Long live to-go cocktails!

A new California law keeps the takeout booze trend on the rise.

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Photo: Stefan Sauer/picture alliance (Getty Images)

To-go cocktails, once just a dream to many bar and restaurant goers, are proving state by state that they’re here to stay. California is the latest to keep the pandemic-induced innovation going, with a new law kicking in on January 1, 2022, legalizing the sale of takeout alcohol at least through 2026.

It’s not exactly a free-flowing situation: cocktails must be sold with a “bona-fide” meal (whatever that means)  and can’t exceed 4.5 ounces of liquor a pop while wine can only be sold in single-serve containers. But still, it’s a move putting the state on the right side of history, along with 30 others that have extended the law as reported by the Distilled Spirits Council—16 of those states plus Washington, D.C., have made to-go cocktails permanent.


The new laws are allowing for some experimentation. In Savannah, Georgia, city officials are testing out aluminum to-go containers to make things that much more sustainable, and in Illinois legislation included a push for bars and restaurants to offer free drinks for folks with proof of vaccination. Cue up the neon “shot for a shot” bar signs! And of course the very law in itself is an experiment in keeping the hospitality industry alive and thriving.

So what’s with the holdouts? Some states have notoriously strict relationships with liquor laws (we’re looking at you, Utah). In others, liquor store owners worried about their own bottom line lobbied against laws benefiting restaurants and bars, like New York, where to-go cocktail sales abruptly ended earlier this year.


Considering the impending winter and the ongoing pandemic, it’s safe to say that the country’s drinking habits aren’t receding anytime soon—all purveyors of booze should find a way to exist in harmony. If the remaining states can get it together and offer takeout drinks, our beloved bars and restaurants just might make it into the next year and beyond. And we’ll all have a better chance of surviving the rest of 2021 with a delicious pre-packaged cocktail in hand.