Many states across the country, including California, New York and Texas, are now allowing all liquor licensed restaurants and food–serving bars to sell cocktails with takeout and delivery orders. These loosened restrictions are intended to help embattled food service providers during the COVID-19 shut down of dine-in operations, as dine‒in customers accounted for the lion's‒share of their revenues.
With takeout/delivery becoming the new normal, many operators are taking a fresh look at their alcoholic beverage programs, with many being entirely unaware of how powerful a professional cocktail program can be for their business. And every liquor–serving location, whether general (full alcohol) licensed or beer & wine licensed, can now serve cocktails with their takeout and delivery food orders.
Yes, you read that right. Even beer & wine–licensed restaurants can now serve the world's most popular cocktails such as margaritas, cosmopolitans and espresso martinis. But as you often get with cocktails, there is a twist.
The best source of information for beer & wine licensees to launch a cocktail program is Somabar, the creator of the leading (and only commercially affordable) automated countertop bartending machine. Somabar perfected automated mixology, and has now applied their expertise and technology to the world of wine-safe alcohols ‒ powering the cocktail programs of a multitude of full liquor and beer & wine restaurants across the country.
According to Somabar, and as confirmed with California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and other states’ authorities, by using fermented spirits and other wine-license safe liquors, beer & wine licensees can legally craft cocktails that taste near-identical, and in some opinions far better than, traditional distilled liquor cocktails. And in California, for example, Vermouth (fortified wine flavored with various botanicals), Soju (a Korean neutral distilled spirit), and Sake (rice wine) may also be used legally by beer & wine licensees in cocktails.
And what exactly are fermented spirits?
“Fermented spirits are amazing, delicious and versatile alcohols,” offered Chris Hameetman, President of Somabar, “although the name may be unfamiliar, ‘fermented spirits’ are born from the same liquors we all know and love, yet the producers of fermented spirits simply bottle their product at the fermentation stage.”
As an example to illustrate the above, Mr. Hameetman shared that Tequila is made by mashing and fermenting the agave plant, and then distilling the resulting liquid to increase its alcohol by volume content (ABV) to around 40%. When making the fermented variant, the same process to make Tequila can be used, but the product is instead bottled at the fermentation stage, resulting in a lower ABV. Somabar recommends using 24% ABV fermented alcohols, as that is the maximum ABV California allows for beer & wine‒licensed cocktail ingredients.
Other states have different laws with respect to the maximum ABV allowed for fermented‒spirit cocktails, so it is important that each beer & wine licensee understands the specifics of their state law before starting cocktail service.
In this time of great uncertainty and challenges, all businesses, and in particular those directly impacted by COVID-19 shut-downs such as restaurants and bars, must think of new and creative ways to help make ends meet. Thankfully, many states including California, New York and Texas have offered a powerful tool by allowing cocktails for take-out and delivery, which, together with innovative, cost-reducing professional cocktail solutions like Somabar, may keep restaurants and its employees afloat in the unpredictable days and weeks to come.
*cocktail images shown in this article are for illustration only
and do not necessarily comply with all open container laws