Iowa lawmakers respond to evolution of canned cocktails

DES MOINES — Another adult beverage may be available for this summer’s backyard barbecue: a canned cocktail.

Iowa legislators have voted to raise the allowed alcohol content up to 15% for mixed drinks sold in a metal can. Representative Mike Sexton of Rockwell City says the bill will allow canned cocktails to be sold and served in places where beer is now sold.

“We are allowing another product into the state of Iowa,” Sexton said. “It’s going to help businesses. It’s going to help the beer wholesalers as they see their market shift and as we get ready for this next generation of canned alcohol.”

Sexton says market research in Europe and Australia shows more and more consumers are choosing canned cocktails there that have an even higher alcohol content than this bill would allow.

“I wonder if I could get a Crown and a Coke? Well, we certainly can’t under this bill we’re doing today,” Sexton says, “but in the next generation of canned cocktails, very likely we will and those canned cocktails will definitely have to fall within the classification of spirits.”

That will require another rewrite of Iowa laws on alcohol beverages, according to Sexton.

The House approved the new rules Thursday that will let beer wholesalers sell canned cocktails with up to 15% alcohol content. The Iowa Senate endorsed the move in mid-March, so the bill now goes to the governor for her consideration.

Critics of the bill say bars and restaurants that have paid for a liquor license may lose business to a competitor down the street that just paid for a beer license, which is cheaper, and will now be able to sell canned cocktails that contain liquor.