Acquiring a full-service liquor license is hard to come by, and for many restaurants the lack of this full-service license limits their beverage offerings to just beer and wine. While some restaurants are content with this limited selection, others have looked for new ways to spice up their beverage program.
Working within their means by utilizing lower alcohol bases such as agave wine, sake, wine-based vodka, and actual wine, several innovative hot spots across the country have begun featuring a variety of wine-based cocktails on their menus. Offering much more diversity than just mimosas and sangria, these elevated wine-based cocktails are crafted with as much attention as their spirit-based counterparts and when prepared correctly, can be nearly indistinguishable from their boozier kin.
Here’s our list of five restaurants featuring unique wine-based cocktail creations that are exciting consumers nationwide.
Hook and Plow, Hermosa Beach, CA
Hook and Plow, a beachside farm-to-table restaurant in Hermosa Beach, may not have a full liquor license but that isn't stopping them from serving up a variety of hand-crafted, seasonal cocktails. The restaurant utilizes a wine-based vodka for their cocktail program which clocks in at 20% alcohol, a higher ABV than wine or beer can offer but still low enough to be allowed under their licensing requirements.
Hook and Plow’s cocktail list includes a number of classics, such as fresh fruit spritzers and their own unique take on both Moscow Mules and Salty Dogs, as well as a number of original concoctions. Perhaps the most intriguing of their offerings is the Lilikoi Mint Cocktail which incorporates soda water, mint and lilikoi syrup for a fresh, exotic inspired drink.
Mi Sombrero, Houston, TX
Mi Sombrero restaurant in Houston, Texas has been serving up delicious, authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine for over 30 years, but lacking a liquor license, the restaurant was unable to include traditional margaritas on their menu. As such, Mi Sombrero was forced to get creative and the restaurant found a way to still include the popular cocktail on their menu by working with an agave-wine as a base. Mi Sombrero's agave-based margaritas are offered frozen, on the rocks or strawberry flavored.
Boka, New York, NY
For Korean hot-spot Boka in New York’s East Village, the lack of a liquor license is but a small obstacle that has been easily overcome by the restaurant’s wide variety of soju (a Korean lower alcohol liquor) and sake (a Japanese rice wine) based cocktails. Inspired by the restaurant’s Korean-fusion fare, Boka’s cocktail program includes a number of Asian-esque offerings such as the Spear Plum, which incorporates a blend of plum wine and sake. Yet it is the Watermelon Soju that is the drink Boka is known best for. While not technically a wine, this lower alcohol, soju-based frozen drink is served inside a full watermelon and the slushy cocktail makes regular appearances on social media.
Mana Food Bar, Chicago, IL
A vegetarian eatery in the heart of Chicago, Mana Food Bar offers a number of interesting sake-based cocktails in addition to their beer and wine selections. Utilizing incredibly fresh ingredients, popular offerings include the almond horchata and nigori cocktail, the apricot, chili lime salt and nigori cocktail, and the cucumber sakerita – the restaurant’s own take on a margarita.
Pubbelly, Miami, FL
Part of a Miami culinary empire, Pubbelly, alongside sister restaurant Pubbelly Sushi, has been operating without a liquor license for several years now but has found great success with its sake-based cocktail program. Utilizing Sabe Sake, a Japanese fortified sake with a much higher ABV, both Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi offer several cocktails featuring the ingredient. A local favorite is Pubbelly Sushi's Spicy Piña, complete with muddled jalapeños, pineapple, yuzu and ginger syrup.