As the weather warms up, cool down with some of this season’s freshest cocktails.
By Kelly Shannon
Nothing compares to summertime on the California coast: The sun is shining, the salty ocean breeze is warm and the beaches are humming with people from near and far. Whether lounging poolside or soaking up the scenery from a local eatery’s oceanfront deck, a refreshing cocktail is in order this summer.
Renowned restaurants and bars up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, are serving up drinks featuring some of the sweetest and most flavorful fruits of the season, paired with mint, premium spirits and plenty of ice to cool the palate. So sit back and unwind while enjoying one of these 10 fresh sippers from coastal Orange County establishments—a reminder that nothing beats the leisure of savoring a cool drink on a hot day.
lobby lounge at The St. Regis Monarch Beach
To mark the 80th anniversary of the iconic bloody mary—a drink developed by bartender Fernand Petiot at The St. Regis New York’s famed King Cole Bar in 1934—The St. Regis Monarch Beach is celebrating the classic cocktail for more than 80 days, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Guests of the resort’s Lobby Lounge may travel the world by tasting a variety of bloody mary versions served at St. Regis hotels; each has its own rendition inspired by its exclusive location. Monarch Beach’s signature bloody mary is called the Agave Maria, made with Herradura Silver tequila and green jalapeno, providing the perfect amount of verve to get a vacation started while overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the resort’s lush golf course. Or try any of the St. Regis sister properties’ unique bloody mary interpretations, like Beijing’s Great Wall, which replaces vodka with Tsingtao beer, or The St. Regis Lanesborough, London’s Bloody Smoke, made with 10-year-old Laphroaig whisky and topped with a pinch of cracked black pepper. The options are endless, all based on Petiot’s original recipe, which added salt, pepper, lemon and Worcestershire sauce to spice up a vodka-and-tomato-juice cocktail. Notably, the bloody mary was soon renamed the Red Snapper because the initial moniker was deemed too racy for the hotel’s clientele. While that name didn’t last, the long-standing libation has endured for eight decades. (1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; 949-234-3900; stregismb.com)
Basil Greyhound Martini
Salt Creek Grille
Down the road from The St. Regis Monarch Beach rests Salt Creek Grille, a casual-upscale eatery frequented by local residents. Walking in, a beautiful sitting area with a fire pit greets customers, and that’s when the instant relaxation sets in. The rustic California ambience and laid-back vibe make this spot one of the most happening eateries in town. Stop in to cool down and unwind with the crisp Basil Greyhound Martini, a simple combination of Stoli vodka, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and basil—a libation that’s bursting with seasonal ingredients. For those seeking a meal with their cocktail, the restaurant serves up fresh fish, burgers, steaks, ribs, salads and more, along with live music on most nights. Acoustic guitar fills the surrounding air each Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday while Fridays feature an R&B/soul/Motown band. So pick a groove, order a signature martini, pull up a chair by the fire pit and breathe in the salty ocean air. (32802 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point; 949-661-7799; saltcreekgrille.com)
Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen
Vibrant, eclectic and bursting with flavor, Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen in south Laguna Beach is one of the most transporting places to dine. Giving customers the ability to taste the best Caribbean cuisine on the West Coast, Eva’s is the perfect summertime spot. Sit inside or out—the doors are all open, giving this little nook along Pacific Coast Highway such a lovely, cozy feel. Each authentic Caribbean recipe has been handed down from generation to generation and, ultimately, to chef and owner Eva Madray, who greets and chats with all of her customers. To pair with the flavorful and spicy plates, Eva’s cocktail list includes several options to cool the body—and mouth—down, like the traditional Cuban refresher, the mojito. But Eva’s also offers a refreshing, sweet and delicious Tropical Rum Punch, which combines rum with mango, guava and passion fruit juices. One sip will have diners planning their next trip to the Caribbean. (31732 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949-499-6311; evascaribbeankitchen.com)
Selanne’s Steak Tavern
A recent addition to Laguna Beach’s dining scene, Selanne’s Steak Tavern—named after one of the restaurant’s proprietors, famed hockey legend and Anaheim Ducks star player Teemu Selanne—redefines the traditional steakhouse with a California-chic twist. Selanne’s is breezy and bright, while still having a country-like vibe. Nestled along Pacific Coast Highway, this revitalized restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the beach. To cool down after a day in the sun, bar manager and highly skilled bartender Mike Blash recommends the Karma Sutra. “It’s a great summertime tequila drink,” Blash says. Using Karma Tequila, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon and lime, house-made agave syrup and strawberries, this cocktail will exhilarate the senses. “This is a super refreshing summer cocktail,” Blash says. “… The ginger and strawberries play so well together when paired with tequila and a little acid from the citrus.” (1464 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949-715-9881; selannesteaktavern.com)
Broadway by Amar Santana
Vintage New York City meets modern day at Broadway by Amar Santana. This fantastic restaurant is a crowd favorite, as its food is fresh and flavorful. An expansive window looks out the front of Broadway, brining in plenty of light. The bar is always pleasantly packed with patrons, each awaiting some of the best cocktails Orange County has to offer. “I love bartending because we get to be so creative,” says Broadway bartender AnnAlise Ventre, who enjoys mixing and matching unique flavors and ingredients. “All juices and syrups are made here by hand by the bartenders.” The cocktail options at Broadway are all delightful, but one of its signature refreshers is the house-made Moscow mule. This specialty light beverage consists of Smirnoff Vodka, lime and handcrafted ginger beer. After bartenders make the specialty ginger beer, they transport it to a pony keg, pour it on tap and present the Moscow mule in its traditional copper mug. (328 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach; 949-715-8234; broadwaybyamarsantana.com)
230 Forest Avenue
Located in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach, 230 Forest Avenue is a lively culinary hot spot. Patrons rave about their dining experiences in this little gem of an eatery on Forest Avenue. The ever-changing indoor artwork boasts vibrant colors and, outside on the patio, the entertainment almost never stops while watching Laguna’s eclectic residents and visitors stroll by. Besides featuring some of the food and ambience in town, 230 Forest is also home to a small, chic, city-like bar that exhibits some of the most famed martinis and cocktails around. The refreshing house favorite is the Rosemary Ginger Lemon Drop, a mixture of Pearl Vodka, hand-pressed lemon and 230 Forest’s house-made rosemary ginger syrup. This martini is light and crisp while being perfectly sweet and flavorful. Due to the nature of this restaurant’s size, be sure to ask the concierge for a reservation, as walk-up wait times can be more than an hour. (230 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach; 949-494-2545; 230forestavenue.com)
Mastro’s Ocean Club
On Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Coast resides Mastro’s Ocean Club, one of the finest seafood restaurants in all of Orange County. From the various seafood options to steaks and chops, customers cannot go wrong with any meal at Mastro’s. Featuring unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, Mastro’s is the perfect spot to sit back and watch the summer sun set with a frosty cocktail in hand. Besides the restaurant’s renowned menu and acclaimed dining experience, the bar is not to be missed: A lively crowd and live music fill the hip nook, while the cocktail list is exceptionally varied. It can be difficult to pick just one drink, but the Fleur de Blu, which incorporates seasonally fresh berries, is the perfect complement to a warm day. This crisp concoction—made of Stoli Blueberi vodka, fresh blueberries and Thatcher’s elderflower liqueur, shaken cold and served up with a blueberry garnish—is sure to cool the palate. (8112 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach; 949-376-6990; mastrosrestaurants.com)
The Bungalow Restaurant
In the heart of the charming village of Corona del Mar resides The Bungalow Restaurant. This Craftsman-style eatery specializes in USDA prime steaks—everything from filet mignon to a bone-in rib-eye—in addition to soups, salads, seafood and more than 160 premium bottled wines in its cellar. Frequented by residents and visitors alike, the relaxing ambience is that of a “California steakhouse,” breezy but still slightly rustic with rich wood walls and beam ceiling. The Bungalow’s beautiful, cozy patio is an ideal spot to sit back on a summer evening and enjoy a tasty dinner and drinks. The cocktail lounge inside the restaurant concocts many specialty drinks including several signature martinis, which are presented in chilled, oversized martini glasses. A cooling summer cocktail on this menu is the refreshing Cucumber Crush, composed of Square One Cucumber vodka, muddled cucumber and lime, and a splash of lemonade, served up. Aside from savory food and delicious martinis, the friendly staff makes The Bungalow always welcoming. (2441 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar; 949-673-6585; thebungalowrestaurant.com)
Just down the street from The Bungalow, Gulfstream is another upscale-casual eatery that’s home to perfectly savory cuisine and an exceptional patio. Featuring consistently delicious and seasonally fresh plates, Gulfstream was inspired by the classic seafood houses; all fish is served within 24 hours of being caught. Pacific oysters are shucked to order and the exhibition kitchen opens to the dining room to excite the senses. Gulfstream’s bar is always bustling, and the sprawling patio is a local hot spot during any given season. Surrounded by decorative shrubbery and lights, it is one of the best places to enjoy a chilled beverage in the summer. “The freshest, lightest-tasting cocktail is the Elderflower Collins,” say bartenders Victoria and Stephanie, who asked that only their first names be used. A modernized twist on the greyhound, the Elderflower Collins is a mixture of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Bombay Sapphire gin and grapefruit juice. As Victoria shares, “All our fruits are freshly squeezed right here.” (850 Avocado Ave., Corona del Mar; 949-718-0188; hillstone.com)
SOL Mexican Cocina
Resting alongside the Balboa Marina, SOL Mexican Cocina is not a typical Mexican restaurant. SOL incorporates traditional Baja cuisine with a fresh, modern interpretation. Overlooking the scenic marina in Newport Beach, the gorgeous setting, great food and excellent bar makes Sol one of city’s most fashionable restaurants. The menu features dishes full of flavor, as SOL makes its own salsas and sauces daily with only the freshest seasonal ingredients and authentic Mexican spices. The bar menu at SOL consists primarily of signature margaritas: From the house margarita to a Cadillac margarita and fruit-infused varieties, SOL offers its patrons about a dozen options. The watermelon margarita—made with muddled watermelon, Corralejo Blanco Tequila and fresh lime juice—is practically summer in a glass. For a less-sweet option, SOL also offers a Michelada, a spicy Mexican beer drink with Clamato, fresh lime juice, Mexican seasoning and a lemon and chili powder rim. Whichever drink the guest chooses will surely be an excellent way to toast the season. (251 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach; 949-675-9800; solcocina.com)