Pretty presentation is important at the bar, and upscale glassware always makes a statement. But sometimes, fancy glasses can be off-putting to consumers who worry about spillage, breakage, or ease of use in a crowded setting. One unconventional solution to those problems is to bag it up. An underutilized format now being embraced in a range of venues for their easy handling and cleanup, bags and pouches are fun for consumers and bartenders alike.
“We love the idea of presenting a drink in a unique and playful way, and we always like to surprise our guests with presentation,” says Aaron Kelley, lead bartender at Mortar & Pestle, a craft cocktail bar with locations in San Jose and San Mateo, California. “The clear pouch is really eye-catching, and we like the idea of using the bag format to bring back memories of childhood.”
Mortar & Pestle’s bagged cocktail, the Goa Swizzle ($12), is made with La Madre Rosé vermouth, Venus aquavit, Bittercube Orange bitters, lemon juice, and simple syrup, served in a clear pouch that’s reminiscent of a Capri Sun juice bag. Kelley notes that the drink’s fruity flavors and low alcohol content add to the childhood nostalgia, as does the visual appeal of the bag, which clearly features the light pink drink and chunks of floating strawberries.
“The Goa Swizzle gets a great response because it’s served in such an interesting way,” Kelley says. “Guests aren’t expecting it to come in a pouch because it’s not mentioned on the menu, so it’s a surprise. It’s a room-stopper.”
The Kimpton Rowan Hotel in Palm Springs, California uses a pouch format at its pool bar. Hotel beverage manager and mixologist Andy Nelson says the pouch is perfect for the pool deck because it allows guests to carry their drinks into the pool without worrying about spilling or pool water splashing into them—and it is safer than regular glassware in a usually barefoot space.
“Guests love it,” Nelson says. “They’re always shocked when they see the first one going out. When one gets served by the pool, more orders roll in.” The Rowan’s rooftop pool bar offers the Capri Sunday ($20), made with Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka, Tempus Fugit Crème de Noyaux liqueur, and pineapple, orange, and lemon juices, and the Delayed Flight ($14), mixing Absolut vodka, Aperol aperitif, and grapefruit and lime juices.
In Beverly Hills, California, restaurant and bar Double Take at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar also prepares bagged drinks for the hotel’s pool. Lead bartender Sarah Mengoni says the bags are fun and save space behind the bar. The venue offers two bagged drinks: The Junglebird ($16), which mixes Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum, Campari aperitif, and fresh lime and pineapple juices, garnished with fruit slices, and the Through The Ceiling ($12), comprising Emilio Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso Sherry, house-made tangerine syrup, and lemon juice, garnished with fruit and edible flowers. “The cocktails are visually appealing—the bags really highlight the aesthetics of the ingredients inside,” Mengoni says.
For Brian Riggenbach, partner and executive chef at Nashville’s The Mockingbird, ease of transport was a big factor in adding bagged cocktails. Riggenbach and his partner, Mikey Corona, first experimented with the packaging when they operated an underground supper club in Chicago that would change locations regularly. Easily transportable bags were key then, and the duo liked them so much they brought bags into their futuristic diner space in Nashville. The Mockingbird offers a weekly bagged punch special called The Punchin’ Bag ($12). Recent punches have included pomegranate and watermelon mint flavors, and guests can personalize the drink with the spirit of their choice.
“Our Punchin’ Bag is the most ordered item on the menu and the most photographed item in our restaurant,” Riggenbach says. “The flavors rotate weekly with whatever is in season and it’s attractive for our diners because they can choose their spirit. It’s turned into a sensation. The bag is a kitschy alternative to a glass and the cocktail is really unique. When guests see the bag being served, they immediately want to know more about it.”