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April 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

A legal way for 18-year-olds to taste alcohol (and learn)

File photo John Lok/The Seattle Times

File photo John Lok/The Seattle Times

Pairing food with wine is an essential skill for most restaurant workers. Until now, though, there hasn’t been a legal path for younger culinary students to learn the basics.

Now a so-called “sip and spit” bill is en route to becoming law in Washington state. Sponsored — no surprise — by a senator from wine-centric Walla Walla, the bill would allow culinary students (and those studying beer or wine technology) at community or technical colleges who are at least 18 years old to taste alcoholic beverages “for the purposes of educational training as part of the class curriculum.” The students aren’t allowed to actually swallow the alcohol, and the tastings must be supervised by a staff member who is at least 21 years old and who has an alcohol servers permit. The students still can’t buy the booze.

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, who sponsored the bill, wrote on his website that he knew there would be a degree of concern about allowing minors to taste alcohol, but that it would enhance students’ understanding of an integral part of their careers. “It’s every bit as essential to their learning as allowing biology majors to interact with plants would be.”

Comments | Topics: culinary students, legal drinking, Rebekah Denn

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