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October 19, 2021

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Legislature 2013:

Last-minute amendment could create the state drink

Edwards toasts

Sam Morris

Presidential candidate John Edwards toasts Star Hotel bartender Natalie Carter with a house specialty, a Picon Punch, while making a campaign stop in Elko Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.

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Assemblyman William Horne

Nevada legislators might be ready for a stiff drink.

Lawmakers killed a bill earlier this year that would’ve made the Blue Weimaraner the state dog, but Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, now has a measure to make the Basque alcoholic beverage Picon Punch the official state drink.

“There was a request for a need to have a state drink,” he said. “What better than the Picon Punch? Me growing up here, it’s the only drink that I know of that has a Nevada tie. The Basque culture, particularly in Northern Nevada, I thought it was appropriate that that be our state drink.”

Horne succeeded in amending a bill earlier this week to make a one-sentence change: “The traditional Basque drink known as the Picon Punch is hereby designated as the official state drink of the State of Nevada.”

The alcoholic beverage includes grenadine, club soda, a bit of brandy, and Amer Picon, a bitter aperitif made with herbs and a peel of orange. It’s a popular drink among Nevada’s Basque population, which has a long history of shepherding flocks of sheep in Northern Nevada.

The amendment originates with lobbyist Sean Gamble.

She said she was dining in Reno at Louis’ Basque Corner on Nevada Day last year when she began thinking of the state’s 150th anniversary and the history of Nevada.

“It just clicked together that one day,” she said.

Gamble said there could’ve been a bill earlier this legislative session, but now the Legislature only has a few weeks left to complete its business. So she asked Horne to attach the Picon Punch amendment to another bill.

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Bruno Selmi makes a Picon Punch behind the bar Bruno's Country Club in Gerlach, Nev.

“Horne is the shepherd,” she said, noting that many other states have also enacted laws establishing state drinks.

Senate Bill 436 creates a Nevada State Parks and Cultural Resources Endowment Fund for the enhancement of state parks and preservation of Nevada’s cultural resources.

The bill has nothing to do with alcohol or other beverages, but it’s the only bill the Legislature is considering that changes the statute containing all of the state emblems. (By the Legislature’s rules, amendments have to be attached to bills that relate to a similar chapter of the Nevada Revised Statutes. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, sponsored the Blue Weimaraner bill, which would’ve also qualified for the amendment if it had not died earlier this year.)

So far, lobbyists representing the beverage industry have not weighed in on the measure.

Horne, who says the drink is an acquired taste, said he’s encountered no opposition to the amendment or the idea of making Picon Punch the state drink.

If the bill passes, it would be added to a list of other state emblems. The most recent addition came from Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Las Vegas, whose bill created a state insect and attracted critics who called Stewart the “the bug man.”

If the Horne amendment passes in the Assembly, the Nevada State Senate will have to vote to adopt the amendment as well.

Should Picon Punch become the state drink this year, it would join a list of state emblems, most of which the Legislature added after 1959.

Nevada currently has a state flag, colors (silver and blue), song (“Home Means Nevada”), march (“Silver State Fanfare”), trees (single-leaf pinon and bristlecone pine), flower (sagebrush), grass (Indian Ricegrass), bird (Mountain Bluebird), insect (Vivid Dancer Damselfly), reptile (Desert Tortoise), animal (Desert Bighorn Sheep), fish (Lahontan Cutthroat Trout), fossil (Ichthyosaur), artifact (tule duck decoy), metal (silver), precious gemstone (Virgin Valley black fire opal), semiprecious gemstone (Nevada turquoise), soil (Orovada series), rock (sandstone), tartan (a woolen cloth woven designed by Richard Zygmunt Pawlowski), and locomotive (a Nevada Northern Railway known as Engine No. 40).

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