Cocktails as dazzling and dramatic as they are delicious. Here are the top 5 creative cocktails to try now in Orange County.
Text by Benjamin Epstein.
Photography by Julie Chung
Adapted from the 2017-18 WHERE OC GuestBook.
The pendulum has swung from simple classic libations, some hearkening back nearly a century, to intricately crafted cocktails as spectacular as they are sophisticated. There is no doubt that purely visual elements affect our perceptions of taste and smell—chefs often say that you eat with your eyes first. This generation of cocktails suggests that you drink with your yes first as well.
1. Same Same | Irvine
Nestled inside the Irvine Marriott, bespoke bar YNK offers a changing menu of cocktails themed to various regions around the world; YNK stands for “you never know.” Owner Chris Adams created the cocktail, which he and bartender Ravin Buzzell, YNK’s only employee, serve in a miso soup bowl. “Same same but different!” Adam says. 18000 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, 949.553.0100. ynk-irvine.com
2. Despacito | Fountain Valley
Recess Room offers modern American tapas in Fountain Valley. Bar manager Thomas Sorrentino named this drink for the Justin Bieber remix of the Latin American hit, the most-streamed track of all time, but his inspiration was simpler: “I wanted to feel the same way as an adult that juicy watermelons made me feel as a kid.” It pairs ideally with the PB&J foie gras. therecessroom.comFountain Valley, 714.377.0398.
3. The Castaway | Anaheim
It takes three days to make this clarified milk punch at the Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy-themed bar at Anaheim Packing House. Ying Chang-Adamson’s cocktail arrives on a sea-colored rock bed in a terrarium amid dry ice. “The first time I tried a clarified milk punch,” she recalls, “I was blown away by its full flavors, creaminess and the fact that it was completely clear. Three years later, I’m still blown away.” 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Suite 104, Anaheim. theblindrabbit.com
4. The Signature | Santa Ana
Rose Pangilinan, chef and owner of globally influenced, highly acclaimed Mix Mix Kitchen Bar, created this cocktail for his wedding. The color of his wedding was lilac, and he went to Santa Monica Farmers Market for menu inspiration. When he passed a table of Santa Barbara plums, the cocktail was born. (The flowers at the wedding were violets.) Ideal pairing: tuna tartare with ripe peaches, jalapeño-lime aïoli and calamansi granita. 300 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714.836.5158. mixmixkitchenbar.com
5. The Italian Wolf | Santa Ana
El Mercado Modern Cuisine in Santa Ana serves, “Mexico’s great cuisine, one bite at a time.” Barman Cesar Cerrudo has a guideline for creating cocktails: Thinking outside your comfort zone. In this case, he says, “When the Italian spirit Galliano meets the Mexican spirit mezcal and marries the citrus in a nightgown of smoke … it’s magical.” Sipping it alongside cinnamon-smoked octopus, huitlacoche hash and xoconostle salsa is even more magical. 301 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, 714.338.2446. mercadomodern.com