• Jerry Thomas

Quick Start Guide for Serving Takeout & Delivery Cocktails in California

On March 19, 2020, the California Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) provided its initial statement of regulatory relief to all on-sale liquor license holders (i.e., alcohol licensed restaurants, food-serving bars and other food service providers throughout California) allowing for the immediate sale of cocktails for takeout and delivery. Municipalities, including the City of Los Angeles, amplified the relief measures through orders of their own confirming the legality of such cocktail service.

Although the State of California has provided this lifeline to restaurants and other food-service providers struggling in the wake of the statewide dine-in closures, many alcohol-licensed restaurants that remain open to provide takeout and delivery have not yet begun offering cocktails as they are so overwhelmed by recent events, that any new opportunity, no matter how lucrative, is daunting.   

In response to this frustration, and to further aid California’s struggling businesses, we have created this Quick Start Guide so restaurants can better navigate the issues surrounding takeout and delivery cocktail service and immediately turn this opportunity into much-needed cash flow.

How To Comply with New Takeout & Delivery Requirements for All Licensed Locations

California’s ABC regulatory relief allowing for cocktail takeout and delivery comes with a few easily followed conditions: 

  • Cocktails must only be sold together with meals (not snacks) prepared for pick-up or delivery,

  • Cocktails must be packaged in containers with secure lids or caps (no straw holes or other lid openings), and

  • Takeout & Delivery cocktail sellers must “post” a  warning that puts consumers on notice of limitations regarding open container laws in the language set forth here.

“Post” means to prominently display on the premises, post online, or present in whatever manner is necessary to ensure that the consumer purchasing, or delivery person transporting, such beverages is given notice of the state-required warning.

How To Provide Professional Cocktail Service (including Beer & Wine Licensed Locations)

Option 1

  • Use a turn-key  cocktail solution such as Somabar’s automated bartender, which provides all the menus, mixology, recipes and resources to immediately start selling takeout and delivery cocktails the same day you receive your machine.

An Example Somabar Customer-favorite Menu (Wine-license Safe Version)

Option 2

  • Create, implement, and oversee a professional cocktail program for your establishment.

  • Hire a professional mixologist to create a successful menu of cocktails & recipes that compliment your food offerings and restaurant theme.

  • Hire a full-time bartender and/or train all staff to consistently measure, mix and prepare each cocktail recipe, along with a manager responsible for quality-control.

  • Create a sanitary area to store ingredients, mixing tools, and prepare cocktails.

  • Implement sanitization procedures for cocktail utensils after drink prep.

  • Additional resources to help create your own successful cocktail program: Seven Fifty Daily, A Bar Above, On The Line, and The Nimble Bar Co.

Cocktail Ingredients + Takeout & Delivery Supplies

Cocktails must be packaged in a container with a secure lid or cap (no straw holes or other lid openings).  Many restaurants have their own suppliers, however, the following illustrate inexpensive, high-quality solutions:

Mason Jars with lids can be utilized as takeout & delivery cocktail containers: Webstaurant Store (+/-$.70 per jar) Target (+/-$.70 per jar) Walmart (+/-$.70 per jar)

Garnishes. A cocktail without garnishes can be uninspiring. Add any herb or fresh or candied fruit directly into your cocktail, and include a souffle/portion cup with rimming garnishes such as salt, sugar, or wedges of lime.

Be creative! For more ideas, visit Good Cocktails, Allrecipes, and Serious Eats

For new beer & wine-licensed cocktail programs, you will need wine-safe alcohols and mixers:

  • Distributors include Sysco, Restaurant Depot, and Premium Blend

  • If you are working with Somabar, you will be directly connected with your best supplier along with recommended cocktail ingredients by name and SKU for simple ordering, fulfillment and mixology.

Cocktail Preparation & Fulfillment Best Practices

Regarding Cocktail Preparation:

  • Wash all containers and lids, and store in a cold environment.

  • Serve cocktails in a clean, chilled container without ice (ice will dilute the drink), and don't forget the garnishes!

  • Minimize human contact with cocktail containers and ingredients:

  • Staff should wash hands frequently, and wear gloves and a mask during any food or drink preparation, and frequently sanitize all cocktail prep and mixing tools and containers, or

  • Use a contamination-minimizing cocktail-making appliance such as Somabar that eliminates most human contact during drink preparation.

Regarding Delivery, Pick-up & Takeout:

  • Encourage payments to be hands-free (such as Apple, Samsung, or Google Pay,  or “Tap” enabled credit cards), keeping contact to a minimum.

  • Increase frequency of disinfecting high-touch surfaces.

  • For pickups, limit the number of people inside your establishment and maintain social distancing of at least six feet.

*Note: According to theUS Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

In this time of great uncertainty and challenges, all businesses, and in particular those directly impacted by COVID-19 shut-downs such as dine-in restaurants and bars, must seek new and creative ways to sustain their cash flow. Thankfully, California has offered a powerful tool by allowing cocktail takeout and delivery, which, together with innovative, cost and contamination reducing cocktail solutions such as Somabar, may keep restaurants and its employees open and running in the unpredictable days and weeks to come.


*The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials provided are for general informational purposes only.

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