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Craft cocktail bars in the OC

i know about varnish, roger room and others in LA, but i don't know of any craft cocktail bars using high end spirits, house-made bitters, tinctures etc in Orange County. Does such a thing exist? If not, where would be the nearest place in LA? i'll be staying around the north part of Santa Ana over the summer, so the closer to that area the better, or maybe somewhere around Long Beach.

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    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Thanks Ubergeek - that looks great.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        Visited 320 Main Yesterday - very impressed. Hospitality is great - i told one of the guys I was heading up to SF and he recommended me a bunch of great places to visit when up there. Also got nerdy about great spirits and recipes.

        Had a Negroni's Loss, sweeter than a typical Negroni and a tad less bitter due to replacing Campari with Gran Classico. Extra citrus oils balanced it out perfectly. My favourite of the afternoon.

        Also an oaky Tequila Sazerac with absinthe spray instead of rinse, a wet Martini with Plymouth gin and Dolin vermouth, a sample of their old tom gins (for free!) and a Zaya rum on ice. Only quibble would be too much ice with the rum diluted the flavour too quickly. I also think that rum is sweet enough to mean that sipping it neat brings out the best.

        Also sampled my drinking companion's Earl Grey Martinez - so so good, will certainly order that next time. Old Fashioned was just okay, and a couple of the happy hour cocktails were decent, especially considering the $4 pricetag but i don't think i'd order them again.

        We also got a plate of spicy chicken tenders with a blue cheese dressing, on the house. really nice, with not too much of a kick, so ideal for pairing up with drinks.

        Thanks for the rec Ubergeek and gph2os!

      2. 320 Main is probably the best in OC, but Lola Gaspar in Santa Ana is not bad. I had a very good mezcal based cocktail there. Fresh ingredients and well made.

        Lola Gaspar Restaurant & Bar
        211 W 2nd St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

        2 Replies
        1. re: gph2os

          You could do a mini-crawl and go have the barkeeps at the Crosby make you something alcoholic and non-run-of-the-mill. (They made an Asian-inspired Bloody Mary for the Break of Dawn pop-up, and I've had other good drinks there.)

          1. re: gph2os

            that sounds perfectly located, and seems to have a nice vibe and food menu judging from the website.

          2. I used to go to Mesa very often. Citrus juice squeezed a la minute, homemade bitters, etc. I haven't been for a few months now that my home bar is pretty well stocked, though.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jaykayen

              i used to live on the same street as Mesa, but never visited. the cocktail menu doesn't look fantastic, though, too many bog standard spirits and over use of juices.

              1. re: johnnypd

                My tip would be to not order from the cocktail menu.

            2. As people have already mentioned 320 Main, makes a mean Moscow Mule. I've recently become a fan of those. Haven't been, but I heard the newly opened Chapter One in Santa Ana Artist Village makes the ginger beer/soda to order (soda machine) for each Moscow Mule. Hopefully if they pay that much attention to the Moscow Mule, the other drinks are also made with that type of care.

              1. Can people expand their recommendations to Long Beach? LBC has a great bar scene, but mostly dives.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rdm24

                  Not much going on in LBC wrt to Craft Cocktails. The closest thing I have found, is at the newly renovated Kelly's on 2nd Street. However as I go through their menu online now I see that they took their cocktail menu down so who know's? 320 Main is obviously not far away. I know that the Congregation Alehouse is serving cocktails, not sure if any good though...

                  1. re: rdm24

                    As far as Long Beach goes, 320 Main is the best and while not in Long Beach, a very short drive or cab ride. After that, Harvelle's which sits below Congregation Ale House is really good. It's a blues/r&b live venue, but the cocktails are great. Congregation itself will usually offer one or two craft cocktails along with all the beers and ales. There's a new spot called The Stache Bar on 4th Street across from the V-Room (V-Room is very NON-craft cocktail) that's pretty decent. And while I don't know if they do lots of craft stuff, Baddelley's on Broadway near Redondo will actually make a decent Moscow Mule and serve it in the requisite copper mug.

                    Would love to know of others in Long Beach if anybody knows.

                  2. I would check out The Porch and The District Lounge in Newport Beach, Crow Bar in Corona del Mar (okay, so it is craft beer, not cocktails, but still worth a look) and Mozambique in Laguna Beach.

                    The antithisis of a craft cocktail bar is the Goat Hill Tavern, but if you are in OC for the summer, it is a place I wouldn't miss.

                    Goat Hill Tavern
                    1830 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: scottca075

                      Amar's on Broadway in Laguna and Haven's in Orange depending on the barkeep.

                      1. re: thompkin

                        Just a small note... it's called Broadway by Amar Santana, but it's on Glenneyre Street, not Broadway.

                        Also would add Two 40 South in Brea.

                    2. While enjoying a double macchiato yesterday at Kean in Newport Beach (which, I've gotta say, kicked all sorts of butt over the last few I've had at Intelligentsia...) I picked up a copy of the latest OC Weekly to peruse the cover story on OC's best craft bartenders:


                      In addition to 320 Main, it mentions Broadway (Laguna Beach), Two 40 South (Brea), and Memphis @ the Santora (Santa Ana). Make of that what you will, but it's not a paper you could accuse of mindless boosterism: the article has the obligatory OC Weekly disclaimer about their fair county being about 2 years behind the curve on the latest trends...

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Bradbury

                        I've been visiting Memphis at the Santora recently and have to say there are one or two bartenders there who can make fantastic cocktails. hit and miss depending on who is working but there is a guy called craig (i think) who is big into his cocktails and they have a good back bar.

                        1. re: johnnypd

                          If it's a tall guy about 6'2"-6'3", floppy black/dark brown hair, beard, his name is Ricky, and yes, he is TEH AWESOME. Given a challenge to use that God-awful PB&J vodka in an aromatic cocktail, he made something with Benedictine, coffee essence and Angostura, and it was actually...

                          ...really good.

                          (He doesn't normally use flavoured vodka. This was me giving him crap and daring him to do it.)

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            Ah, that must be Ricky Yarnall, but he only bartends a few times a month at Memphis - think he is more usually to be found at Broadway.

                            Guy I was talking about is called Greg, not Craig (not used to American accents, see), half-italian guy who didn't flinch when I requested a hanky-panky the other night - and indeed half an hour later two thirds of the other patrons at the bar were also drinking one.

                            1. re: johnnypd

                              Greg is also pretty awesome. Ricky is there on Wednesdays; he's also at Bar and Kitchen in LA.

                        2. re: Bradbury

                          Heads up for cocktail geeks - Chapter One in Santa Ana is currently serving a barrel aged Vesper cocktail - it's incredibly delicious. Not sure what they're using as the "vermouth" but it comes out on the sweet side and with some good colour to it.

                        3. Pie Society in costa mesa (attached to pitfire pizza)