Are Takeout Cocktails Cool Again? Sam Fox Thinks So

Cocktails available for takeout from Doughbird.
Cocktails available for takeout from Doughbird. Fox Restaurant Concepts
When days were dark at the start of the COIVD-19 pandemic, takeout cocktails offered a little sliver of light. Bars and restaurants shut down, but these canned and bottled drinks kept the memory of bellying up to the bar alive.

In March 2020, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control relaxed off-premise alcohol regulations and allowed for the sale of mixed drinks for takeout. Bartenders ran with the idea, creating cocktails sold in Capri Sun-like plastic pouches, Styrofoam soda cups, and deli containers. A couple of drive-thru cocktail vendors popped up around the Valley and the sales helped keep some businesses afloat.

But as bars and restaurants in Arizona reopened with dine-in services and full capacity seating, takeout cocktails took a back seat.  Stephen Jones, chef and owner of the acclaimed downtown Phoenix restaurant the larder + the delta, tells Phoenix New Times his attentions have shifted elsewhere.

"The to-go cocktail was 100 percent helpful. It helped us and a lot of my friends who own restaurants," Jones says. "Still, that was a drop in the bucket."

Many restaurants in Arizona opted to ditch their plastic bottles and soda cup cocktails for dine-in business. But as the summer heats up, one influential restaurant group is embracing the concept, opening the door with the chance that others may follow.

Fox Restaurant Concepts is now selling takeout cocktails at two of its restaurants, Blanco Cocina + Cantina in Scottsdale and Doughbird in Phoenix. For $18, customers can order from options including a blackberry elderflower sangria or a yuzu margarita in a bottle that serves two.

"Now that summer is right around the corner, it's hard to imagine a better way to beat the heat than with a refreshing, ready-to-drink cocktail. With pool season really starting to ramp up around the Valley and summer holidays on the horizon too, we know our guests will truly love soaking up the sun with sangrias and margaritas in this new to-go format, all season long," Aubrey Mansene, director of beverage for Fox Restaurant Concepts, wrote in a statement.

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Bottled cocktails at Doughbird.
Fox Restaurant Concepts
The battle to fully legalize takeout cocktails was a long and arduous process. Extending the ruling beyond the boundaries of Ducey's executive orders proved difficult. Some bar owners argued restaurants' ability to sell takeout alcohol reduced the value of their expensive liquor licenses. Others argued Ducey didn't have the right to change the law without it first passing through the state legislature. A lawsuit ensued.

Then last May, the Arizona Legislature passed House Bill 2773 and the Governor signed it into law. Takeout cocktails were legalized, starting October 1, 2021.

Last fall, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control began licensing takeout booze abilities to restaurants through a lease system. Restaurant owners can now lease the privilege from bars, easing the economic burden on both.

But takeout cocktails didn't come back in a big way. The drive-thrus stayed shut and the buzz over takeout booze never picked back up.

The liquor department now reports that a total of 132 individual restaurants from across Arizona have applied for takeout cocktail privileges. Many of those restaurants are multiple locations of the same chain, meaning only 68 restaurant concepts have applied across the entire state.

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Bottled cocktails at Fox restaurants cost $18 and serve two people.
Fox Restaurant Concepts
The list of those who have applied to sell takeout alcohol in bottles is even fewer, at just six restaurant concepts across Arizona.

Steve Chucri, the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association and former Maricopa County Board Supervisor, predicts that it might just be too soon for Arizona's restaurants to fully grasp the potential of takeout cocktails.

"The restaurant industry continues to evolve and adapt to meet customer demands, and to-go cocktails is an important tool in this process. The demand for to-go cocktails is growing across the nation," he wrote in a statement.

"We fully expect Arizona restaurateurs will do the same in accommodating food and beverage enthusiasts in this way," Chucri said.

While that is yet to be seen, Fox Restaurant Concepts, founded by Sam Fox, one of the most influential restaurateurs in the state, might be on course to change that. Whether this is the first step to bringing takeout cocktails back into the spotlight in Arizona remains to be seen.
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Tirion Boan is the Food Editor at Phoenix New Times. Find her digging into all of the best restaurants and dishes in the Valley, from new spots to hidden gems. Food tip? Get in touch at [email protected]
Contact: Tirion Boan

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