As bars reopened across the country, they quickly became breeding grounds for virus spread. Bars thrive on crowds and lively interaction and customers wanted that old vibe back, making it almost impossible for staff to enforce social distancing or mask wearing. States including Texas, Florida, California and Michigan have since ordered reopened bars to close again, and operators are back to selling alcohol primarily off-premise. But even when on-premise business resumes, some of the best practices operators developed during the pandemic remain viable for the near future.
Carryout cocktails continue to trend
About 30 states and a number of municipalities now allow restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to go, and in many cases, regulations around takeout sales have been extended and may become permanent. The carryout idea is seeing broad consumer popularity, said Donna Hood Crecca, principal with Technomic, in a recent Trends in Adult Beverage report. Bartenders are mixing up classic and signature cocktails and operators are packaging them in mason jars, branded bottles and other creative containers, with serving sizes ranging from one drink to three or four.
DIY cocktail kits to go
Cocktail kits started to proliferate during the pandemic, providing a chance for consumers sheltering in place to become craft at-home drinks like those made by professional mixologists. On sale are kits for margaritas, martinis, spritzes, negronis, mojitos and more, complete with recipes or instructions, the appropriate spirit and the necessary ingredients and garnishes. Some operators are even including a branded cocktail shaker, swizzle sticks and other accoutrements to make the at-home experience more authentic.
It’s in the can
Wine and cocktail connoisseurs may have previously shunned getting their alcohol fix in a can, but it’s seen as a sanitary solution by some bars in these days of coronavirus. The Red Piano Bar in the Skirvin Hilton hotel in Oklahoma City is now serving smaller bottles of wine geared to one customer and canned cocktails to minimize interaction between the bartender, server and customer. The quality of both has improved, with different wine varietals, premium spirits and organic ingredients more often listed on the label.
Good-bye to large format drinks
When groups again gather indoors around tables at bars and breweries, chances are they won’t be sharing pitchers of beer, mimosas or sangria. Punch bowls are also getting stored away, at least for the near future. And that brunch favorite—the customized bloody Mary bar—is also a thing of the past.
In a recent Technomic survey, 62% of consumers said they would avoid shared drinks at bars. However, a number of restaurants and wineries have expanded their growlers-to-go initiatives. Customers come and fill a reusable growler with wine and beer to take home.