For new years eve, a few friends and I had some Romulan Ale and the scene with Worf mentioning that it should be illegal and Geordi replying that it is was quoted the whole evening. We started to wonder why it's illegal and come upon this answer.

The scene with Worf:

After having recovered from the effects of aforementioned Romulan Ale, I started wondering what the use of a trade embargo is in a society with replicators. Replicators can, apart from a few materials such as anti-matter, latinum and dilithium, replicate all matters. So, what is the use of a general trade embargo? It would be sufficient to prohibit the trade of certain unreplicable ressources and trade of knowledge (e.g. technology) to make sure an enemy is not strengthen.

  • 3
    Because some things can't be easily replicated
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 20:47
  • @Valorum ITC, it's sufficient to have an embargo of some things but not a general trade embargo.
    – Shade
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:06
  • 1
    Because it may be possible to distinguish replicated Romulan Ale from non-replicated creating a market for real ale? From Nog's comment in DS9 - Progress he indicated to a potential buyer that he had real yamok sauce to sell, not replicated. Thus, at least some foodstuffs must be distinguishable as to real vs. replicated.
    – beichst
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:15
  • 1
  • In short, the Romulans make an ale that can't easily be replicated. They then (apparently) export this ale in return for Federation credits (presumably) or some equally un-replicatable produce from within the Federation. Doing so strengthens their economy and contributes to their war machine.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


This highly relevant answer gives us two good reasons which I will embellish a bit to more directly address the question at hand:

1. Outside of the (quite austere, I might add) Romulan Empire, Romulan Ale is scarce

Scarce alcoholic beverages are valuable since as soon as there are more people who would like to try it than there are units available, they start to outbid each other. The Romulan Empire could capitalise on that if allowed to trade Romulan Ale if the replicated ale lacked something. Which brings us to the second point...

2. The replicated ale (if available in the databank at all - the standard is that it is not) does lack something.

It seems what makes Romulan Ale so highly sought after is that it got a unique strength (euphemistically called "aroma") which kind of hits you like a truck. The linked answer quotes a Romulan officer senator (cheers @ Valorum) commenting on the replicated version in DS9, saying that it was

...somewhat lacking in aroma. Real kali-fal should forcibly open one's sinuses well before the first sip (emphasis mine)

This basically means that whatever the replicator produced here, it lacks that what makes Romulan Ale unique: that it can knock people like Worf out in no time - the special kick it will force upon you before you even took the first sip.

Therefore, it makes sense to have a trade embargo which involves Romulan Ale. Well, and you would probably have quite a few addicts lying under the counters (or their own tables) all over the federation in no time. Imagine what this might do to a mere human only used to synthol if it knocks Worf out like that. Medical attention would probably be mandatory.

  • 3
    He's not a Romulan officer, he's a Romulan Senator.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 23:00
  • There is also the fact that replicated drinks use synthahol, whereas the original probably uses real alcohol. Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 11:11
  • @GeoffAtkins I think while that is the standard (ie. standard federation replicator database does use synthol in drinks that usually contain alcohol), it is not necessarily so. At least there is no inherent reason I am aware of that prevents the replication of alcohol proper. Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 11:16

So you re saying that if, for example, opium can be synthesized, it should be legal to sell opium for human consumption without any regulation or restrictions?

I never thought of Romulan ale as being illegal because purchasing it paid money to the Romulans, but because consuming it caused heath problems to humans, and thus free trade in Romulan ale would damage the health and economy of the Federation and make it weaker.

  • 1
    Not in the accepted answer I've referenced to above.
    – Shade
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 21:03

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