Taco Bell Experimenting With Beer, Wine and Cocktails In Urban Markets

Dustin Murrell - Author

Sep. 25 2015, Updated 12:19 a.m. ET

As they announced it would earlier this month, the first Taco Bell Cantina opened in Chicago on Tuesday, offering alcohol alongside traditional Taco Bell food for the first time in the United States.

The Wicker Park neighborhood in the Windy City was the first big step in Taco Bell’s new focus on growing their presence in the urban market. As part of the five-point “Taco Bell Urban Concept,” the new beverage options help with Urbanization (alcohol makes sense in areas with mostly foot traffic). The other four points that the new Taco Bell strategy focuses on include Digitization (mobile orders), Localization (the influence of local architecture and design), Green (LED lighting and a new emphasis on recycling) and Transparency (open kitchen design and food served in open face baskets).

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The signature Taco Bell beverages will be the nine mix-and-match options you have, combining your choice of three frozen slush flavors with a shot of your choice of three liquors (tequila, vodka or rum). At one shot of liquor for each 16-ounces of slush, NPR’s Ian Chillag warns that an “ice cream headache” or sugar rush may be bigger concerns than inebriation when consuming Taco Bell cocktails. He was enjoying his Taco Bell-exclusive Twisted Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze With Tequila from inside the new-look Taco Bell Cantina, as you aren’t allowed to leave the restaurant with any alcohol.

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The Taco Bell Cantina on Milwaukee Avenue has a more upscale look than a traditional Taco Bell. Featuring wood paneling, liquor bottles on display and a view into the open kitchen, Yum Brands (Taco Bell’s parent company) hopes to appeal to Millennials in the communities where many of them work and live.

If frozen cocktails just aren’t your thing, you have a few other options for an alcoholic beverage with your Crunchwrap Supreme. The new Taco Bell offers Dos Equis and Fat Tire, as well as a chilled red wine option, as noted by the Chicagoist. The Stack Wine Cabernet Savignon comes pre-poured with a foil cap and served at a cool 40 degrees.

As with any fine establishment selling drinks, the Taco Bell booze you choose may come down to how much you plan to spend. The wine and beer options will cost you $4, whereas Taco Bell’s cocktails range from $6.19 to $7.19, depending on the liquor you want. As Chicago’s ABC 7 Eyewitness News reports, they stay true to their south-of-the-border roots, as Taco Bell is offering sangria for $4.50.

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A successful push to reach more urban markets could mean opening their product an entirely new demographic. Of the more than 6,000 Taco Bell restaurants in the US, less than 1% of them are located in urban neighborhoods.

Taco Bell already plans to open another Cantina later this month in San Francisco.

[Image credit Scott Olson/Getty Images]


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