Rodenbach 2011 Vintage Oak Aged Ale, Our Drink of the Week!

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Photo by Charles Lam
It's a beautiful beer

Let's get this out of the way: Sour beers can be kind of weird -- especially if you've never had them before. They're tart, they pucker your mouth, they're full-on sour, but they're also habit forming in a 10-year-old-with-Warhead-candy kind of way.

Rodenbach's 2011 Vintage Oak Aged Ale, available from Total Wine and other alcohol stores, is a perfect example of the Flemish red ale version of sour beer. From Bourwerij Rodenbach in Belguim, Vintage is surprisingly accessible to the first-time sour drinker. It guides you through the major characteristics of the style in steps. First with its a dark reddish brown pour and almost ivory-colored head; second with its distinctly acidic nose. At that point, you might be worried that it'll be too sour; that you're basically drinking vinegar, and you will definitely pucker on your first sip (especially if you're not ready).

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Maraska Pelinkovac, Our Drink of the Week!

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The Fernet of Croatia
Every time I visit Hi-Time Wine Cellar, I always make sure to buy a different liqueur. I've had raki from Turkey, Mexican anise nectar, some weird-ass Greek shit, and enough amaro to shout "Vaffanculo!" with authority. They all do invigorating wonders to me, the perfect nightcap for a day of boozing or to make sure a big meal settles correctly instead of remaining in my gut for days...wait, is this mic on?

Buying liqueurs instead of straightforward booze is also a great way to travel the world. Right now, I'm resting easy with pelinkovac, a wormwood-based liqueur popular in the Slavic countries. I discovered the Maraska label in Hi-Times extensive liqueur department, its tall, slender bottle and illustration of a cute-ass Croatian chick grabbing my attention. But would Maraska be as transcendent as Fernet Branca, or little better than motor oil like Jäggermeister. Only one way to find out.

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Vida at Anepalco's Cafe at the Ayres Hotel, Our Drink of the Week!

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Orange County's best restaurant just got better last month, as Anepalco's Cafe's Ayres Hotel location got a full-fledged bar. Chef-owner Danny Godínez wanted cocktails to go with his magnificent creations but is asking for time, as his Peruvian barkeep is still working out the kinks on the cocktail menu. Whatever! Anepalco's could serve a slab of drywall, and the team here could somehow turn it into something better-tasting than the offerings of most O.C. eateries. The cocktails are already great, if leaning a bit too much to the brunch side of sweetness.

One drink, however, is already hinting at where Anepalco's wants its bar program to go. Just like the dishes that accompany it, the Vida is a masterpiece of mestizaje--and one hell of a punch.

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Santa Prisca Swizzle at Broadway, Our Drink of the Week!

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Dave Lieberman
Mezcal y mucho más
I recently spent a week in Oaxaca with Cecilia Ríos Murrieta, the owner of La Niña del Mezcal, and a bunch of awesome bartenders and cocktail aficionados from Los Angeles. I estimate that during the trip, our intake of mezcal was a pint per person per day, and yet there were no hangovers.

Unfortunately, in Oaxaca, they really don't drink cocktails. Mezcal is always drunk neat, and there are mezcalerías everywhere where you can try any of several dozen bottles, all from small producers, nearly all single-agave, and all very, very good--but even a mezcal Old Fashioned, one of the glories of the genre, is not to be found.

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Old Town IPA from Tustin Brewing Company, Our Drink of the Week!

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Photo by Cleo Tobbi
It's a beaut

Not all craft beer needs to be dressed up or brewed for show. Sure, the complicated, multilayered tastes of "craft" are wonderful, but when it's an afternoon out with friends, it's nice to have a beer that you can rally with without having to settle for "lite."

Enter Old Town IPA from Tustin Brewing Company. It's the perfect warm-weather beer to down a couple of pints of without seeing double or feeling too full.

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Adriatic Coast at Pizzeria Ortica, Our Drink of the Week!

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Dark and Stormy THIS!
Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa has been a smash from the moment it opened except in one category--booze. For about a year, I refused to even visit because during a lunchtime visit, they had no cocktails--unacceptable. But around last year was the time Joel Caruso became head of Ortica's alcohol, and I knew the guy was smart when he brought on as his apprentice that nice waiter-bartender who used to work weekend shifts at the late, great Memphis at the Santora (sorry I haven't learned your name after all these years!). Together, Caruso and his protege have unveiled a magnificent cocktail program, meaning I'm going to be spending much more time there given it's just a couple of minutes away from Weekly World Headquarters.

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Boulevardier at Bambú Lounge at the Fairmont Newport Beach, Our Drink of (Last) Week!

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Gustavo Arellano
Good drinkin'!
I still maintain that Bambú Lounge at the Fairmont Newport Beach is the most underrated hotel bar in the county, a place where the food is good and affordable considering the surroundings, and the cocktails spectacular. The bar is smart--they even know how to make a great Man o' War, a Kentucky cocktail that I predict will become this year's Negroni (and this is the second food prediction I've offered in this issue--tune in this time next year to see if I'm a veritable Jeremiah or Nostradamus!)

My Fairmont visits are rare--after all, I'm pulling in OC Weekly money, not Aaron Kushner cash. But I had a chance to visit recently at the expense of my jefe's American Express. We caught up on the state of this infernal rag, traded cocktail stories, each got a Manhattan--and then it came time to the Fairmont's version of the Boulevardier.

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St. George Absinthe Verte, Our Drink of the Week

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Photo by Gregory Yee
A Death in the Afternoon made by Seth Marquez with St. George Absinthe. Magical.

The first time I had absinthe after I came of age, I thought it was a gimmick. After all, absinthe wasn't even legal until three years before, so how am I supposed to take it seriously?

"Ohh, we're totally bohemian right now guys. Let us go to the Moulin Rouge and sing like Kurt Cobain," I joked with my friends in my faux French accent as I louched my first rocks glass. Little did I know, I really, really like anise-flavored spirits.

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Strawberry Caipirinha at Agora, Our Drink of the Week!

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Edwin Goei
Agora is one of the best, if not the best place to eat steak in Irvine. It's expensive but what restaurant offering all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrasco isn't?

There is, however, a way to eat at Agora without spending your entire day's paycheck: the Happy Hour. Sit at the bar and ask for their $9 single-trip hot foods and salad buffet, where you can load up your plate as full as you can, one time, from the most immaculately curated buffet line in OC. You'll find clams in butter, mussels in a chunky tomato braise, and potatoes roasted in seasoned wedges or whipped to a buttery smoothness. There's good crumbly aged cheese, smoked fish, shrimp cocktail, and fluffy rice to be doused in a white-meat chicken stew. If you actually want salad, it's there too.

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Breakfast In Bed at SideDoor, Our Drink of the Week!

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Anne Marie Panoringan

I sat for a spell at SideDoor twice in the last month. In that time, they not only renovated the kitchen, but updated their menu (hardly skipping a beat). If that wasn't ambitious enough, they're offering a pretty selection of cocktails just for Valentine's week. Yet only locals would be privy to such updates, because the big red key isn't making a fuss on social media.

With cutesy names like Heart of Darkness, my eyes locked in on one special potion: Breakfast in Bed. It was practically calling my name, so I went with it. Beer could wait until next visit.

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