Utah is Surprisingly Good for Drinking

My first visit to Utah was this summer. I had dinner at Kita, a Japanese-inspired steakhouse in Pendry Park City. I devoured a lot of buttery milk bread with sesame butter and then looked at the drink menu. It was impossible to decide between sake or wine. My decision was made: A server brought the smallest dirty martini to my table.

The same server arrived at me, and I asked if it was a mini martini. If so, why? It was their regular-sized martini. This was due to Utah laws which limit how much alcohol can be contained in one beverage.

It was my first encounter with the laws surrounding Utah liquor. The server explained that hard liquor is passed through a metered dispenser device attached to the top of the liquor bottles before being added to a cocktail. This ensures that only 1.5 ounces of “primary alcohol” are allowed into the mixed drink simultaneously. Utah law allows cocktails to contain “secondary alcohol flavorings” but not more than 2.5 ounces of spirituous liquor.

TJ Consiglio is Kita’s general manager. He pointed out that the size of the martinis adds to the enjoyment. More miniature cocktails are associated with smaller glassware styles, which is a plus. “Our Nora and Nic glasses aren’t often seen, but they perfectly fit our Utah martinis.”

Other state regulations soon became apparent to me: beer on tap must not exceed 5% ABV, though bottles can contain any percentage. Restaurants can only sell drinks if they have ordered food.

Utah’s government website states that liquor laws are “based on the general principle of making alcoholic beverages readily available in a way that reasonably meets the public demand.” The state doesn’t encourage or promote the sale of alcohol in this regard; it continues.

Other laws I encountered on my trip were less surprising. For example, Sundays are the last day you can buy alcohol. Pennsylvania is where I am from. You can only buy liquor in state-run stores.

This regulation of liquor in cocktails at bars and restaurants in Utah was a challenge that Utah bartenders had to face. It also fosters creativity. There is more to martinis than tiny ones.

Consiglio explained that liquor laws had created an environment where bartenders needed to be creative and meticulous. “We’re very particular about the spirit selections we make for all our drinks. We want to ensure that every glass has the best flavor possible. This includes trying out “shrubs or syrups that don’t have alcohol but add layers to the spirits.