Earlier this month, a new state budget was approved — and in it was a law approving the sale of to-go drinks.
Thus marked the return of cocktails-to-go — a popular trend among New Yorkers who were looking to patronize their favorite watering holes during the pandemic, and a buoy for bars and restaurants looking to make it through to the other end of quarantine and shutdowns. The program ended suddenly last summer as restaurants started opening up for indoor dining, much to the dismay of the city’s wandering winos.
Now, and for the next three years, barflies and passersby alike can take their alcoholic beverages off-premises “under appropriate limitations,” according to head of the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“New York’s nightlife and hospitality industry is second to none, and by allowing the sale of to-go drinks we will continue to support the industry’s recovery from the pandemic,” Hochul said after the budget was passed. “Cheers.”
While many Brooklyn businesses were quick to start slinging to-go drinks, other business owners went to work to meet the state’s guidelines: the law says that to-go drinks must be sold alongside food orders, in sealed containers, and there are to be no bottle sales.
For some businesses, this complicates things.
“It’s gray news,” said Natasha Otrakji, co-owner of Williamsburg’s Pokito bar, ranked one of the best in Brooklyn by TimeOut. “We don’t have a kitchen to make food to go with drinks, so we have to set a whole logistical operation up and talk to the staff to figure it out.”
Many places got around the food requirement during 2020 with pre-made snacks, but this time, food needs to be more substantial to pass. Still, some businesses couldn’t bear to wait.
“It hurt business when we were no longer to serve them anymore,” said Brianna Lutz from Art Cafe + Bar. “People were pushing for it.”
The Prospect Heights bar is already serving their fan-favorite dill rose vodka cocktails to-go, among other beloved beverages.
Here are some of Brooklyn Paper’s favorite places to grab to-go drinks:
Super Power (Crown Heights)
It is a shame the glasses Super Power serves to-stay drinks in can’t be taken as souvenirs, because the Easter Island head mugs make this bar’s cocktails even more fun. The apple sangaree, made with French and Italian vermouths and apple grenadine, is fresh, sweet, comforting and has the right kick.
722 Nostrand Ave., superpowerbrooklyn.com
Sycamore Bar + Flower Shop (Flatbush)
It’s not just that there’s food, drinks and flowers to-go, all in one place. There’s also a great atmosphere on Wednesday’s vinyl nights and DJ dance parties, even if it’s just a quick stop before hitting the road.
1118 Cortelyou Rd., sycamorebrooklyn.com
Mad Tropical (Bushwick)
Governor Hochul would probably approve of pairing Mad Tropical’s frozen negroni with their pork belly or vegetarian sliders. This Bushwick bar and restaurant is a bright, self-proclaimed “good vibes oasis,” but for those who want to take their drinks to-go, Maria Hernandez Park is just a block away.
236 Troutman St., madtropical.com
Matter (Bay Ridge)
For those days when coffee really needs to kick in, the Coffee Conundrum cocktail with two kinds of rum could offer some assistance. You can grab one of these with brunch, dinner or pastries, and whether you’re ordering coffee or a cocktail, the foam art and occasional orange peel add look and flavor. This place is versatile.
7604 3rd Ave., matterbar.com
The Hidden Pearl (Greenpoint)
Being a few feet away from MacCarren Park makes The Hidden Pearl the perfect place to grab a drink to-go at. Their cocktail The Dunning-Kruger Effect brings game from Mexico, Frace, Spain and Japan by mixing Tequila, Fino Shery, Suze and Togarashi spices.
621 Manhattan Ave., hiddenpearlbk.com