If you were a little kid with an oblique sense of humor like me, you likely thought that the ATF was the funniest thing ever. Alcohol, Tobacco AND Firearms & Explosives? Why not just make a “Bureau of Fun & Danger.” Anyway, after the homeland security shakeup, the department was reshuffled and the Alcohol Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau or to shorten it, the Tax & Trade Bureau or the TTB was born.
While they do a lot of things and cause a lot of pain & suffering, (for example, in 1997, they murdered Joe Camel) they are a pretty amazing government agency.
On the bad side, all spirits coming into existence in the USA must be approved by them, from label to formula. This is frustrating, because sometimes the TTB’s stubbornness or lack of cultural awareness cause a kink in the hose of America’s booze. For example, not recognizing cachaça as a spirit until 2013. But, for any pain and suffering they do a few other things quite amazingly.
Most notably, their website is fucking amazing. Enjoy TTB Online, a searchable database of every alcoholic beverage in America. This database often includes the home phone numbers of importers and distillers in case you’d like to thank the good people at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or ask the people at Absolut, “
“Why can’t I get a recycled glass Absolut for Seattle made out of quinoa, flavored with a mild sense of superiority?”
Or, stop arguing about if absinthe, real absinthe, is legal (it is) with a handy TTB press release! Yes, the TTB knows all the laws and, they keep all the secrets.
The TTB requires recipes and samples for products being served to Americans. Downside: no tonka beans or really authentic eau di vie (too much methanol) but, upside: no one dies from drinking too much methanol! The TTB is the keeper of secrets and thusly, there are no secrets. Is chartreuse a secret recipe? Not in a country with as much bureaucracy as America! I’d start looking for the recipe online now.
Another thing the TTB helps with is advertising in booze and tobacco. Compared to the punishing regulations for tobacco advertising, liquor advertising is quite loosely regulated by a handful of government agencies. One of the guiding principles of those agencies to to not market to children, not always easy to enforce because of the infantilization of alcohol.