Consumer Law

Lawyer sues gin-maker based on obscure 150-year-old law

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A class action lawsuit against the maker of Bombay Sapphire gin is based on an obscure Florida law that makes it a felony to sell alcohol containing the spice grains of paradise, which is one of the liquor’s ingredients.

The would-be class action suit against parent company Bacardi USA claims that the “adulterated” gin amounts to a per se violation of Florida’s law barring deceptive and unfair trade practices. Winn-Dixie Supermarkets is also targeted for selling the liquor. The Miami Herald has coverage.

The 150-year-old Florida law was passed when people thought grains of paradise was a poisonous drug. The misconception likely arose when home distillers added other, dangerous ingredients to gin to “mask the awful distilling and make more money,” according to Olivier Ward, a British gin expert and consultant who spoke with the Miami Herald.

Today, about 10% of gins use grains of paradise in the distillation process, Ward said. The ingredient “gives gin a certain botanical heat,” according to Ward.

Miami lawyer Roniel Rodriguez filed the suit on behalf of businessman Uri Marrache. The suit was removed from state to federal court Sept. 16.

The suit says grains of paradise has been used in other parts of the world for medicinal purposes, including to treat impotence and stimulate miscarriages.

Rodriguez acknowledged that he hasn’t been able to find any studies showing a negative impact from grains of paradise. But he told the Miami Herald that it’s important for consumers to know of ingredients that could have negative effects.

Bacardi’s label lists the ingredient. The company told the Miami Herald that its gin complies with “all relevant environment, health and safety laws and regulations.”

The case is Marrache v. Bacardi USA.

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