How Chicago’s Best Bars Are Perfecting the Takeout Cocktail
A list of 10 great offerings that take advantage of Chicago’s newest drinking law
Since March, America’s collective desire to consume more alcohol has spiked as imbibers have holed up at home. We’ve experimented with new wines and spirits, and many of us have tried our hand at home cocktailing. Wine.com showed a 350 percent increase in online wine and liquor sales for April compared to 2019, and results from a 15,000-person survey by Drizly indicated that 61 percent of Americans purchased alcohol for home consumption since March. During that same time period, 52% percent of respondents said their at-home cocktail creation had increased.
While many of us will continue to order online and drink at home, let’s be honest: we miss getting drinks from bars and restaurants. Chicago recently entered into Phase Four of its reopening process, allowing restaurants and bars to serve customers on outdoor patios and indoors with six feet of distance between tables and requisite face masks.
The city also passed a new law allowing bars to sell to-go cocktails, which was previously illegal. This has allowed places to get creative with their menus, but more important, devising new drink recipes for you to throw back (while hopefully following packaging rules). Countless spots have gotten into the game, and the list below represents just a snapshot of what’s available.
Without further ado, here are our 10 favorite new takeout cocktails around Chicago.
Few things signify summer in Chicago like drinking margaritas on Big Star’s patio. The one trick? Getting a table. Now you don’t have to fight for a spot, as the beloved honky-tonk taqueria just released bottled margs at its restaurants and canned margaritas available at Binny’s, Whole Foods and Foxtrot. The cans come in four-packs ($19.99) and each equals two margaritas. The 12 percent ABV drink comprises blanco tequila, triple sec and plenty of citrus to keep your patio party going.
Summer is all about keeping cool, and with this in mind, Funkenhausen has introduced boozy freezer pops. The first batch deliciously combines tequila, cucumber, lime and basil. They’ll soon add the F-Riesling: a German version of the frosé. While there, grab bottled to-go cocktails: Wunder Punsch (vodka, cherry, lime and bittes) and bourbon peach tea, which sounds like what it is: sunshine in a bottle.
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
Inspired by to-go windows in New Orleans, where chef/owner Brian Jupiter grew up, the walk-up window here offers a variety of finely shaved ice sno-balls in flavors like kiwi, grape and cherry. For another $4, get a sealed shot of booze to add to your frozen treat. And like Nola, Ina Mae’s offers a rotating selection of boozy frozen slushies, like a Hurricane, and daiquiris.
Co-owner Julia Momose led the charge to legalize to-go cocktails in Illinois through Cocktails for Hope, and now that her mission has gotten the green light, she’s full steam ahead. Kumiko offers some of the most precisely made, luxurious cocktails around, like the Ume Old Fashioned with two types of Japanese whiskey, the Moonrise Daiquiri with Junmai Ginjo sake and Rhum Clément Select Barrel; and the refreshing Seaflower with Nikka Coffey gin and yuzu kosho. Or put yourself in Momose’s hands and get the dealer’s choice.
Through its partnership with local The Farm, where they source their produce, the Loyalist uses fresh herbs and produce in its cocktails. Last year, the restaurant teamed with CH Distillery to create The Farm Truce, its own green chartreuse used in the Farm Life cocktail: Farm Truce, gin and lime ($16). Also on offer are the Violet Crimes (mezcal, lavender, lemongrass honey, manzanilla sherry and Galliano) and Bani Kara (Japanese whiskey, sweet annie rye, honey and lemon). It doesn’t get fresher than this.
Pacific Standard Time
Bottled as either a single or triple serving, the super fresh cocktails here reflect the general SoCal vibe PST has always exuded. Choose from a slew of drinks including a strawberry daiquiri with two types of rum; spicy margarita; Oaxacan negroni with mezcal; and a spritz for two. Summer just got tastier.
Pisolino Italian Market
Now that the intimate Italian Avondale spot has converted into a gourmet grocer, you can still get restaurant favorites like housemade pastas, take-and-bake pizzas, cheese and charcuterie and a well-curated selection of Italian wines. But you can also get cocktail “triples,” three different cocktails — Negroni, Margherita (yes, that’s spelled right) and Limone (limoncello and vodka). Made daily, the drinks come packed in a pouch with a bendy straw for a little whimsy.
Ramen-San and Sushi-San
Miss doing sake bombs with a group of friends while stuffing yourself with nigiri and sashimi? This kit — with two cans of Asahi beer, a Lucky Dog sake pack, two shot glasses, two beer tumblers and chopsticks to set up said shots over the beer — changes that. You’ll be saying kanpai in no time.
Juanjo Pulgarin, the Jean Banchet Award-nominated bartender for this acclaimed Indian and Nepalese restaurant, mixes up three unique bottled cocktails. Don’t miss the Adagio of Spartans (Jimjiji Indian gin, elderflower, Italicus, lime, cucumber-mint infusion and butterfly pea powder) or Le Jardin d’Anais (Prairie organic vodka, junmai sake, chamomile mint tea, passionfruit and lime). Each cocktail goes for $12, but stretch your dollars and get three for $30.
Nearly as delicious as chef Erick Williams’s Southern fare are the to-go cocktails Virtue now offers — and you’ll want something to wash down the decadent lightly fried green tomatoes with shrimp and remoulade or the brown sugar-glazed salmon and sweet peas. Choose from boozy Old Fashioneds or margaritas, but style yourself with the Patience is a Virtue: Virtue vodka, crème Yvette and lime.