As California mulls making to-go cocktails permanent, the pre-mixed drink’s popularity endures

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

To help bars and restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic, California allowed them to sell to-go cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Now the rule change may become permanent, thanks to a bill the State Senate passed last week. That bill now heads to the State Assembly. 

Sang Yoon owns the restaurants Father’s Office and Lukshon, and he’s been serving pre-made, to-go cocktails from the Father’s Office location in Culver City.

The popularity of pre-made cocktails has endured throughout the pandemic, Yoon tells KCRW, and he expects it to continue.

“One thing we've discovered, besides the ability to sell them to-go, [is] people don't like waiting for cocktails to be made. Even if they're in a restaurant, it is probably the number one complaint: that cocktails take too long. And the ability for us to reach in the fridge and hand you a pre-mixed cocktail, using the same ingredients, the same recipes, I'd say nothing is better than a fast cocktail.”

Without being able to sell to-go cocktails alongside food, Yoon says he doesn’t know whether Father’s Office would have made it through the pandemic. 

“For many places, this was a small life line, especially places like bars that didn't serve food. … There's a lot of laws on the books governing the service of alcohol. They're really just kind of pointless, puritanical rules that don't make any sense. And I think there's clear evidence that being able to take a cocktail home from restaurants did not equal the collapse of our society as we know it.” 

At Father’s Office, Yoon says bartenders bottle old-school stirred cocktails, such as the martini and old fashioned, that haven’t been introduced to ice. 

“Those kinds of cocktails do extremely well, in the prepackaged bottle format, there's absolutely no degradation. They taste just as good as if they were [just] made or if it took a long time to make.”

The convenience factor is key to a to-go drink, he adds.

“Who wants to open a bottle of whiskey? A bottle of bitters? A bottle of vermouth? This is just ‘grab it out of the fridge.’ And it's like, ‘Wow, I could really see the value in this — not just for pandemic reasons.’ It's nice to have some cocktails from one of your favorite bars or restaurants in your house ready to go.”