Italian Renaissance at Canaletto, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Not pictured: Awesome bread

Sometimes, I feel bad for Canaletto at Fashion Island. Its take on regional Italian cuisine frequently gets lost to the shopping center's crowd, especially the mock Italians that have their Ferraris and Fiats valeted just in front of the restaurant. The crowds usually want eggplant parmigiana and don't care for the in-house salumi, the rare soups and risottos, or any of the other subtleties. But despite its setting, Canaletto has thrived for years now--and the Italians that work here, from the bartenders to the wait staff, not only speak the language but emote like a real paisane.

You can spend weeks here just going through their grappas and digestifs, but the cocktail program has markedly improved over the past year. Consider their Italian Renaissance.

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Evan Williams Single-Barrel Bourbon Vintage, Our Drink of (Last) Week!

Photo by The Mexican
Hi, Mr. Hi Time!!!

In my time swimming in bourbon, I've split the multiple labels into three categories. There's the high-end ones--your Van Winkles and Willets and Hudsons and other boutique labels that get the hipsters aflutter. Then you got the mainstream ones: Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark, Bulleit, Angel's Envy and others that middle-class warriors buy when they want to appear in the know.

And then you have the stuff no one boasts of drinking: Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Cabin Still, Old Crow, and Evan Williams. Of these, Evan Williams is definitely the king of the paupers.

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Cocktel de la Louisiane at Juliette Kitchen+Bar, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican

My chica and I have this hilarious The Honeymooners sketch that goes like this: I invite her to go eat with me somewhere; she refuses. A friend of our enthuses about a restaurant; my chica gets mad at me for not taking her there. I tell her I offered before, but she refused my offer then; now, she now wants to go. One of these days, Alice...HA!

Anyoo, that's what happened with Juliette Kitchen+Bar, that fine establishment just off the 73 in Newport Beach. We weren't able to have a full meal there when I finally took her, so we stuck with what mattered: booze. She had the Mexican Firing Squad, a tart flight of fancy; I had the fabulous Cocktel de la Louisiane.

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White Elephant at The Globe Belgian Gastropub, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
No pink elephants afterward, for sure...

Most everyone that visits the Globe Belgian Gastropub in Garden Grove's perpetually unloved Main Street historic district gets beers, and understandably so. But usually overlooked among the Chimays and craft suds is a full bar, with a cocktail menu that shows promise. And while the current offerings rely on vodka a bit much, the Globe bartenders redeem themselves with the White Elephant, the best dessert booze I've had since polishing off my bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon cream last month.

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Memphis Stare-Down at Memphis Cafe

Photo by The Mexican
Drink up!

I'm still missing Memphis at the Santora, the pioneering downtown SanTana restaurant that was my neighborhood locale for about a decade and tragically closed down earlier this year. I still haven't made the transition over to the original Memphis Cafe, even though it's just down the street from Weekly world headquarters. Call me a beast of habit: this generation of Weeklings only goes there en masse to bid one of us farewell, or to meet sources in order to scare our enemies...HA!

Nevertheless, Memphis Cafe is stronger than it has been in years. Breakfast is now daily, our own Dave Mau is back to managing the bar, and they're changing up the cocktail list for the better. Consider the Memphis Stare-Down.

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High Tide at Driftwood Kitchen, Our Drink of the Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
Ode to a classic

Our primary reason to head to Laguna Beach is for a change of scenery; cooler temps and cruising on Pacific Coast Highway rank right after. We find gazing out into the Pacific more centering than yoga, so ending up at the right spot is most important. While we don't require sand between our toes, being perched right above the beach is ideal. One property that can accommodate such a request appears to have dual dining concepts--those lucky bastards.

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Kicking Venado at Diego's Downtown, Our Drink of the Week!

Photo by The Mexican
They just got moonshine, too!

True confessions: I was not that impressed by Diego's when it opened last year. The downtown SanTana restaurant tried too hard with dishes that had two ingredients too many, featured tiny portions too expensive by five bucks, and a pan-Latino approach that tried to reach across the region but came up as short as Mexican democracy. Harsh words, but true.

But over the past six months, owner-chef Richard Espinachio has worked out the kinks, leaving it grab the crown left behind by the late, great Memphis at the Santora as a place for great, innovative, humble eating. The chilaquiles are out of a tía's kitchen; banana fritters, out of Calle Ocho. And the bar is ramping up its offerings as well, eschewing clichés in favor of innovators like the Kicking Venado.

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Boathouse Sour from The Boathouse Collective, Our Drink Of The Week!

Anne Marie Panoringan
No filter

Last weekend, we became privy to a private space about to go public. While it is situated towards the ever-popular 17th Street in Costa Mesa, the exact location caught us off guard.

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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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