Dining out and having a drink go hand-in-hand. A stiff martini can be just the thing you want to start a meal after a hard day. A tasty Margarita goes perfectly with tacos. And while you can certainly mix your own drinks at home, there is nothing like a perfectly balanced craft cocktail made by your favorite bartender. New rules from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission temporarily allow restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic beverages to go.
A restaurant’s highest profit margin is selling alcohol. Some restaurants and pubs could offer bottles of wine, beer and other sealed, commercially-sold liquor in cans before this rule. To provide a lifeline for restaurants who have been struggling with profits, the OLCC collaborated with legislatures and the industry to allow sales of single servings of wine and mixed drinks to go. It has taken a couple of weeks for our local eateries and bars to pull together solutions that follow the rules.
According to the OLCC rules, restaurants and bars must serve drinks with “substantial food items.” One food item must accompany up to two drinks. Snack items such as popcorn, peanuts, chips and crackers are not considered substantial. The food must be cooked on the premises.
Drinks must be consumed offsite and sealed in a container that makes it obvious if it has been opened. Tape is allowed.
The container must be labeled that it contains alcohol. All drinks must have a mixer—they can’t just serve a glass of whiskey neat.
More bars and restaurants continue to create cocktail-to-go solutions. Here’s a sampling of what you can expect.
Margaritas to go are available from most Mexican restaurants — Hola, El Caporal, El Rancho Grande, El Sancho, La Rosa, Madeline’s — and can be ordered from many others including Bos Taurus, Joolz and more.
Hola — All Bend locations, and Redmond
Refreshing Red Cactus Margaritas and other flavors are available. Served in a plastic cup with the top taped closed, a generous serving of tequila adds flavor and a kick to the refreshing mixture. You can order a pitcher, which would be served in a large plastic jug, but you’ll need to order a food item for each 2 margaritas servings ordered.
I paired the red cactus with empanadas filled with sweet, tender shrimp, Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, tomato, drizzled in cream and served with pico de gallo and guacamole.
El Caporal — Bend and Sunriver
The Caporal Margarita is the classic served in a plastic bottle. I had it with the Fiesta Platter appetizer sampler. Eating the taquitos picadillo, chicken flautas, cheese quesadilla and nachos with the Margarita was the whole Mexican restaurant experience.
Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
To keep expenses down until they can reopen, Dogwood is open Saturdays only, offering cocktails-to-go from 2 to 8 pm. For $35, you can choose one bottle of either the Poco Loco or Beetnik cocktail bundled with a take-and-bake wood-fired pizza from Portland’s Renata Italian restaurant.
The Beetnik tasted like a spiked, healthy juice that grew on me, the more I drank it. It’s made with beet-infused vodka, ginger, and lemon. As tasty as it was, if I were to order again, I’d choose the Poco Loco cocktail as it would go better with the pizza.
While McMenamins offers all meals for takeout, I opted for breakfast to try the Bloody Mary ($9.25) and a coffee drink ($9). They followed the OLCC rules to the letter. The top on the plastic drink cup and coffee cup had big labels identifying the drinks as alcoholic beverages. They were securely closed using blue painter’s tape.
There are two ways to spice up Bloody Mary’s. Some have a lot of horseradish, and others use black pepper and hot sauce. McMenamins’ Bloody Mary is the latter. It’s important to ask for the drink without ice as it gets watered down by the time you get it home.
The second drink was perfect for a cold Sunday morning. The Coffee Nudge is made with freshly roasted coffee, Edgefield’s Coffee Liqueur, High Council Brandy, Carl Crème de Cocoa, and whipped cream.
We chose a short stack of buttermilk pancakes to go with one drink and poached eggs with corned beef hash to go with the other.
Westside Tavern is known for its cocktails, not its cuisine. Still, they’ve found a way to comply with the rule to serve food so they can take advantage of the cocktails-to-go.
When ordering takeout cocktails, you can choose either a hot dog, corn dog, chili dog or “walking nachos.” Walking nachos are a Fritos bag with warmed chili and cheese poured into the bag. Luckily, all of the food options top out at $2.25. And yet, eating them was a guilty pleasure.
Westside Tavern makes delicious drinks they serve in plastic pouches aptly described as an adult juice bag. Each bag is taped shut on the sides using masking tape with a long bendy straw included. I had the Greyhound with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and a fruit slice in the bag. I also grabbed a Bloody Mary. It was heavily spiced with horseradish and a bit of hot sauce and came with a pickle and olives in the bag. It was delicious, and because there was no ice, I could drink it the next morning.
Joolz is offering their signature Hibiscus Margarita made up of a refreshing hibiscus flower and Tazo Passion tea mix with fresh lime. Simple syrup, orange liqueur balanced with sweetness, and an earthy silver tequila adds kick.
Another signature cocktail in their initial offering is the Oregon Pear made with Oregon Pear Nectar, fresh lemon ginger simple syrup, Oregon Pear Brandy vodka and lemon garnish. The sweet, tart fruitiness is a refreshing complement to Lebanese food.
Both fruity drinks were a refreshing complement to the tender Oregon Beef Schwarma plate and creamy, rich Lebneh with Dukkah nuts.
While it may not be the full fine-dining experience, Ariana knows how to create a mood with food ordered to go. The restaurant’s signature White Cosmopolitan cocktail ($12) comes in a drink pouch with three red cranberries and sealed with a classy black Ariana sticker. I chose the gnudi starter to go with it.
The meal comes in a handled black paper bag. A beautiful “thank you note” is included for an elegant experience. It was so lovely that I had to transfer it to my china and a martini glass.
The tart drink was a great accompaniment to the cheese-filled gnudi covered with black truffle shavings and served in a cream sauce ($17). Truly a balance of richness and light.
The Sunset Cocktail tastes like a Creamsicle with its fruity mango puree and Thai sunrise-coconut rum, light rum, and Thai tea drizzle. It pairs perfectly with the spicy, curried Turmeric Clams with egg, green onions, and basil with a choice of rice (I chose the nutty brown rice).
5 Fusion & Sushi Bar
5 Fusion & Sushi Bar has added craft cocktails-to-go that can be ordered with their high-quality sushi rolls or one of Joe Kim’s creative dishes on the main menu. I ordered a fruity, nuanced Marionberry Cosmo that was a joy to sip and savor with the fresh, delicious sushi rolls.
Bend Izakaya Ronin
When picking up my take and heat ramen, I took advantage of getting a glass of saki. The Ozeki One Cup has a clean and easy to drink taste and is only $6 as you only get a glass rather than buying the whole bottle. Since going to Ronin, they have added unique craft cocktails, including Yuzu Lemonade, a Ginger Roku Rickey and Whiskey Apple Cider.
In the following days, more restaurants will join in offering to-go cocktails. Velvet plans to open on Jan. 15. Call or check the Facebook page of your favorite bar or restaurant as every day more places are adding alcoholic beverages for takeout.