with a cheap Hawthorne Strainer I picked up at Kitchen Kaboodle.  The Cocktail spoon is also from the original case, the jigger is a standard 1 1/2 by 3/4 jigger which I’m probably going to switch out, the oxo measure is just so much easier to use.  A waiter’s friend replaces the bakelite bottle opener which is currently floating around my mother’s 3rd kitchen junk drawer right now.  I don’t mind, having the corkscrew and foil knife has been handy and if this breaks I know I can get another fairly cheaply.

I swapped out the metal cups because frankly the ones that didn’t smell like leather smelled like cheap steel or aluminum which I didn’t want getting into my drinks.  Also this lets me show off a nice collection of shot glasses from local distilleries (at least the ones who have shot glasses).

The three compartments on the right side allow for a couple of options when traveling.  First off is the fairly basic cocktail, the shaker will hold a small squeeze bottle of juice or a dropper of bitters and the other two compartments easily hold your base alcohol and your liqueur.

I have done very passable Kamikazi’s out of this kit with just lime juice, cointreau and crater lake vodka.  There are a number of other options here including the classic martini, rusty nail, Pink Gin, old fashioned, or sidecar.

If you can do without the shaker a third bottle slot opens up which lets you get a bit more creative.  I’ve not gone without the shaker yet since most of the parties i’ve done with this kit so far require more than just two bottles but the option is there.  I’m curious to see if the mason shaker will fit in this case but not enough to bring up my timetable on buying one.

At a recent birthday party I wanted to take my cherry limeade with me but rather than take the 5 bottles that make up the entire drink I simplified and made two smaller bottles, one with the limeade and a second with the alcoholic components.  This allowed me to keep the majority of the drink on hand without overloading the case but did limit my options for what to create on the other end.