Water Bear Bar

Water Bear Bar takes pride in canned cocktails to-go.

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One small thing that’s been comforting to bar owners and booze lovers during the pandemic is that Idaho bars began selling alcohol drinks to-go. A seemingly minor thing for sure, but the move helped local bars to turn some profit during the shut-down, and people seemed to enjoy the option.

“Even now a lot of people still can’t get out, and there are those who have limited mobility,” said Co-owner of Water Bear Bar Kylie North. “It’s such a temperate solution for safely enjoying alcohol.”

Bars are open again and people have been queuing up to drink in-person, but a lot of local bars are still offering to-go drinks, and for people who are at high risk for COVID-19 or those who don’t quite feel comfortable yet, it’s a way for people to enjoy quality mixed-drinks, wine and beer at home. Water Bear Bar, Western Collective and Press and Pony, just to name a few, intend to keep selling to-go drinks and believe it’s a market that’s not going away.

Water Bear Bar crafts canned cocktails

The owners of the Water Bear Bar said their bar is all about radical accessibility, and selling to-go drinks fits in perfectly with their philosophy. North said they had been talking to bartenders around the country after COVID-19 hit and Idaho was one of the first states to open up its selling laws.

“It was so great,” North said. “They got right back to us after an email; the state has been really supportive.”

Co-owner Laura Keeler had been mulling over a new drink recipe in her head called the Skid Luxe, bourbon with IPA and fresh lemon juice—imagine a Whiskey Sour meets IPA—and decided the opening of the laws was a great time to figure out how to bring the quality drinks at the Water Bear Bar to people at home. It can make every drink to order and any drink made at the bar can also become a to-go.

The drinks stay fresher because Keeler and North came up with an ingenious way of packaging, where they slightly carbonate all of the mixer drinks. The result is a canned cocktail with a longer shelf-life that comes out with a little bit of froth, reminiscent of what happens when the bartender shakes it.

“Cans are the way to go,” said Keeler, “and it’s recyclable. If you aren’t going downtown to drink, you’re going out, maybe camping, and our mixed drinks have a longer shelf-life even though we pull off the tap to order.”

People can order online and even chat directly with Keeler about their orders. The bar offers all its drinks, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages for sale, and has party packs people can put together in multiple ways.

Western Collective jumps on to-go booze bandwagon

Western Collective took a proactive approach when it knew the shut-down was beginning. Melissa Levick, head of brand experience, said the liquor laws were already in place before the pandemic, but they were a bit ambiguous. To-go drinks could be a possibility.

The state worked to clear it up and let bars sell to-go.

“We’ve continued to see a great mix of both sales on premise (we are open for on premise consumption) as well as to-go/delivery,” said Levick. “People have gotten used to being able to have our beer and slushes delivered, so it’s been a great addition to our business that we don’t plan to get rid of at any time.”

The collective sells a wide array of products both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, as well as snacks, coffee and new tie-dyed merchandise. Levick said the beers and slushes (alcoholic slushies) are the biggest sellers.

The brewery is always updating products and flavors. It just launched the new fall slushes—candy corn and caramel apple flavored—and there are a huge amount of autumnal beers that will be out later this fall. Everything can be ordered at the website.

Press and Pony hopes for more change

Press and Pony is another bar that’s offering delicious quality cocktails to-go. Head bartender Erik Schweitzer said it was great when the state threw together options for bars to sell, and within five days of shutting down the bar was selling drinks to-go.

“It’s great because if we go back into lock-down we’re still able to sell,” said Schweitzer. “I think it’s the first step in getting a lot of archaic liquor laws changed in Idaho.”

Press and Pony also pours all of their to-go drinks to order and changes drink availability. People can find current offerings, and order, on the website. The Old-Fashioned is one of the most popular, and it sells in four-pack specials.

“Anyone can make a Jack and Coke at home,” said Schweitzer. “Craft cocktails are different and special, and it’s great people can try them at home.”

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