For over a year, “staying in” has become the new “going out.” Even as more and more get vaccinated, it could still be months before the bar and restaurant scene returns to pre-pandemic levels. One bright spot during the COVID ordeal has been the availability of handcrafted cocktails for takeout and delivery.
A longtime practice in New Orleans, cocktails-to-go have really taken off during the pandemic, with bars and customers embracing the concept. It’s been a well-needed extra source of income for businesses struggling with shutdowns and restrictions. Many trendspotters say this is one coronavirus trend that’s here to stay. In late March, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill allowing distilleries, restaurants and bars to continue selling to-go cocktails through July of 2022.
According to a trend report from Bacardi, the pandemic has made home the focal point of our social lives and changed the eating and drinking landscape forever. Initiatives such as virtual happy hours and live-streamed gigs have allowed people to recreate their favorite elements of bars and restaurants without leaving their homes.
In Japan, they even have a name for it: on-nomi, which literally translates to “online drinking.” Groups of friends meet up for a video chat to drink together virtually from their homes. Aside from social distancing, there are some advantages — no closing time, no uncomfortable high heels, no drinking and driving and, if you get a drink spilled on you, it’s your own fault.
The e-commerce convenience culture has expanded to include liquid libations. With your dining-in options from GrubHub or Doordash no longer limited to solid food, you can have your cake and cocktail, too! Luckily, D.C. is a craft cocktail town and the options are plentiful.
Locally, one of the earliest and most unique cocktails-to-go success stories are the pandemic-themed Fauci Pouchy cocktails from Capo Italian Deli in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. These tipples, served in plastic drink pouches, feature a black-and-white label with a comforting image of Dr. Anthony Fauci in his doctor’s coat. Introduced a year ago, they quickly became a huge hit, even gaining an Instagram following for the hashtag #faucipouchy.
The 14-ounce pouches contain enough for two drinks and come in six flavors, including the celebrated strawberry lemonade, made with strawberry-infused gin, Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, lemonade and pineapple; a boozy sweet tea forged from peach-infused tea, Maker’s Mark bourbon and lemongrass; and the Alcoholic Painkiller, made with Don Q rum, pineapple, orange, coconut and nutmeg. And while you’re waiting to get your vaccine “shot,” you can order a fun-sized “shot” of Fauci Penicillin, composed of Mezcal El Silencio, Earl Grey, honey, ginger and lemon.
With the last year being a total lemon, the Fauci Pouchy has turned into a tongue-in-cheek bright spot. As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” According to Rohit Malhotra, Capo’s beverage director: “We had a lot of strawberry gin at the start of the pandemic, and were trying to deplete that. We had to work with what we had because being shut down we couldn’t bring in anything else right away. After we finished that product, we began infusing gin with fresh strawberries. Out of all the flavors we have sold, this remains one of the most popular.”
Another D.C. watering hole that has had big success with its own line of bottled craft cocktails-to-go is Service Bar on U Street NW. Already known for brilliantly flavored tipples, the bar has bottled the magic for your home-drinking pleasure. Most popular, according to the Service Bar website, is the seasonal pisco punch, a concoction of pisco, naranjilla, eucalyptus pineapple and hibiscus. Other options include the Starry Nights, made with bourbon whiskey, Jamaican rum, demerara sugar, mint and aromatic bitters, and the Costa del Sol G&T made of gin, Meyer lemons, fina sherry and cinchona. Each bottle contains enough for two or three cocktails.
With Cinco de Mayo coming up soon, there’s no need to break out your blender at home. Many Mexican joints are delivering tequila and mescal libations. Serenata on 4th St. NE offers flasks of the bar’s confidently-named Best Ever Margaritas, made from tequila, spiced pineapple, nopal (cactus paddle), orange Curaçao and salt. Georgetown’s El Centro offers margaritas-to-go in strawberry, prickly pear, mango and spicy mango flavors, available in single or pitcher-sized servings.
As the vaccine rolls out across the U.S., the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly coming into view. Until then, let your fingers do the walking — and let Dr. Fauci make a house call.