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Mass. Restaurants Hope To-Go Cocktails Will Boost Bottom Lines05:31
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Brit McMahan, manager at Drink in Boston, pours coconut milk into a container of pineapple juice while preparing a batch of piña colada for take out. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Brit McMahan, manager at Drink in Boston, pours coconut milk into a container of pineapple juice while preparing a batch of piña colada for take out. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Restaurants have taken a huge hit during the pandemic. Even some of the biggest names in the business have closed eateries or pared down their staffs.

The state has allowed restaurants to slowly re-open, with restrictions, and this week gave them the green light to sell cocktails to go.

It's too soon to know the impact, but it could be a boon for cocktail bars such as Drink in Boston's Fort Point Channel district. Drink is part of the Barbara Lynch Collective. The company has had to lay off about half of its 200 or so employees during the pandemic, according to beverage director Ashley Guertin.

Guertin told WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins she and other company leaders hope to be able to bring back some workers now that their restaurants have re-opened and have the option of selling to-go cocktails. Massachusetts restaurants have been allowed to sell beer and wine with takeout orders since April.

Guertin described the cocktail "batching" process that starts two hours before the bar opens.

Interview Highlights: 

"We juice limes, we would make a strawberry syrup for our strawberry daiquiri, we make our almond orgeat for the mai tai ... and we would measure out the specific amounts that we need for the size batch that we're making. And then we would mix everything together for each specific cocktail separately, and then we would fill all of the bottles just depending on how much we need for either that day or the following day .

We use a 12-ounce plastic bottle. It's actually a biodegradable plastic that we found from a company that's based in New Hampshire ... It has what's known as a J-band, which creates that seal when you open a juice bottle. So it cracks when you open it, so you know that everything inside has not been tampered with since we sealed it."

On whether bottled to-go cocktails will be as good as drinks made at the point of order:

"If you had one that we made for you at the bar versus this one, I believe that you would [find them equally satisfying]. We have been able to utilize some powdered acids that really preserve the flavor of the lime juice. So we just use citric acid, which is the base ingredient in lime juice that makes it tart ... It is as close as we can possibly get it.

A big part of what we love about what we do is the interaction with the guests and having that kind of, like, instantaneous feedback when they taste something that you've put a lot of effort into making ... Luckily now that we've been able to re-open, they do get a little bit of that satisfaction with interacting with guests after they have batched these. So they are happy that we're able to continue to have jobs for as many people as we can."

On any concerns about customers violating public drinking or drunk driving laws

We hope and ask all of our guests to abide by the regulations that are in place and are just really, I guess, keeping our fingers crossed that people are behaving responsibly.

McMahan fills each bottle with piña colada. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
McMahan fills each bottle with piña colada. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This segment aired on July 24, 2020.

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