As seen in Currents

The restaurant scene has changed considerably in COVID times. Fewer people are dining out and more are getting takeout. Cocktails became part of the takeout scene in April 2020 when Ohio’s restrictive liquor laws changed to allow alcoholic beverages on takeout menus.

In October 2020, House Bill 669 tweaked cocktails-to-go regulations and made them permanent. It could be the only good thing to come out of the pandemic for dining establishments. The new law made cocktails available only with a meal order and restricted them to three per meal. These beverages must be delivered in a covered cup or a sealed container.

“Dining out is all about the experience,” says Homa Moheimani, spokesperson for The Ohio Restaurant Association. “People love their favorite place, the vibe, the food, the drinks. A cocktail at a restaurant is different than at home. Now you can take that experience home with you in a safe way. You can have a custom cocktail that’s perfectly paired with your food.”

Cru Uncorked in Moreland Hills provides cocktails-to-go for just that reason. “With the challenges our industry has been met with over the past year, to-go dining has been on the forefront of continuing to deliver a Cru experience to our guests,” says bartender Jeremy Walker. “Our to-go menu is complete with paired cocktails.”

“All of our to-go cocktails are individually crafted and bottled in single servings, complete with crafted ice and garnishes. They’re ready to be poured and enjoyed,” says Walker. “As our to-go dining menu changes throughout the season, our cocktail list will continue to reflect what drinks have been popular within the restaurant.”

For Zhug in Cleveland Heights, to-go cocktails were a no-brainer. “Why wouldn’t we do anything we could for our customers. So, we offered wine at retail price and to-go cocktails,” says Todd Thompson, director of operations for Douglas Katz Restaurants. “It has become the norm that you can get cocktails with your order. Most of our cocktails are our proprietary, Zhug cocktails that you can’t get somewhere else.”

And people aren’t likely to make them at home because these beverages require a well-stocked bar and rarely used ingredients like arak, falernum and za’atar honey.

The most popular of the takeout cocktails is the Zhug #6 – a blend of rye, amaro and za’atar honey -– which comes packaged in a four-ounce mason jar with a tight seal and label.

Megan O’Brien, general manager at Bell & Flower in Chagrin Falls, says unique recipes drive their cocktail-to-go sales. In fact, at least 25 percent of the restaurant’s to-go orders include cocktails packaged in small Maker’s Mark bottles sans wax seal.  

The most popular drink is a custom concoction known as A Knife in the Garter Belt — Tito’s vodka, elderflower liqueur, blood orange and lemon.

According to O’Brien cocktails will be available for take-out as long as regulations allow it. And that may be for a long time.