To-go cocktails add new dimension to Atlanta dining, drinking scene

At Ticonderoga Club in Krog Street Market, customers can order to-go cocktails at a takeout window. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
At Ticonderoga Club in Krog Street Market, customers can order to-go cocktails at a takeout window. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

New Georgia alcohol law offers economic relief to restaurants and bars recovering from pandemic

Allowing customers to take cocktails to go previously was a temporary pandemic measure in some cities, aimed at helping bars and restaurants stay afloat. Now, it has become an established part of the business model in Georgia, thanks to a new law that took effect May 5, when signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

“Alcohol is one of the highest margin items on a menu, so providing enhanced occasions to sell cocktails, as part of a to-go order, can have a material impact on business,” said Taylor Katzman, CEO of Provi, an e-commerce marketplace for the beverage industry.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the added revenue represents an average of 10% of a restaurant’s off-premises sales, which is enough to cover the salaries of one or two staffers.

“It will also provide our guests with the ability to include our delicious and unique craft cocktails with their meal orders to enjoy at home,” Georgia Restaurant Association President Karen Bremer said.

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To-go drinks are available in pouches at DBA Barbecue in Morningside. Courtesy of DBA Barbecue
To-go drinks are available in pouches at DBA Barbecue in Morningside. Courtesy of DBA Barbecue

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Restaurants with valid permits first must check with the local government, as municipalities can opt out of the statewide law. The to-go cocktails must be mixed drinks (no shots), with no more than 3 ounces of distilled spirits, and must be sold with an accompanying food order (no more than two drinks per entree ordered). Delivery is prohibited. Drinks must be labeled, identifying the licensee, and in sealed packages.

Southern Belle General Manager Kevin Bragg said the new law “finally allows us a chance to offer a more complete dining experience in the comfort of one’s own home. It also presents a creative and much-needed opportunity for restaurants to generate extra sales after a challenging year.”

One such drink available at Southern Belle is the Que Lindo Tamarindo, which has the savory quality of brandy, tamarind, ginger and red curry, with smokiness from mezcal.

At Little Bear in Summerhill, to-go cocktail orders are packaged in plastic bear containers. Courtesy of Little Bear
At Little Bear in Summerhill, to-go cocktail orders are packaged in plastic bear containers. Courtesy of Little Bear

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

“The takeaway cocktails allowed us to boost our takeout check average immensely,” DBA Barbecue owner Matt Coggin said. At DBA, a margarita and Electric Blue Punch are the two most popular to-go drinks.

The law is a boon for standout cocktail programs like that at Staplehouse, which offers classic sazeracs and even a Nightcap for Two, with sherry and amaro. And, Buckhead’s Aria now has one of its most popular cocktails ready for pickup: Odd Man Out, a refreshing herbal drink featuring Strega, Dolin Blanc, lemon and orange bitters with tequila, or, for a smokier version, mezcal.

Summerhill’s Little Bear serves to-go orders of cocktails, like the El Presidente (a refreshing pink mix of rum, mint vermouth, satsuma triple sec and strawberry-mint bitters) in whimsical packaging shaped like bears.

One of Aria's most popular cocktails, the Odd Man Out, is available to go. Courtesy of Brandon Amato
One of Aria's most popular cocktails, the Odd Man Out, is available to go. Courtesy of Brandon Amato

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Some bars even have created takeout windows for drinks. Ticonderoga Club’s Swim Up Bar window serves bottled cocktails and made-to-order classics, as well as frozen cups and tiny bottles of Amer Ticon, a house-made aperitif.

Brick Store has a walk-up window in an alleyway. “I think any options that are being put on the table are helpful,” co-owner Mike Gallagher said. “Removing obstacles that keep people from being able to spend money with us as we try to rebuild our teams and rebuild our business is prudent.”

Southern Belle's bottled Que Lindo Tamarindo cocktail is a savory-smoky mixture of mezcal, brandy, tamarind, ginger and red curry. Courtesy of Southern Belle
Southern Belle's bottled Que Lindo Tamarindo cocktail is a savory-smoky mixture of mezcal, brandy, tamarind, ginger and red curry. Courtesy of Southern Belle

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Sometimes, a to-go cocktail is a concoction you simply cannot make at home. An excellent discovery is Cold Beer’s Airline Hurricane: the house rhum blend, banana liqueur, fermented fassionola syrup, strawberry, passion fruit, coconut, makrut lime leaf, acid-adjusted pineapple, strawberry top absinthe, mint and Peychaud’s lime.

As a further boost for restaurant sales, some municipalities have open-container laws. People walking in Dunwoody Village can be seen with clear plastic cups marked with a sticker. Rules are similar in Acworth, Kennesaw, Powder Springs and Smyrna. At Alpharetta’s Carson Kitchen, a new weekend bar cart holds a variety of drinks, such as a Get Shorty, with Blanco tequila, grapefruit, fresh lime and some sweetened heat from cayenne simple syrup.

Carson Kitchen's new bar cart serves a variety of to-go drinks for sipping while strolling around Alpharetta City Center. Courtesy of Carson Kitchen
Carson Kitchen's new bar cart serves a variety of to-go drinks for sipping while strolling around Alpharetta City Center. Courtesy of Carson Kitchen

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Stockyard Burgers & Bones’ Arianne Fielder served many a Summer Crush, a mixture of peach vodka, ginger beer, simple syrup, lemon and mint, when Marietta Square restarted its live music events this spring. Those attending the shows also are sipping Piastra’s Spreziato, featuring house-made mangocello, ginger syrup and spiced rum.

The city of Decatur’s decision to allow open-container drinks on the weekends has led to a significant increase in the amount of to-go cocktail sales,” said Matt Watkins, Deer and the Dove’s bar director.

At Cold Beer, some to-go cocktails are bottled, some are in pouches, and some are served in cups, with garnishes on the side. This is their tiki drink Airline Hurricane. Courtesy of Cold Beer
At Cold Beer, some to-go cocktails are bottled, some are in pouches, and some are served in cups, with garnishes on the side. This is their tiki drink Airline Hurricane. Courtesy of Cold Beer

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

WHERE TO GET COCKTAILS TO GO

Aria. 490 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, Atlanta. 404-233-7673, aria-atl.com

Brick Store Pub. 125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990, brickstorepub.com

Carson Kitchen. 4 S. Main St., Alpharetta. 770-696-1752, carsonkitchen.com

Cold Beer. 670 DeKalb Ave., Atlanta. 404-254-1032, coldbeeratl.com

Deer and the Dove. 155 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-748-4617, deerdove.com

DBA Barbecue. 1190 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-249-5000, dbabarbecue.com

Little Bear. 71 Georgia Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-500-5396, littlebearatl.com

Piastra. 45 W. Park Square, Marietta. 770-425-9300, piastrarestaurant.com

Southern Belle. 1043 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-698-3961, southernbelleatl.com

Staplehouse. 541 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com

Stockyard Burgers & Bones. 26 Mill St., Marietta. 678-503-2760, stockyardburger.com

Ticonderoga Club. 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 404-458-4534, ticonderogaclub.com

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