How Utah’s Weird Laws Made It One of the Coolest Places to Drink in the U.S. (2024)

How Utah’s Weird Laws Made It One of the Coolest Places to Drink in the U.S. (1)

Photo by Maksim Fesenko/Shutterstock

Beneath the rainbow-hued neon dragon that presides over 25th Street in Ogden, Utah, a staircase delivers customers to a dimly lit speakeasy called 225. Inside, a dozen or so black-and-white Prohibition-era portraits of bootleggers and flappers hang in gilded frames above the bar’s cozy banquettes. Many of the framed photographs conceal a second, more risqué image. “Originally, the racy pictures were the ones on display,” the bartender points out, “but we had to change them.” In Utah, booze and nudity don’t mix, and 225’s hidden photos are just one of the many ways local establishments have subverted the bizarre nuances of the state’s Latter-Day liquor legislation.

Utah is not actually a teetotaling state, despite its Mormon majority. In fact, you can get buzzed in the Beehive State—and you may even have more fun doing so than you would in another co*cktail capital. Here’s what you need to know:

The not so basics
Much of the confusion around drinking in Utah hails from several now-obsolete laws. The most notorious, which required patrons to purchase private club memberships to enter bars, was eliminated in 2009. Still, peculiarities prevail and it helps to have a general grasp of the rules before your next trip to ski the state’s champagne powder or hike its red-rock canyons.

Despite the quirks listed below, the state’s co*cktail and craft beer scenes are thriving and industry folks have employed patience, determination, and ingenuity to make the laws work in their favor.

The rules, in a nutshell:

  • Unlike the high-test co*cktails in other parts of the country, drinks in Utah can contain only 1.5 ounces of a primary spirit, which means the gin in your martini is reduced by half and there’s no such thing as a double.
  • An additional ounce of booze—say, bourbon or tequila—can be added to a co*cktail as long as the bottle is affixed with a yellow sticker labeling it “flavoring.” The total amount of spirituous liquor in one drink cannot exceed 2.5 ounces.
  • Only 4 percent ABV beer can be sold on draft or in supermarkets and convenience stores.
  • Beer above 4 percent ABV is considered “high-point” and is sold in bottles in restaurants, bars, breweries, and state-operated liquor stores.
  • Restaurant patrons must order food if they plan to drink; this requirement doesn’t extend to licensed bars.
  • In its most recent legislative session, Utah voted to lower the legal limit for blood alcohol level to .05, creating the toughest drunk-driving law in the nation. The .05 BAC law is due to go into effect on December 30, 2018.

How the co*cktails measure upGetting a drink in Utah starts the same way it does anywhere else in the country: Step up to the bar and order. That’s when things get wonky.

First, your bartender will pop the primary spirit into a contraption called the Berg All-Bottle—a calibrated, metered dispensing system that ensures your drink contains exactly 1.5 ounces of liquor.

There are myriad opinions about the Berg. While some bartenders consider the devices a creative handicap, others, like Mike Allen, owner of Ogden’s Alleged, think metered pours help keep things consistent. “Most out-of-state bars require weekly or biweekly count tests to see if their pours on are point,” he says. “We don’t have to do that.”

We’ve been crafting some new additions to the Finca co*cktail menu for spring. Pictured here: the Santo Domingo - @wahakamezcal espadin, Averna, oloroso sherry, a smidge of maraschino liqueur, and @workhorserye Flowers & Cacao bitters. ¡Salud! A post shared by Finca Loves co*cktails (*cktails) on Apr 12, 2018 at 4:54pm PDT

It takes a village
Utah’s odd laws have given rise to a truly unique booze community, which started, in part, when the Utah chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild (USBG) was established in 2013. “We had to work really hard to make that happen,” says Amy Eldridge, Salt Lake City’s doyenne of drinks and managing partner at Under Current. Now, community members patronize each others’ establishments, swap recipes, and work together to nurture and hone their craft.

The state makes it difficult for bars to obtain specific spirits, but Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) supports collaboration. “Getting interesting products [here] is challenging,” says Tracy Gomez, current USBG-Utah vice president and bar manager at Finca in Salt Lake. “If the state doesn’t carry it, we have to order a whole case. Imagine having to sit on 12 bottles of something obscure or expensive. But the DABC allows us to split cases with other licenses.”

New twists on old classics
Because of pour limitations, Utah mixologists get innovative with recipes and ratios, building what they call “split-based co*cktails.” For instance, a traditional Manhattan contains a two ounces of bourbon. In Utah, however, where only 1.5 ounces of the main liquor can be used, a bartender will add an additional ounce of a “flavoring” to bring the drink up to snuff. In the case of a Manhattan, that “flavoring” could be an ounce of rye, which honors the classic recipe while still obeying the law. co*cktails also get a boost from beer, wine, champagne, or wine-based liqueurs like port, amaro, or vermouth, which don’t count toward the 2.5-ounce rule.

“We have to be really knowledgeable about our spirits,” says Eldridge. “It makes us better. We have to fulfill certain ratios to achieve balance and get creative to fill the gaps.”

It’s the month of GIN at ucb! In celebration we’ll be rolling out a series of limited gin & tonics. Each unique, featuring our favorites of the celebrated spirit. no.1 warm, malty Ransom Dry with tarragon, juniper, lemon ribbon and cherry blossom, with house tonic - naturally A post shared by UCB. SLC. (@undercurrentbar) on Apr 8, 2018 at 4:35pm PDT

Mad about shrubs
Knowing there’s more to a great drink than booze, Utah’s craft co*cktail enthusiasts tap local farmers to source ingredients for house-made juices, syrups, and shrubs. The latter, fruity elixirs made with fruit, sugar, and vinegars, have bright, fresh flavors. Salt Lake Magazine even hosts an annual farm-to-glass contest: a month-long co*cktail crawl featuring inventive concoctions whipped up by local bartenders to spotlight the bountiful offerings of Utah’s growers and producers. Recent favorites include Finca’s “St. Augustine,” a shaken rum drink made with clarified nectarine and lime juice, and Fireside’s “Zombie Paradise,” which incorporated a bell pepper–blueberry shrub.

Spot-on brews
Thanks to the 4 percent ABV cap on draft beers, Utah has perfected full-flavored session brews. Red Rock Brewing’s Zwickelbier, a German-style lager, won the gold in the 2017 Great American Beer Festival, and brewer Chris Harlin works magic with Hefeweizens, Belgian ales, and IPAs. “Our beers must be stylistically spot-on,” says Shantel Stoff, Red Rock’s marketing director. “You can’t hide flaws behind alcohol in a 4 percent draft beer.”

Utah brewers are cranking out plenty of excellent high-point brews as well, but session beers have a particular advantage with respect to the new drunk driving law. Gomez, who also works in the shop at Red Rock’s production brewery, points out, “With the whole .05 thing looming, I like that I can sit at a bar and have a couple of beers without worrying [about breaking the law].”

The lineup is lookin’ good this weekend. Can anyone recognize this SLC bar? @moniquesamonephotography #WeekendVibes #DrinkLocal #StayClassy #WasatchBeers #CraftBeer A post shared by Wasatch Brewery (@wasatchbeers) on Jan 19, 2018 at 2:01pm PST

Utah’s booze community knows you might be skeptical when you belly up to the bar in Salt Lake or Odgen. But their culture of imbibing is thriving—and doing so with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Next time you’re in town, partake in a co*cktail made with Ogden’s Own Five Wives Vodka or Distillery 36’s Brigham Rum. Or maybe pop a bottle at Wasatch Brewery and have a chuckle at the famously cheeky tagline of its Polygamy Porter: “Why have just one?” You’ll be glad you did.

>>Next: Time Travel Through Old New Orleans During Its Spectacular Tricentennial Celebration

How Utah’s Weird Laws Made It One of the Coolest Places to Drink in the U.S. (2024)


What are the weird alcohol laws in Utah? ›

You may have heard a few of those weird Utah liquor laws. For example, did you know that any beer over 4% is considered liquor? That's right, any sort of craft beers and micro brews that are even worth drinking, you'll have to go to the liquor store to get them. Oh, and there aren't very many liquor stores.

Why don t people from Utah drink alcohol? ›

The state's prominent religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, believes in abstaining from alcohol consumption. It may be legal to do so, but the state tightly controls the sale and service of alcoholic beverages in a way, they believe, that promotes moderation.

Does Utah have strict alcohol laws? ›

The alcohol laws of Utah regulate the selling and purchasing of alcohol in the U.S. state of Utah and are some of the most restrictive in the United States. A person must be 21 years old or older to buy or consume alcohol.

Which state has the weirdest liquor laws? ›

ALASKA. In Fairbanks, it was long illegal to feed a moose any alcoholic beverage. But doing so is no longer against the law. Now you know!

Is Utah a no alcohol state? ›

Where can I buy a co*cktail, glass of wine, or a beer in Utah? Liquor, wine, and beer are available at licensed restaurants and bars seven days a week. Alcoholic beverage service in a licensed restaurant requires that food be ordered with your drink, and that it be delivered by an authorized employee.

Why is alcohol expensive in Utah? ›

Zoom out: Utah's state-required markup makes run-of-the-mill bottles significantly more costly than they are in Wyoming (state-set minimum $37.21 for Jack's), Nevada ($88.99 for Hennessy in Vegas), and Colorado ($25.89 for Tito's in Denver). Idaho prices are similar to Utah's.

Why is it illegal to drink milk in Utah? ›

No complaining about milk

As far as the interpretation of the criminal code goes, Utah says it's illegal for milk consumers to “unfairly discriminate” against milk distributors and criticize the grade or quality. So, you better not be too selective about milk while renting a car in Utah!

Why can't people in Utah drink coffee? ›

The reason why Mormons can't drink coffee is because of their religious observance. They adhere to the Word of Wisdom that outlines avoiding certain substances, such as coffee, to better their spiritual and physical development and maintenance.

Is it really illegal not to drink milk in Utah? ›

It is illegal to not drink milk

On the subject of what you can and can't drink in Utah, it seems that the state is not the friendliest for those who are lactose intolerant. In the state, it is illegal to not drink milk, which leads one to wonder if Utah's dairy farmers had something to do with state lawmaking.

What state has the strictest alcohol laws? ›

Kansas's alcohol laws are among the strictest in the United States. Kansas prohibited all alcohol from 1881 to 1948, and continued to prohibit on-premises sales of alcohol from 1949 to 1987. Sunday sales only have been allowed since 2005. Today, 3 counties still do not permit the on-premises sale of alcohol.

What is the Zion curtain law? ›

And unlike the actual Iron Curtain that once separated the former Soviet bloc from the West, there is no free flow of people following the fall of the Zion Curtain. The rules state that in restaurants without the partition, minors must be kept at least ten feet from anywhere alcohol is poured.

Can you drink alcohol in Utah on Sunday? ›

Beer is available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. On weekends (Saturday and Sunday), legal holidays and for private parties, alcohol service may begin at 10:30 AM.

What is the drunkest state? ›

Wisconsin is the drunkest state in America, according to research conducted by 24/7 WallSt, utilizing data from Country Health Rankings. 25.2% of Wisconsin adults drink heavily, which is 6% more than the national average.

What is the most drunk state in America? ›

Highest Alcohol Consumption by State

The 10 states with the highest alcohol consumption levels in the US are New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Maine, Delaware, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. These states have higher per capita alcohol consumption than any other states in the country.

What state has the highest alcoholism? ›

Unsurprisingly, the most densely populated states in the U.S. consume the most alcohol by volume. California leads the pack with 85.7 million gallons consumed in 2020. Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois round out the remainder of the top five. Conversely, Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota consume the least.

Does Utah have less drunk drivers? ›

SALT LAKE CITY — Forbes Advisor has ranked American states to determine which have the highest number of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes. Their results put Utah third in the nation for the lowest rate of drunk driving.

Is it hard to find alcohol in Utah? ›

It's difficult to find a bar in Utah County • With a population of more than 606,000, it is easily the state's second most populous county. But it has just 14 bars. That's about one for every 43,000 residents.

When did Utah ban alcohol? ›

Utah did not enact prohibition legislation until 1917, when it became the twenty-fourth state to adopt statewide prohibition; however, since most of the other twenty-four states already had passed local option laws, Utah was one of the last states to pass legislation regulating the manufacture and consumption of ...

What is the most popular drink in Utah? ›

Enter: dirty soda. It's no coincidence that the drink became a mainstay of the Utahan zeitgeist around the same time. With many members now quenching their thirst with cans of cola, the demand for bubbly beverages — like dirty soda — erupted.

What alcoholic drink is Utah known for? ›

Utah: Root beer

Continue reading to see other signature drinks in your region.

What is the blood alcohol in Utah? ›

Your BAC can be used to assess charges for driving under the influence (DUI). While there is an official “legal limit,” you can still be charged with a BAC under the limit. The legal BAC limit in Utah is . 05 grams.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Utah? ›

There's no law that specifically says you can't eat while driving in this state.

Is drugs illegal in Utah? ›

Utah laws prohibit the possession and distribution of controlled substances, which are defined in Utah's statutes and include such drugs as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and prescribed medications. See Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-4 for a listing of controlled substances.

What state is it illegal to sleep with your shoes on? ›

North Dakota:

It is illegal to lie down and fall asleep with your shoes on.

Can Mormons drink co*ke? ›

So many Mormons then will say well, we should not drink any caffeinated beverages. MARTIN: In 2012, the church released an official statement stating explicitly that caffeinated soda is allowed under church doctrine. Still, many Mormons will not consume caffeinated drinks.

Do Mormons believe in Jesus? ›

The Book of Mormon establishes clearly that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations” (Book of Mormon title page; 2 Nephi 26:12). At the heart of the doctrine restored through Joseph Smith is the doctrine of the Christ.

Why do Mormons love soda? ›

According to The Book of Mormon, consuming alcohol, tea and coffee are strictly prohibited. Because of the various drink bans, members of the Mormon Church have turned to soda for their caffeine fix.

Is it illegal to throw snowballs in Utah? ›

No Throwing Snowballs

City code 9-14-100 forbids anyone to carelessly throw a stick, stone, snowball, or any other missile.

Is it illegal to deny water in Utah? ›

Answer: You must own a water right to divert and use water in the State of Utah.

Can passengers drink in a car in Utah? ›

It is against the law to drink or possess a drink in a vehicle, whether you are the driver or a passenger. Similarly, it is against the law to sit in a car with an alcoholic beverage even if it is stopped or parked. Utah alcohol laws extend to any vehicle on the roads or waters of the state.

What state has no alcohol? ›

Two states—Kansas and Tennessee—are entirely dry by default: counties specifically must authorize the sale of alcohol in order for it to be legal and subject to state liquor control laws.

Why are 40s illegal in Florida? ›

So, sorry 40-ouncers, you're still not allowed at this party. In a quirk of the law in Florida, beer must be sold in containers either smaller than 32 ounces or larger than 128 ounces. Stuck in the middle is the industry-standard growler size of 64 ounces, leaving many who love the craft beer to-go jugs frustrated.

What is the youngest drinking age in the world? ›

The youngest legal drinking age in the world is 15, with both Mali and the Central African Republic allowing folks to drink at that time. Seven countries do not have a government-mandated drinking age, while 11 countries ban the consumption of booze entirely.

Why does Zion have red roads? ›

The road resurfacing involves chip sealing, which is coating the road with a combination of oil and rock chips. Local red cinders are used to create Zion's signature red roads.

What is the red permit for Zion? ›

Red permits are issued for overnight guests of the Zion Lodge. They are required to park in the lodge parking lot.

Why is Zion National Park protected? ›

"National parks like Zion were established to protect the unique natural beauty of those places and to prevent development from scarring their pristine nature," said NPCA Program Manager Cory MacNulty.

What time is last call in Utah? ›

Last call for alcohol is generally 1 am, and bars must close by 2 am. At restaurants, alcoholic drinks can only be served with food, but at breweries or any beer-only establishments, food is not required to order a beer. Restaurants and bars can serve draft beer up to 5% and higher ABV beers from the can or bottle.

Is beer in Utah weaker? ›

The Utah liquor monopoly is legal

Utah, however, is the only state that still maintains full retail control of beer higher than 5% ABV.

Can Mormons drink alcohol? ›

In the Word of Wisdom, the Lord commands Mormons to abstain from harmful substances. Mormons are taught not to drink any kind of alcohol (see D&C 89:5–7). Mormons are also taught not to drink “hot drinks,” meaning coffee or any tea other than herbal tea (see D&C 89:9), and not to use tobacco (see D&C 89:8).

What is the drunkest night in America? ›

Blackout Wednesday (also known as Drinksgiving) refers to binge drinking on the night before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

What is the #1 drunkest city in America? ›

The drunkest city in the United States is Green Bay, Wisconsin. Approximately 26.5% of adults drink to excess. 50.5% of driving deaths in Green Bay involve alcohol.

What nationality drinks the most alcohol? ›

Looking at the amount of alcohol consumed per person aged 15 years or older, the Seychelles is in first place with around 20.5 litres of alcohol drunk per person per year, according to Our World in Data; studies show that young male peer groups primarily drink high amounts of alcohol in the Seychelles.

What state drinks the least? ›

The data has also revealed the five states that drink the least alcohol, with Utah being the driest state across the country, followed by West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Georgia.

Which US state has the most drunk driving accidents? ›

The four most dangerous states (Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho) for drunk driving share the same geographic region. The three least dangerous states also share a geographic region: District of Columbia had the fewest drunk driving issues, followed by New York and Pennsylvania.

Where is drunk driving most common? ›

The Most Dangerous States for Drunk Driving
RankStatePeople Killed In Drunk Driving Accidents per 100,000 Residents
4North Dakota5.21
6 more rows
Nov 18, 2022

What is the alcoholism capital of the world? ›

Belarus not only consumed the greatest average number of liters of pure alcohol per capita, but it was also among the countries with the most years of life lost due to this annual alcohol consumption (14.4 liters).

What are the four states of alcoholism? ›

Despite the variation in specific causes and timeframes from person to person, the disease itself follows a pattern. If you or your loved ones need help to identify the signs of problem drinking, four stages of alcoholism have been identified: pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, chronic alcoholic, and end-stage alcoholism.

What ethnic group has the lowest rate of alcoholism? ›

Alcohol Use Disorder across U.S. Racial/Ethnic Groups

The prevalence of lifetime AUD was also highest among American Indians, lowest among Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and was approximately 10% higher for Whites than for Blacks and Hispanics (Grant et al., 2015).

Does Utah only sell 3.2 beer? ›

It allows beers with 4% alcohol by weight or 5% ABV to be sold in grocery stores, convenience stores and on draft at bars and restaurants. You can also get higher ABV brews at state liquor stores. (Read: Welcome to the 5%: New Liquor Laws Support Utah's Vibrant Craft Brew Scene.)

Does 7 Eleven sell alcohol in Utah? ›

Whether you want ice-cold beer, wine, ice cream, a Big Bite hot dog, Big Gulp or tasty Slurpee we deliver 24/7. Visit your local 7-Eleven today.

Is alcohol allowed on Sunday in Utah? ›

Beer is available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. On weekends (Saturday and Sunday), legal holidays and for private parties, alcohol service may begin at 10:30 AM.

Can you drink beer in public in Utah? ›

Unlawful consumption in public place. A person may not consume liquor in a public building, park, or stadium, except as provided by this title. A violation of this section is a class C misdemeanor.

Can you order a double in Utah? ›

Utah's calibrated dispensing systems, commonly called clickers, perfectly pour 1.5 ounces of alcohol and nothing more. Even if you love your favorite spirit served neat or on the rocks, your bartender legally can't give you a double — no matter how much you tip.

What is the number 1 drunk state? ›

Unsurprisingly, the most densely populated states in the U.S. consume the most alcohol by volume. California leads the pack with 85.7 million gallons consumed in 2020. Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois round out the remainder of the top five.

What is the most drunk state? ›

Wisconsin is the drunkest state in America, according to research conducted by 24/7 WallSt, utilizing data from Country Health Rankings. 25.2% of Wisconsin adults drink heavily, which is 6% more than the national average.

Can you buy beer 24 hours a day in Utah? ›

At grocery stores you will find alcoholic beverages upto 5% ABV, available for purchase until 11.00 p.m. Some convenience stores can sell beer 24/7 depending on the city. You may purchase beverages seven days a week from these locations.

Does Costco have alcohol in Utah? ›

GEORGE — Following the decision by the Utah Legislature to pass a measure that allows stores in Utah to sell higher strength beer effective Nov. 1, the St. George Costco has once again started selling beer to Southern Utah residents for the first time in years.

Do gas stations sell alcohol in Utah? ›

Grocery stores (food markets) and convenience stores (often at gas stations) are only allowed to sell low alcohol beer and no wine or liquor. This beer is usually known as "3-2" beer in the USA as it is 3.2% alcohol by weight (4% ABV). Wine, liquor, and some beers are sold in Utah State Liquor Stores.


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