Three months ago, a cocktail-to-go packed alongside your take-out meal was reserved for the few and far between.
Today, restaurants across the country are adding wine, beer and cocktails to their pick up windows in an effort to stay afloat amidst the current COVID-19 crisis.
Cities like Memphis, New Orleans, and Las Vegas have had strong to-go cocktail cultures, but it’s not cut and dry and laws aren’t always clear. Take Memphis, only the city’s legendary Beale Street is exempt from the statewide ban on open containers. Similarly, in Las Vegas open containers are limited to the Strip. That is, until COVID-19 steam rolled the industry and authorities started to relax the laws to give bars and restaurants a fighting chance.
Blau+Associates, owns and operates several restaurants across the U.S, but today only their Vegas location, Honey Salt, remains open. Located in the residential area of Summerlin this popular neighborhood bistro is known for its farm to table offerings so when pivoting to a to-go menu, Victoria Levin, Executive Director of Blau+Associates, tells us the focus is to “give people what they want; nourishing food and a great cocktail to go with it.” Navigating the changing regulations and translating the full beverage experience to a customer’s home is challenging.
Levin’s team took a two-pronged approach; they partnered with On the Rocks, a line of premium ready- to-drink crafted cocktails offering classics like an Aviation, Cosmopolitan, and an Old Fashioned and then narrowed down their own signature cocktail menu to a few simple rotating favorites; currently the Classic Margarita and Watermelon Mojito. These are available as kits with a fresh batch mixer and smaller size bottle of booze. Levin says getting the smaller bottle sizes from their distribution partner Southern Glazer’s was key. “Our goals were to please a crowd, charge a fair price, and cover our costs without wasting product since sales have been varying drastically daily. So far so good!”
In South Beach where cocktails are known to flow freely and only sometimes accompanied by food, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard. Hotels are closed, tourists are gone, and local hot spots like Bodega Taqueria & Tequila focus on their loyal local clientele. Their most popular cocktails, Hibisco, Bodega Mule, and Pico Picante are on rotation at this eatery known for its late night vibes and cool crowd. Like all businesses, the focus is on the local customer and these cocktails are premixed so it just has to be poured into a glass over ice.
Portable and not complicated is key, and Hayden Miller, head bartender, prefers “something that can easily be put in the same bag as food. Plastic containers are preferred—easy to fill and seal for safe storage and transport.” Translating Bodega’s fun atmosphere to a home cocktail isn’t easy but one thing is certain, liquor sales at retail are up and people are drinking at home. The to-go cocktail culture fits right in.