If you live in a state with privately owned liquor stores, you probably have never heard of an ABC Store (Wikipedia link). These are state run and controlled liquor stores. This, in addition to backward blue laws (Wikipedia link) can prove to be very frustrating to people who have lived in more progressive states. Blue laws were spawned by religious groups who among other things, try to prohibit alcohol sales, especially on Sunday. As of this writing, 12 states still have these laws in place.
In an ABC state, state and county boards determine what items will be carried and set the price! This is certainly true of my home state of North Carolina. And that, as they say, is that. You can’t mail order liquor from out of state. And if the item you’re looking for isn’t on the list, then it won’t be going in your cocktail. One might also be fortunate enough to live close to a non-ABC state that borders an affected state.
Many of the state run stores are relatively small (especially in less populated counties), with quantities of the same products, but less in the way of variety. I live near the capital, so I at least have the advantage of some larger stores that do have a relatively good stock and some variety. The recently built store near the Lair is pretty massive compared to others in the area.
As an example of the impact of these state and county restrictions, I was researching (of course I was) banana liqueur online. I found a blind taste test and the testers had narrowed the results to a couple of brands that tasted like real banana, and less like an artificial banana candy flavor. There were six options in the review. Number of options available in North Carolina ABC stores? One. And none of the six that were named in the review. Even more bizarre is that North Carolina sells quite a few DeKuyper products in North Carolina ABC stores, yet the DeKuyper Creme de Banana is not stocked. The brand on the shelf is Arrow.
This is played out over and over in North Carolina. In my research for a White Rum recommendation, Doorly’s pops up in reviews and recommendations. In non-ABC states it’s sold at Total Wine for god’s sake! Nope, not available in North Carolina. Occasionally, there are discussions about overturning the ABC system in North Carolina, but it seems fairly entrenched.
Maybe a trip to South Carolina one of these days to see what a privately run liquor store looks like…