With the cold weather blanketing much of the country, bars everywhere are closing patios and indoor dining due to COVID restrictions, leaving to-go cocktails as one of their only sources of revenue until the pandemic is over. In response, many bars are thinking beyond single-serving take-home bottlings and getting extra inventive with their holiday offerings. Since we can’t spend time in our favorite bars right now, the next best thing is to support them by picking up a cocktail kit or merchandise. Here are a few ways cocktail bars around the country are getting creative with their holiday offerings.

COCKTAIL KITS
Cocktails to-go have been a lifeline for many bars during the pandemic, but some are taking the idea to another level by offering larger cocktail kits that come with a full bottle of liquor plus all the fixings for several rounds. At Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, Kevin Beary calls their cocktail kit service a “virtual cocktail bar” named Gin and Juice. The collection is a carryout and delivery concept that features a range of classic cocktails. “Our hope is that this saves our guests a whole day of running around town trying to find everything they would otherwise need to make their favorite cocktail at home,” Beary says. “People definitely miss their neighborhood cocktail bar, and if we can help them easily make their favorite drink at home, then I think we’re definitely filling a void.”

Elixir in San Francisco has partnered with Fresh Victor mixers (of which bar owner H. Joseph Ehrmann is a partner) to offer large kits, small kits, and other seasonal goodies like spiked hot chocolate kits and mulled wine. Minnesota does not allow bars to sell bottles of liquor, but at Petite León in Minneapolis, beverage director and co-owner Travis Serbus has created several holiday-specific kits that provide everything else, including a Christmas morning Bloody Mary bar package, complete with mix, hot sauce, and garnishes, in addition to a Tom & Jerry batter and Buttered Rum batter. And in Portland, Oregon, where the laws are similar, places like Quaintrelle are offering kits like the Formulated Charm, which comes with vermouth, apple cordial, brut rosé, citrus, and garnish, which are to be mixed with gin.

HOLIDAY COCKTAILS

Many of the bars participating in this year’s Miracle pop-up are offering holiday drinks and glassware to go, including The Skip in Detroit, Pacific Cocktail Haven in San Francisco, and The Eleanor in Austin. Check out this year’s list of participating locations to see if there’s a bar near you.

Other bars around the country are offering festive holiday recipes too, like Here and Now in Los Angeles, which has put together a list of holiday-themed cocktail kits as part of its Blitzen pop-up. Meanwhile, folks living in the Cleveland area can order a special eggnog from the Spotted Owl (among other treats), and in Harlem in New York, Sugar Monk recently debuted a line of house-made amari.

Death & Co is offering large-format bottled cocktails paired with baked goods at their locations in NYC, Los Angeles, and Denver, including a classic eggnog paired with rum and chocolate cookies as well as a Japanese whisky toddy paired with locally made pies. “Trying to find ways to bring our bars into people homes is such an important aspect of running a business right now. Bars and restaurants have always been more about creating experiences for guests rather than the actual offerings and that hasn’t changed, we just have to find creative ways to accomplish that,” says Tyson Buhler, national beverage director for Death & Co. “The holidays are a time when people are searching for familiarity, so being able to offer items such as hot toddies, egg nog and desserts feels right and hopefully can provide some comfort in a challenging time.”

MERCHANDISE

Many cocktail bars have always offered merchandise, but this year the options are abundant (and with nationwide shipping, to boot). For bars like Leyenda in New York City, which is selling branded tote bags and apparel, this is more important than ever. “We’re doing this because we’re quite literally trying to find any source of income possible,” says co-owner Ivy Mix. “Winter is coming, and with it comes a lot of uncertainty. We want to create great items that celebrate our bar that people can wear to remind them of us and know that we’re not going anywhere.”

A few of our other favorites include this cozy throw from Portland Hunt + Alpine, the Penicillin cocktail shirt from Attaboy, and this bar essentials kit from The Violet Hour in Chicago. Smugglers’ Cove in San Francisco is offering signed copies of their book, and Claire Sprouse is selling these tote bags in Hunky Dory’s online shop. At Nickel City in Austin, Texas, you can find bandanas, glassware, apparel and more, and in addition to doing holiday cocktails for New Yorkers, Death & Co has some new offerings that are shipping nationally in their online shop, including a series of customized virtual experiences.

Most bars are also offering gift cards, which make for easy gifting, and others also give the option to tip the staff or donate to bartenders who are out of work this holiday season, so be sure to check your favorite local (or national) bar to see if they are doing something similar.