Raise a glass—carryout cocktails are finally legal in Chicago

Step away from the bar cart and support your favorite watering hole.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
cocktails for hope, julia momose, kumiko, cocktails, to go, bottled, to-go cocktails
Photograph: Julia Momose

Though Chicago restaurants and bars have the green light to reopen their outdoor spaces, many owners are still relying on takeout and delivery business to make ends meet. Effective today, they'll be able to add packaged pre-mixed cocktails to their carryout offerings. Months in the making, the temporary legislation was approved this afternoon by the Chicago City Council after getting sign-off from Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this month.

The law was pushed to the forefront by Cocktails for Hope, a grassroots initiative led by bar vet Julia Momose, the creative director at Kumiko in the West Loop. Momose and her team launched Cocktails for Hope back in April as a plea to lawmakers to allow the sale of individual packaged drinks—like pre-mixed margaritas and Manhattans—to give bartenders an additional revenue stream through lockdown. When the conversation started in April, the state and city had already agreed to let bars and restaurants sell full, unopened bottles of booze as part of cocktail kits, but Momose said it wasn't a sustainable business model for many.

"Cocktail kits are great, but a lot of us can't afford to go out and purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of bottles to sell alongside the mix," Momose told Time Out Chicago in April. "I'm trying to position this as a more sustainable way to fuel bars and restaurants."

Moving forward, licensed establishments will be able to mix, bottle and sell pre-mixed cocktails to go in labeled, tamper-proof containers. If the drinks are being picked up via car, they must be placed in the trunk so that they're inaccessible to the driver. Though bars and restaurants won't be able to sell cocktails through third-party delivery vendors like Grubhub and Caviar, they can choose to deliver the goods themselves.

"The ability to sell cocktails to go not only creates a more meaningful connection with our guests, but obviously has huge implications for our bottom line," says Lee Zaremba, the beverage director for Boka Restaurant Group. Additionally, it will allow us a touch more connection, a bit more personality, and hopefully—just hopefully—enough money to pay rent while we figure out the future as a community."

In a statement from Cocktails for Hope co-founders Ian Beacraft, Julia Momose, and Sean O’Leary, the group says they're committed to helping business owners navigate the ins and outs of the new process, including establishing a community bottle purchasing program with help from CH Distillery and Apologue.

"As we celebrate the approval of cocktails to-go in Chicago and throughout Illinois with our colleagues in the industry, we are preparing to offer guidance in navigating the new law in the days ahead as business owners re-work their menus and beverages to work within this new to-go model, safely and effectively."

Bottoms up, Chicago!

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