A variety of festive and flavorful mixed drinks, enjoyed in O.C.’s top restaurants or concocted at home, will add a kick to your holidays.
By Shelby Barone
Feeling festive? Embrace the wonders of the season by toasting all there is to celebrate with a special sip of a custom concoction made just for the occasion. Nothing enhances seasonal traditions like a feast for the senses and aesthetic appeal. We see it in our food, décor, crafts and fashion – and also what we imbibe. Pull up a glass and let’s take a few sips to toast the season.
Creativity has become the name of the game for local “mixologists” – bartenders who specialize in creating new and innovative drinks – and O.C.’s most talented are embracing the sights, sounds and tastes of the festive winter months in order to design the most cutting-edge cocktails, putting the art of craft drinks in high demand.
The distillers and distributors of alcohol have kept up with these trends and are putting out new flavors of our favorite spirits. Currently there are vodka flavors such as cake and whipped cream on the market, and Hiram Walker has released a pumpkin-spice liqueur. The tools of the trade are getting more plentiful and diverse, and the local craftspeople are keeping up with the advancements.
Although it was a little early in the season, we set out to find what will be the hottest trends and the coolest drinks in Orange County.
• Tamarind of London
Located in Newport Coast, Tamarind of London (tamarindoflondon.com) will offer a variety of specialty holiday cocktails served this holiday season. They include:
Nutmeg Namaste Martini
You’ll hear sleigh bells with every sip. This tasty concoction is shaken and served in a martini glass with a graham cracker cinnamon rim.
1 ½ oz. Goslings rum
½ oz. maple syrup
2 oz. apple cider infused with green cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg
James Bonds’ secretary would surely approve of this drink, which bears her name. All of the ingredients are mixed in a snifter glass and garnished with a flamed orange peel.
1 ½ oz. Templeton rye
½ oz. gingerbread syrup (sugar, water, molasses, cinnamon, ginger and cloves)
2 oz. hot water
Dash orange bitters
• Sol Cocina
Discover a unique dining experience and cocktail venue at Sol Cocina (solcocina.com) in Newport Beach. The Baja coastal- inspired eatery has raised the bar with their unique twist on traditional Mexican food, making it a hot spot for locals.
Colin Pflugradt has been creating signature drinks since the age of 19 and is currently in high demand for enthusiasts looking for the most creative cocktails. Pflugradt is passionate about blending unique tequila beverages and has become a specialist in creating new themed spirits in the Sol Cocina bar.
Cocktail connoisseurs have fallen in love with Sol Cocina’s new Farmer’s Market Margarita. The concoction changes every two weeks, depending on the freshest seasonal ingredients available. One of the newest drinks that will be served during the holidays at Sol is the pumpkin spice margarita. It is made with a pumpkin pie mix, a little bit of lime, agave and tequila dusted with a hint of cinnamon. The drink can be enjoyed while relaxing in front of Sol’s indoor fireplace in their cocktail lounge.
Pflugradt recommends The Perfecta as an excellent cold-weather after-dinner drink. The Perfecta has equal parts of Corzo Anejo tequila and Cointreau Noir. This sweet sipper tequila is decadence in a glass.
• Kimera Restaurant
For a dining experience unlike any other, check out Kimera Restaurant (kimerarestaurant.com). Kimera is going to be a hot spot for holiday celebrations this year with its modern bar and upscale cocktail lounge, which offers an assortment of creative drinks and specials throughout the season. Kimera is on the forefront of cocktail mixology, including the following two drinks that guests can enjoy making at home:
This rich holiday drink is perfect for satisfying your holiday sweet tooth, and it is intended to be slowly sipped. The drink is made with a base of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The Goldschlager gives the cocktail a kick of cinnamon while the butterscotch schnapps smoothes the flavor of the drink. Coat the edge of the glass in chocolate syrup and then dip the empty glass into a layer of shaved chocolate. For the chocolate swirl, simply layer a spiral of chocolate syrup on the bottom of the martini glass before pouring in the cocktail.
2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ oz. Goldschlager
½ oz. butterscotch schnapps
Chocolate syrup swirl
Shaved chocolate garnish
The Ruby martini is the perfect festive drink to serve at your holiday celebrations. The combination of Grey Goose Le Citron flavored vodka mixed with cranberry juice and strawberries makes this drink sweet, light and refreshing. It is certain to get your guests into the holiday spirit.
1 shot Grey Goose Le Citron vodka
1 heavy splash cranberry juice
½ shot part sweet vermouth
6 fresh strawberries
1 tsp. 20-year-old balsamic vinegar
• Cucino Enoteca
David Carillo is an inventive local mixologist sought after by connoisseurs at Cucina Enoteca (cucinaenoteca.com) in Irvine. As an O.C. native, Carillo found his passion for mixology while working at some of the most exclusive cocktail lounges in Orange County. During the holidays, we can expect to see Carillo using many of the classic flavor profiles such as vanilla, cider, ginger and peppermint to create some unique signature drinks.
Carillo is passionate about bringing the region to the forefront of the cocktail scene by infusing many of the modern styles seen in Hollywood and San Diego into Cucina Enoteca’s selections. During the holidays, Carillo plans to feature many warm cocktails with classic ingredients such as bourbon and whisky.
In addition to its Italian kitchen, Cucina Enoteca features a retail wine shop where customers can purchase wine to be enjoyed in the restaurant or bar. The wine at Cucina Enoteca is offered to their guests at retail prices so they can enjoy dining with a bottle at a fraction of the cost of most restaurant wine purchases.
***Sip in style
During the holidays, sipping your favorite cocktail can involve more than just taste. Quaffing flavorful drinks to the sound of carols and crashing waves can help create lifelong memories. O.C. is one of the most sought-after locations to enjoy holiday spirits, based in part on our spectacular ocean views. The five best local places to enjoy cocktails with a breathtaking waterfront atmosphere are:
• Andrea at Pelican Hill Resort (pelicanhill.com) – Andrea offers some of the finest cuisine in O.C. and is home to panoramic views from its Mediterranean Tuscan-style resort. Romance will fill the holiday air while revelers enjoy drinks indoors at Andrea or in its intimate indoor lounge.
• The Deck on Laguna Beach (deckonlaguna.com) – The Deck on Laguna Beach has become a favored location for those lucky enough to have experienced it. Enjoy a drink right on the waterfront in this small, intimate setting. You and your friends will surely return
• Back Bay Bistro (backbaybistronewportbeach.com) – The secluded Back Bay Bistro is located near Newport Dunes. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride around Newport Harbor before docking at the eatery to take in beautiful waterfront sunsets while sipping on a tasty variety of top-notch signature cocktails.
• The Beach House (thebeachhouse.com) – At The Beach House, guests can take in stunning ocean views while enjoying fresh seafood and savoring classic cocktails in a historic building. This locale is the former home of Old Hollywood character actor Slim Summerville and retains most of its original décor.
• Bayside Restaurant (baysiderestaurant.com) – Bayside is a chic, intimate place to enjoy holiday spirits. It offers a large heated outdoor patio with, naturally, a bay-side view. Live music is performed in a romantic lounge, where guests can enjoy a specialty cocktail or a selection from Bayside’s exclusive wine list.
***The art of mixology
The Culinary Arts program at the Art Institute of California (artinstitutes.edu) boasts some of the most talented upcoming mixologists in Orange County, including Kendra Woodard, Luz Sesma, Phillip Suos, Phoebe Madraga, Sharina Ajodha, Mazarine Elavia and Erik Ramirez. They have been mastering the art while creating drinks in the Art Institute’s California-style bistro restaurant, 5ifty Forks. Some of the unique drinks developed by these students include:
Red Velvet Latte
Dissolve Red Velvet powder in the hot espresso. Use a frother to heat the milk. Add heated milk to espresso mixture and top with either foam from the steamed milk or whipped cream.
2 oz. Red Velvet powder
2 oz. brewed espresso
¼ cup steamed milk
Hot Apple Pie
Rim the glass with the orange and cinnamon. Mix the vanilla syrup with the hot apple cider. Serve with fresh whipped cream.
1 oz. vanilla syrup (or Tuaca Liquor)
6 oz. apple cider, heated
1 slice of orange
Fresh whipped cream
Holiday spirits needn’t be concocted with alcohol. The coffee mixologists at Portola Coffee Lab (portolacoffeelab.com) are making rich and versatile drinks in their new reservations-only six-person coffee bar, Theorem, in Costa Mesa. It is one of the most innovate and exciting craft beverage experiences; a barista creates personalized drinks while interacting with guests. Reservations can be made online.