1 Barrel Rum at Hi-Time Wine Cellar, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Drink it up!

"Rum might just be the next hot thing in the spirits market," Mr. Hi-Time told me this week, and what he says is TRUTH. I was happy to see that his shop, the eponymous Hi-Time Wine Cellar, has started stocking Buffalo Trace bourbon cream, which I w rote about years ago. But rum's going to be the Next Big Thing? I've been seeing rarities pop up in bars recently, from Guyana, Indonesia and even Spain, so I asked Mr. Hi-Time what should I try. He said to go with 1 Barrel Rum from Belize, so I did.

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Kettle Cup at Kettlebar, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
That's more than a cup!

You've got to hurry if you're going to make it to Kettlebar's Happy Hour. It starts at 3 p.m., ends promptly at 6 p.m., and only offered on weekdays. But you want in on these discounts. They're significant. Some items on the Happy Hour list are marked down to half off. And they're things you'd actually want to eat with alcohol. You know, crunchy deep fried food, especially the greaseless soft shell crab with a chipotle aioli dip and the hot wings dusted with dry rub. It's easy to do the bar math and skip Kettlebar's full-on pan roasts, which isn't discounted, because that's at least five more draft beers you could be drinking instead.

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Jacoby at Cafe Hidalgo, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Bottom's up!

I had been to Cafe Hidalgo in Fullerton twice in the last decade until this past weekend--for a gorgeous wedding, and for a dinner where my insults toward my ex's guy at the time made her fall in love with me all over again, which made me waste another year of my life with her. Um yeah...but anyhoo, a baby shower brought me to the DTF classic. The party was catered with an open bar--score! Alas, the regular drink menu is chockablock with margaritas and martinis, so leave it to my resourceful wife to discover an off-the-menu drink: the Jacoby, named after the suave bartender who regaled us with its ingredients.

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

Anne Marie Panoringan
It brings all the boys to the Spectrum

Say you end up at Irvine Spectrum, hungry on an off night. You decide to check out that place that was formerly a parking lot. No, the other one, the one called Del Frisco's. It's the approachable sibling to the white-linen, fine-dining steakhouse.

Look inside, and the most notable detail isn't the 401-maximum headroom or the excessive use of dangling light bulbs as décor. No, you'll realize it's bro night. The late-30-to-40-something answer to Yard House, minus the smoking patio. Guys seated in large groups after work, swigging wine and commiserating. Like a gender-neutral man cave, but with the option to valet.

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Gin Fuego at The North Left, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Muy caliente!

Aron Habiger and Ashley Guzman are not only keeping it 100 at the North Left, they've upping the game. Every Thursday brings a farm-to-table night, where the two get items from the Santa Monica and SanTana's farmers' market and transform them into four-course masterpieces. They offer a wine-pairing men as well, but ustedes know me: I'm a true drunk. So I'm glad to report that not only does the North Left have new cocktails, they're all awesome--especially the Gin Fuego.

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Negroni Menu at Pizzeria Ortica, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
The Sunday Negroni, in all its glory

Earlier this month, OC's best bars celebrated Negroni Week, slinging out their version of the legendarily bitter cocktail. All the usual suspects played along--Anepalco's, 320 Main, Little Sparrow, Broadway, and so many others. But only Pizzeria Ortica is going to pay it forward by instituting a full-scale Negroni menu from here until all the Campari on earth is gone.

Bartenders Joel Caruso and Aristotle Altstaetter just took the hooch they created for Negroni Week, and made it part of their spectacular roster.

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Lemon Drop at Bistango, Our Drink of the Week!

Edwin Goei
Drop it like it's hot.
Bistango's Happy Hour isn't the kind of Happy Hour you can ever be late for. On weekdays, it starts at 4 p.m. and lasts until it closes. On Saturdays, it goes from 5:30 p.m. to closing. During this time, the parking becomes free and plentiful, the food is discounted all night, and the booze is slashed to about half off the regular prices. How it can do this and why it does this can be answered in three words: because it can. In restaurant years, Bistango is a senior citizen and it hasn't lasted 28 years in the same spot tucked in between tech, bio, and financial firms without knowing who its core audience is and what they want.

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Amaro Dell'Erborista, Our Drink of (Last) Week!

Photo by Break of Dawn

"It tastes like the barnyard," Gabrielle Dion of The Mixing Glass told me as I eyed the Amaro Dell'Erborista, a gigantic digestif bottle on display at her charming cocktail shop within the OC Mix. Some time later, an employee was a little bit more succinct: "It tastes like a horse's ass."

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Champagne Cocktails at Gypsy Den Santa Ana, Our Drink of the Week!

Pablo Castillo
Soon you'll be able to swap out red wine for tequila... but go now anyway.

Downtown Santa Ana has a bar for almost every need; karaoke, beer, gay bars, live music, dive, wine, tapas, high-end and even a couple left over for paisas. Really the only thing missing from the scene is a lounge, a place with soft couches, dim lights and the music turned down low.

That's not quite true, actually: the Gypsy Den is a lounge, but it historically only served beer and wine, meaning that while it's a fantastic place to end up the evening on a first or second date, the drinks menu is limited.

Happily, the Gypsy Den received their full liquor license and are in the process of having the city update their conditional use permit; in the immediate future, they'll fit that niche, and the owner is re-decorating the place to match. The bar area will be more inviting, there'll be more places to sit and catch up, and the pool table will be gone, but most importantly, there'll be cocktails.

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Tincup American Whiskey, Our Drink of (Last) Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Hola, Colonel Sanders!

Back in 2013, when I sung the praises of Colorado's Stranahan Whiskey and complained that Hi-Time Wine Cellar didn't stock it, a kind soul sent me a bottle of Tincup American Whiskey. "Hi-Time sells it," he said, "and it's a great Colorado whiskey." I put it in my collection, and went on to other drinks.

Fast-forward to earlier this year, when Hi-Time let me know they now carry Stranahan's--HELL YA! In its honor, I finally cracked open the Tincup and found an able, cheaper companion.

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