When the coronavirus pandemic essentially put a freeze on-premise drinking and dining this spring, several cities and states temporarily relaxed rules on selling alcohol for takeout and delivery. As the COVID-19 crisis continued, some states have extended these policies indefinitely.
Iowa in June became the first state to pass legislation making the sale of cocktails to-go from restaurants, bars and distilleries permanent. Ohio followed soon after, and other states are considering the move to help support their struggling hospitality businesses.
There are restrictions: In most cases patrons have to order takeout food with their drinks, and there have been some clarifications as to what constitutes a substantial food item. Alcoholic beverages must also be placed in a closed container to help ensure at-home consumption.
But the ability to sell alcoholic beverages has enabled operators to boost takeout orders and lift sagging sales a bit during the social distancing period. It may not be a sustainable business model, but it’s been helping some restaurants hang on while the country awaits a vaccine.
Here are a few of the cocktails-to-go promotions we like.
On a roll
When New Yorkers had to shelter in place this past spring, speakeasy bar Patent Pending offered a to-go menu of four signature cocktails, espresso drinks and snacks, such as a cheese plate and cookies, as well some large-format cocktails to share. Bonus: At the height of the lockdown in New York this past April, Patent Pending would throw in a roll of toilet paper for takeout or delivery orders of more than $50.
Setting the tune
Palette in San Francisco offers musically inspired cocktails for takeout and delivery. The libations take their names from bands or songs, such as Joy Division (Plymouth gin, Lillet blanc, St. Germaine, lemon juice); Summer Breeze (Stoli vodka muddled with lime juice, mint and cucumber topped with soda water); and Sympathy for The Devil (fire-roasted-poblano-infused Cazadores reposado tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Cynar, agave, lime juice and mint).
These cocktails, which serve two and are priced at $18, are packaged in an apothecary jar. They also come with a QR code that provides a link to instructions on how to serve the drink at home and suggested songs to set the mood.
Thyme in a bottle
Thyme Bar in New York, had just opened in February—a month before the COVID-19 lockdown. So head bartender Colin Steven created Thyme 2 Go bottled cocktails, which come pre-chilled and pre-diluted. The offering initially included a Manhattan; Negroni; a “Two Step Margarita” made with tequila and a reverse production cordial; and two different “Quarantinis.”
Signature and seasonal bottled cocktails include Thyme Is A Circle ($15), made with gin, Rockey’s milk punch, pineau des charentes, thyme and grapefruit; Aperitivo Spring (jasmine-infused Aperol, Topo Chico and sparkling wine); and Smoky Tea Punch (mezcal, milk punch, Campari, orange juice). Each cocktail to-go order comes with a bag of white-truffle-flavored potato chips.
The Mule train
Rustic House Oyster Bar & Grill in San Carlos, CA, is on the Mule Train: It’s offering a Jameson Mule Pack, including 1 liter of Jameson Irish whiskey, 4-pack of Fentimans ginger beer and four fresh limes for $58; and a New Amsterdam Vodka Mule Pack that includes 1 liter of New Amsterdam vodka, 4-pack Fentimans ginger beer and four fresh limes for $55. The takeout menu also includes several hard seltzers and splits of Champagne and sparkling wine.
A touch of glass
All locations of Hula’s Modern Tiki in the Phoenix area offer six cocktail options to go, including the restaurant brand’s signature Mai Tais, Painkillers, Pink Bikini Martinis and other tropical sips.
The takeout cocktails come in 16- and 32-oz. plastic containers that the restaurants usually use for storing soup, which is all Hula’s had available when it began offering the cocktails to-go.
To make up for the lackluster beverage presentation, the menu includes an option to order four Hula’s Mai Tai glasses for $25.
Grown-up juice boxing
Tiger Fork, a Hong Kong street-food-inspired eatery in Washington D.C., is offering its most popular cocktails as adult juice boxes. Priced from $10 to $15, to-go cocktails include the 8 O’Clock Light Show, made with rum, yuzu and mandarin; Nathan Road, with bourbon, plum wine, hibiscus, bitters; and Bird Market, with gin, alpine liqueur, citrus and “stuff that’s good for you.”
Bartaco, which operates 21 locations selling upscale coastal street food, has launched to-go versions of three fan-favorite cocktails. Packaged in an eco-friendly drink pouch, the cocktails sell for $18 and serve two.
The Reviver mixes Hayman’s gin, cucumber, mint, mango nectar and lime juice; Smoke On The Water combines watermelon, smoky Banhez mezcal, with fresh lemon, mint and Cappelletti aperitivo; and Red Sonja features Olmeca Altos reposado tequila, Byrrh quinquina, ginger, jalapeno, lemon juice and Peychaud’s bitters.
Large Margs and cool cocktail kits
Hopdoddy Burger Bar offers several to-go Margaritas (shown atop), which range in price from $7 to $10 and include the Big Larry (a larger version of its famous “Little Larry” frozen Margarita) and the Skinny Dip, a Margarita with a bottle of Corona Extra beer.
The 31-unit chain also offers a Deep Eddy Drink At Home kit ($25) that includes a 375-ml. bottle of Deep Eddy vodka, two bottles of Topo Chico mineral water, two packets of Emergen-C, a lime and a lemon.
Italian restaurant North Italia, which operates more than 20 locations nationwide, is offering five different cocktail kits so that guests can mix up signature drinks at home. These include the Milano Mule ($24, serves four), Ginger Margarita ($20, serves three), Sicilian Margarita ($20, serves three), Aperol Spritz ($38, serves six) and Sangria ($18, serves two).
Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami Beach, which specializes in “over-the-top Mexican street food,” offers three bottled cocktails to go: The Pico Picante (Herradura Silver tequila, Ilegal mezcal, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, orange bitters); The Bodega Mule (Grey Goose vodka, ginger beer and lime); and Hibisco (Patron Reposado tequila, Combier orange liqueur, hibiscus cordial and fresh lime).
The bottled cocktails are priced at $9 each, except from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily; then they’re $7 as part of Bodega’s “Virtual Happy Hour.”