Kuro Kirishima Shochu at Kappo Suzumaru, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Banzai or something...

Kappo Suzumaru in Tustin remains my favorite sushi spot in OC. Look, I know it's not the best--not even close. But it's where I took my wife on our first date (even though she says it technically wasn't a date), it's where I've had birthday parties, and it's where they still hang a review I did of them nearly a decade ago. And, most importantly? It's bueno to me.
Work doesn't let me come here as much as I'd like, but I've seen them expand their booze options over the past couple of years--first with some sakes, then wines, and now with a full-blown shochu program.

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Bottle Logic's Polarity Pils, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by Cleo Tobbi

Fall-themed beers debuted in August this year, and breweries small and large across the country have sent cinnamon and nutmeg to the rescue. But, as delicious as pumpkin-spice amber ales and gingerbread stouts can be, Orange County just isn't ready for them yet.

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Soju Key Lime Margarita at Urban Seoul 2.0, Our Drink of the Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Soju think it's pretty tasty?

To a high school student, the term "2.0" might mean a "C" grade average; in the context of restaurants, "2.0" references the sophomore effort of an establishment. The opening of the first Urban Seoul in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree plaza presented the notion that Korean cuisine (if we're overanalyzing the name) could be more than traditional panchan or hotteok. It could be familiar, yet modern. In the kitchen of Kacy Jun, we're talking tapas and borderless possibilities.

A couple of concepts in the plaza have already folded and been replaced by a coffee bar and crawfish shack, but Seoul's fan base grew beyond the confines of their modest space. It was time to raise it to the next level. They not only kept the second spot close to home, but secured it in the mother of OC outdoor malls: the Irvine Spectrum.

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The VIP at Del Frisco's Grille, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
Del Frisco's VIP.
I was at Irvine Spectrum recently in search of a private dining room for an upcoming small gathering of friends. I considered Paul Martin's and Capital as options, but then I realized Brio Tuscan Grille and Del Frisco's Grille, the two brand new restaurants where there was previously parking lot, just opened.

I walked into Brio first, asked the hostess about what they had in terms of private dining. She said they had a private room in the back, but had to confirm with the managers on its availability. I followed her into the main dining area where a few of the managers were standing. I was next to her when she spoke with this group of tie-wearing men. Without making eye contact with me, or acknowledging my presence, one of them told her that the room wasn't ready yet. She turned to me and repeated what he said. I thanked her for her time, then walked a few yards to Del Frisco where I would ask their hostess the same thing.

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Wasmund's Single Malt Spirit, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Drink (and shoot) up!

Every year when the chica and I travel to Kentucky for the 127 Yard Sale, I challenge meself to find a great booze that even Hi-Time Wine Cellars doesn't have. And I had a bumper crop this year: Kentucky rums, Tennessee white dog, even some crazy-ass Colombian coffee liquor that I picked up at the Willet distillery in Bardstown that had sat forgotten in a warehouse on the property for decades (the story is true: I can't find any traces of it online.)

But the drink I'm highlighting here is Wasmund's Single Malt Spirit out of the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. Hi-Time, God bless their souls, carries Wasmund's Rye Spirit, but not this beaut, which I found in the Hi-Time of the South: the gargantuan Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky (note to Hi-Time: they have a liquor library where folks can buy shots for sampling. Hint hint?)

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Cucumber Collins at Catal Restaurant, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
Cucumber Collins
You're in Downtown Disney. You want a cocktail. Maybe a bite of something small. Something like tapas. Is there tapas in Downtown Disney? Yes, in fact, there is. And it's been here all along. Catal Restaurant has offered a Spanish-leaning menu since there was a Downtown Disney. Sure, they call the patatas bravas "Brava Potatoes" just so it's a little more tourist-friendly, but it's served with toothpicks, a piquillo pepper-tomato coulis and slathers of garlic aioli. There's chorizo and chimichurri stuffed into the calamari, and goat cheese stuffed into the piquillo peppers. There may not be paella, but the rest of the apps is very Spanish where manchego and catalan olives rule.

And for drinking there is, of course, sangria--two kinds, in fact. But with the weather outside balmy you want something even more refreshing than sangria. Enter the Cucumber Collins, a drink that the menu actually bills as "the official drink of summer."

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Duchesse de Bourgogne, Our Drink of the Week!

Courtney Hamilton

I first encountered Duchesse de Bourgogne in a beer flight at Slater's 50/50. Upon first sip of the reddish-brown ale, the other beers in the flight ceased to be relevant. Don't blame the other beers though; the distinct, mouth-puckering sourness of the Duchesse makes it a show-stealer next to anything.

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Oh, Henry at Umami Burger Irvine Spectrum, Our Drink of the Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Oh yes, they did!

Umami Burger's aggressive invasion of Orange County has been a success so far. So how do they remain relevant and not just another chain in Irvineland? Team up with an established comedy club and exploit the full liquor license!

Improv's mini-move within the concrete jungle of the Spectrum and into their custom-built space was calculated and beneficial, as much of the foot traffic is skewed towards Edwards (except everyone's favorite shopping destination, Target.) and its super-sized parking structure .

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Rainier Lager, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by Charles Lam
Oh, Vitamin R..

There's something to be said about cheap beer. No, you're not going to get any tasting epiphanies out of it. You're not going to spend your time slowly sipping away to deconstruct any flavor profiles either. But sometimes, when you get home from work or back from the gym, you just want something that's simple, clean, cheap, and easy to drink.

With that in mind, I present to you Rainier Lager, the best cheap beer I've ever had.

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Sangrita at Lola Gaspar, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Drink up!

It's been awesome to see lovers of Mexican spirits not only embrace craft beers, mezcal, and more, but to even ape Mexican borracho traditions. Consider sangrita, a Mexican digestif of sorts. For decades, classy drunks would use a shot of sangrita as a chaser for a shot of tequila, just to show how chingón they were. The custom never made it into the United States, unfortunately, where gabachos are fully content to suck on limes and lick their palmful of salt as their tequila sunrise--¡que pendejos!

But sangrita is making a huge move in OC's better bars, and not via the processed punch that is Viuda de Sanchez, the Cuervo of sangrita brands. Places like Anepalco's and Lola Gaspar are making in-house versions, stunning beverages that nearly serve as proper meals. Consider Lola's take.

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