On June 29, House File 2540 was signed into law, legalizing the sale of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go by class “C” and class “C” native distilled spirits liquor licensees. The legislation also authorized ABD to adopt administrative rules to implement the provisions of law related to mixed drinks or cocktails sold to-go.
Administrative rules to address the filling, sealing, and sale of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go have been filed and are now effective.
A list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is provided below. If you have any questions that are not addressed in the FAQ, please contact Tyler Ackerson at email@example.com.
Who can sell a mixed drink or cocktail to-go?
Holders of a class "C" or class "C" native distilled spirits liquor license can sell mixed drinks or cocktails to-go.
Am I required to follow these rules?
Yes. Licensees selling mixed drinks or cocktails to-go must do so as described in the rules. Licensees found to be selling mixed drinks or cocktails to-go that are not in compliance with the rules could face a civil penalty, license suspension or license revocation.
What is a mixed drink or cocktail?
A mixed drink or cocktail is an alcoholic beverage, composed in whole or in part of alcoholic liquor, that is combined with other alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic beverages or ingredients including, but not limited to, ice, water, soft drinks, or flavorings.
What types of containers are allowed to be used for mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
Containers including, but not limited to, plastic, glass, or metal bottles and glass jars are allowed provided they are able to meet the sealing requirements within the rules.
The following types of containers are not allowed to be used:
- A container with a lid with sipping holes or openings for straws;
- A cup made of paper or Styrofoam;
- A plastic cup that is intended for one-time use; or
- A metal can.
What is the difference between a single-use plastic cup and a multiple-use plastic cup?
In general, the plastic needs to be more durable in nature. The distinguishing factor is not whether the plastic cup could be used multiple times; it is whether the plastic cup is designed and intended to be used multiple times. For example, plastic cups that are purchased at convenience stores to put fountain soda in are generally not intended to be used multiple times, even though some customers may choose to reuse them. But some convenience stores do offer thicker plastic cups, often with their logo on them, that are intended to be reused. Any reusable plastic cup still cannot bear a lid with straw holes or sipping holes, and must be able to accommodate a heat shrink wrap band or have a twist-top lid or cap that can break apart when opened.
Why can't a metal can be used?
Metal cans cannot be used for mixed drinks or cocktails to-go because of a law change that took place in 2019. That year, the legislature created a new classification of alcoholic beverage - canned cocktail. A canned cocktail is a mixed drink or cocktail that is between a certain ABV range that is placed in a metal can. Canned cocktails are treated in the same manner as beer under the law. This means that there are separate processes and requirements for canned cocktails than there are for cocktails to-go. When the legislature passed the cocktails to-go legislation this year, they did not make any changes to the canned cocktails laws to allow cocktails to-go to be placed into metal cans.
While ABD is supportive of cocktails to-go being in cans because of the secure sealing that cans provide, because the prohibition on cans is in the law, ABD cannot make a change to allow cans through rule making. A law change by the legislature is required in order for cocktails to-go to be placed in metal cans.
What are the sealing requirements for containers used for mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
One of the following sealing methods must be used:
- A plastic heat shrink wrap band, strip, or sleeve extending around the cap or lid of the container to form a seal that must be broken when the container is opened.
- A video example of this sealing method can be found here.
- A screw top cap or lid that breaks apart when the container is opened.
- A picture example of this sealing method can be found here.
- A vacuum- or heat-sealed pouch containing the mixed drink or cocktail.
- A picture example of this sealing method can be found here.
- Note that this sealing method does not mean placing a mixed drink or cocktail inside a container and then placing that container within a pouch or bag.
Can I use a lid with straw holes or sipping holes if the holes are covered?
No. All lids with straw holes or sipping holes are prohibited from being used.
Can I use tape as a sealing method?
No. Tape is not a secure sealing method and cannot be used.
Can I use a sealing method that is different from what is described in the rules?
No. Only the sealing methods described in the rules are allowed to be used. Licensees found to be selling mixed drinks or cocktails to-go that are not in compliance with the rules could face a civil penalty, license suspension or license revocation.
What are the labeling requirements for containers used for mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
Each container must have a label in a place that is easy to see and legibly shows the following information:
- The business name of the licensee that sold the mixed drink or cocktail; and
- The words "CONTAINS ALCOHOL".
A label may include other information, such as a list of ingredients, but this is not required.
Can I pre-fill containers with mixed drinks or cocktails so they are ready before a sale is made?
No. Containers must be filled after an order is received by a consumer who is 21 or older.
What alcoholic liquor can I use to make mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
Only alcoholic liquor that has been purchased from a class "E" licensee can be used to make mixed drinks or cocktails to-go.
Class "C" native distilled spirits licensees can only use those native distilled spirits that they manufacture and have been purchased from a class "E" licensee to make mixed drinks or cocktails to-go.
What food laws or regulations do I have to follow when filling mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
Any time a container is filled with a mixed drink or cocktail it must be done in compliance with all applicable state and federal food safety laws and regulations.
More information on Iowa's food laws and regulations is on the Department of Inspections and Appeals' Food and Consumer Safety Bureau website which can be found here.
How old does an employee have to be to fill and sell mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
An employee must be 18 or older to fill and sell mixed drinks or cocktails to-go.
Can a consumer fill a container with a mixed drink or cocktail to-go?
No. Only the licensee, or the licensee's employees who are 18 or older, can fill a container with a mixed drink or cocktail to-go.
Who can't be sold a mixed drink or cocktail to-go?
A mixed drink or cocktail to-go cannot be sold to any person who is under 21, any person who is intoxicated, or any person who is simulating intoxication.
Do I have to keep records of sales of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go?
Yes. All licensees are required to maintain records pursuant to Iowa Code section 123.33.
Sales records of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go must show the following information:
- The business name of the licensee that sold the mixed drink or cocktail;
- The date and time of the sale; and
- A description of the product sold (ex: Margarita To-Go)
Records of sales of mixed drinks or cocktails to-go can be kept in printer or electronic format. Each record must be maintained for a period of 3 years from the date the record was created. All records must be accessible and open to inspection by ABD and other regulatory officials during normal business hours.