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How to Set Up Your Own Portable Cocktail Program

You don’t have to run out to your favorite bar for a quality to-go cocktail. You should, because they need your business, but know that you can also set up your own portable drinks program right at home.

Why bother? Because a picnic, trek to the park, or stroll with your favorite four-legged friend is better with a Negroni (nay, Togroni) in hand. We tend to think of mixed drinks, with their multitude of ingredients, as stationary enjoyments fixed to barstools. If the canned cocktail movement has taught us anything, though, it’s that a Moscow Mule, Gin & Tonic, or Bloody Mary are as good or better in a packable, easy-to-drink format.

Perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for packability. You can make many of your most beloved drinks this way. Deena Sayers is a New York-based mixologist and drinks consultant, as well as the founder of Mezsal Salts. “Portable cocktails are easy,” Sayers says. “You can use your favorite resealable thermos as both a shaker as well as an on-the-go cup. I use my 24-ounce Simple Modern thermos, add 4 servings of my favorite Doña Vega mezcal margarita cocktail, along with a handful of ice, close the lid and take it with you.”

Rhubarb-Arita Cocktail by Montelupo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

All that’s left is to integrate the contents. “When you’re ready to enjoy, just give it a good shake and sip away,” she says. “The best thing is that it keeps the cocktail cold all day and it can fit enough to share!”

Here are a few more tips on taking your cocktail with you, wherever you’re headed.

Premix

You’re not going to want to lug around full bottles of Campari or bourbon so premix your beverage of choice. Less tends to be more with to-go cocktails, so don’t overexert yourself by trying to make a road-ready maximalist cocktail with 27 ingredients. Instead, focus on three-ingredient cocktails and more straightforward recipes. And whip them up beforehand, when you have a kitchen and related gear at your disposal.

Keep it Cold

There are a few tricks to keeping your cocktail cold in the event it needs to be. Large ice cubes are great for the task. They may melt depending on the weather and how your drinks are packed, but you can make that work in your favor by making a more concentrated drink to begin with. The added water content from the ice will balance things out.

You can also line a messenger bag, lunch pail, or other satchel with ice packs, creating an optimal environment for your on-the-move martini. If you’re really in a bind, simply unload your ice tray into a plastic bag and throw that in a container with your drinks.

Accents

The right garnish or pinch of specialty salt can make a portable cocktail feel like one your favorite barkeep-made libations. We suggest a DIY accent kit made up of the little — and quite packable — things that can elevate your to-go drink. It should include a pair of straws (metal or paper), a good salt like this one, some dehydrated citrus, and some herbs you’re likely to find just milling about the neighborhood (think mint and rosemary).

If you’re feeling extra creative and eager to impress your friends, make your own labels. It’ll feel like you have your very own cocktail brand (and if the drinks go over well, maybe this is your career calling?) and is pretty easy to achieve. You can borrow the jest from this story.

Vessels

Sure, mason jars are fine and travel fairly well but there are better options. As Sayers says, insulated thermoses are great, especially for cocktails you want kept warm (Hot Toddy) or fairly cool. Plus, they tend to be on the larger side, meaning you can pour several cocktails and stretch out your outing.

Once you’ve reached your drinking destination, don’t settle for a Dixie cup. Drink straight out of the thermos if you’d like, or keep it classy and reusable with a Porter Glass or efficient and collapsible with the X-Cup. For larger gatherings, you may need something with more volume, like a single-gallon pouch. If you really get into the craft and become the neighborhood to-go cocktail guru, stock up on some small format reusable glass containers or flasks that you can fill with your tasty concoctions and leave on your friends’ stoop.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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