I love a good drink. I like wine, of course, but what I really like is a cocktail: the liquor, the mixing, the garnishes, the glassware, all of it. I can totally make a cocktail, but it is so much work. I really hate measuring and washing my cocktail shaker. Worse, sometimes I’ll attempt a cocktail only to find out that we’re out of the artisan mixers that the recipe needs. I will usually fall back to making my usual Jameson and ginger ale, lest I shake up something that tastes terrible and wastes what liquor I do have.
The best silver lining of the pandemic is the carryout cocktails. Now (and since June), I have been supporting local restaurants and quenching my thirst by ordering takeout adult beverages. I enjoy leaving this to the professionals; bartenders know what’s good, and they’ll put it in a sealed cup or jar, so all I have to do is pour it into a glass at home. I’ve tried many, many carryout drinks (and I shall continue to do so for you, reader). These five are standout options for expertly crafted cocktails in Champaign-Urbana.
Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
PBR Whiskey Cherry Sour | Black Dog Smoke & Ale
This cocktail was one of several that I’ve tried from Black Dog, and I can tell you: this is my favorite. This PBR Whiskey cherry sour ($6) is made with PBR Whiskey, Roi Rene Rouge cherry liqueur, and lemon sour. The drink came sealed with a little cup that had a bourbon cherry garnish and a lemon wedge. Did you know PBR made whiskey? I didn’t until this Black Dog cocktail which uses Pabst’s whiskey spirit which has a grain bill of 52% corn, 28% malted barley, 17% wheat, and 3% rye.
This adult beverage had a deep cherry flavor that lingered and a lovely whiskey taste that wasn’t overpowering. The bourbon and cherry combination is one that I enjoyed. There was not too much booze flavor in this drink; Black Dog’s PBR Whiskey cherry sour was a well-balanced cocktail.
Black Dog Smoke & Ale House
320 N Chesnut
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Old Fashioned | Hamilton Walker’s
This Old Fashioned from Hamilton Walker’s was so good. The Old Fashioned ($14) poured one large cocktail, and it would have poured two small cocktails as the drink was mostly whiskey. Hamilton Walker’s made this cocktail with bourbon, bitters, demerara simple syrup, amarena cherry, and an orange twist. This drink came in a glass jar with a pretty HW sticker and a sealed lid, plus two tiny cups for garnish: one containing the orange peel and the other, two cherries. This beverage was a really strong drink, very much a sipping cocktail, a pinkie-out sort of drink. I enjoyed the way the bourbon burn started and finished this cocktail — with a sweet cherry flavor in between. I quite liked it, and if you are a whiskey fan, you’ll like it, too.
You can order Hamilton Walker’s cocktails to go here.
201 N Neil St
W-Su 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Milano | Nando Milano
The namestake Milano cocktail ($12) was made with Jameson, Sambuca, and Fernet Branca. When I ordered, I only recognized the Jameson (which is a favorite of mine), so I didn’t know what to expect. Frenet Branca is a brand of fernet which is a style of amaro originating in Italy, and Sambuca is an Italian anise-flavoured liqueur. If you know Sambuca, you probably could tell what this cocktail tastes like; anise spice is responsible for the flavors of absinthe and black licorice. This drink was heavy on the Sambuca — or the Sambuca was stronger than the Jameson. The cocktail started sweet but had a strong licorice flavor, and I liked it (but I also like black jelly beans’ flavor). It is an aggressively flavored beverage that definitely let the liquor lead the experience, and by about halfway through, I was feeling happy and buzzed.
Check out Nando’s drink menu here. There are lots of cocktails and wine on Nando’s menu. All of beverages are available for carryout, so don’t feel limited to just the Milano.
204 N Neil St
M-Th 5 to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 10 p.m.
Su 4 to 9 p.m.
Manbana | Po’ Boys
With a name like Manbana, I couldn’t help but to order this cocktail. The Manbana ($6.50) was made with Makers Mark, sweet vermouth, and a splash of cherry juice. A playful take on the Manhattan, this Po’ Boys cocktail is top notch. The drink doesn’t taste too strong, and it had a great cherry flavor. Smooth but not sweet, there was no bite from the bourbon, just a whiskey essence. The cherry garnish was yummy, too. It was such a tasty cocktail that I wish I had ordered two.
Check out what else is on the drink menu at Po’ Boys here. Place your order for drinks over the phone by calling 217-367-2255.
202 E University
W-Su 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Paloma | Punch! Bar and Lounge
This Paloma from Punch! was a perfect cocktail. The Paloma ($9) is made with Espolón tequila blanco, lime, Demerara, Topo Chico, grapefruit, and salt. The lime and salt came as garnishes in little takeout cups, and the drink came in a glass mason jar with a super cute sticker on it. I didn’t salt the rim of my glass, but Punch! provided enough salt to do so. The cocktail was deliciously sour with some sweetness — and a lot of citrus flavor from the lime and grapefruit juices. This fruity, tequila drink was excellent, and just as lovely at home as it would have been in Punch’s penny-tiled bar.
Punch! offers seasonal cocktails, regular cocktails, mocktails (non-alcoholic mixed drinks), beer, wine, small bites, and desserts. Check out Punch!’s online store and put your order in for pickup.
217 N Neil St
T-Sa 4 to 10 p.m.