Kick off the season with these refreshing, signature Laguna cocktails.
By Ben McBee
A delicious signature cocktail can be a meaningful ingredient for a restaurant’s success. With a thoughtful, inventive libation lineup, guests get a taste of personality and, if done right, a memorable experience you can’t find elsewhere.
With the expertise and imagination of skilled bartenders, spirits, spritzers and mixers can take on a life of their own. Each concoction tells a story, perhaps one of culture, tradition or innovation, all while tantalizing the taste buds. And these creative drinks may be part of the reason that guests come back time and time again.
Here are some of the best in town at Laguna locales with phenomenal ambience to sip and soak up springtime vibes.
Latin Love Story | Studio at Montage Laguna Beach
When it comes to oceanfront views, Studio stands alone (and atop a 50-foot-tall bluff), with sophistication that matches the stunning vistas. Inside is similarly grandiose. Vaulted ceilings supported by rustic, stained wood beams preside over a turn-of-the-century style bar that’s both warm and inviting.
The atmosphere isn’t the only thing with some heat, which you’ll find out if you order the Latin Love Story, an unconventional take on a tequila-based cocktail devoid of lemon or lime juice. Starting with Casamigos Reposado, mixologists add dry curacao, cayenne-demerara syrup, house-made orgeat, lemon shrub, blackstrap bitters, grapefruit juice and essence, aloe vera water and a charred chile de arbol.
“The name was inspired by a guest tasting it and commenting how the flavors evolved—similar to a story,” explains Beverage Manager Troy Smith. “Starting with tequila’s herbaceous notes, moving to the sweet and sour of grapefruit and curacao, then to the mild spice of cayenne and finishing with savory notes of lemon shrub. The cocktail is long and complex both on the palate and in production.”
Follow it up with a walk down to the beach for a truly unforgettable tale.
Loucette | Broadway by Amar Santana
As the saying goes, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” One cocktail at Broadway by Amar Santana certainly fits this motto and then some, possessing some serious staying power on an otherwise dynamic menu.
“The Loucette is symbolic of our bar program’s roots,” says Beverage Director Michael Rooney. “When we started, Laguna was a vodka-dominate town and, as we have evolved with Laguna’s tastes, the Loucette remains a staple that is still enjoyed by many.”
Its charm draws from simplicity at its finest. Citrus tang from grapefruit and lime enlivens the base of Aloo Vodka and Carpano Bianco vermouth. Meanwhile, honey and rosemary mist lend saccharine and floral notes that float across the palate.
Kentucky Brunch | Skyloft
Martinis, mules and a diverse assortment of beers await at Skyloft, but the signature cocktails are what really catch the eye. The Kentucky Brunch is one of a kind and kicks like a thoroughbred.
Woodford Reserve bourbon and Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur made from Mediterranean citrus juices and other aromatic herbs and spices, combine in a strong and satisfying way in the glass. The piece de resistance is a hint of maple and cinnamon, which will warm you up for the dance floor.
Skyloft’s nightlife is spectacular, with live bands or DJs playing a wide variety of music on most nights and an especially vivacious atmosphere on the weekends. Plus the rooftop offers ocean views—a perfect setting for watching the sunset before getting the night started.
Lychee Mojito | Sapphire Laguna
You may feel like a globe-trotter after a visit to Sapphire Laguna. With what he calls a global market cuisine and cocktail setting, chef and CEO Azmin Ghahreman hopes to encourage locals and tourists alike to come in, unwind and have a unique experience.
“For the past decade, I’ve focused my international-oriented culinary style on emulating the experience of traveling,” he says. “You can read about places in books, but the people, cultural celebrations, cocktails, foods [and] spices in any region of the world, will teach you firsthand.”
For more than seven years, guests have been discovering the lychee mojito. The tropical fruit native to China has an exotic flavor that pairs beautifully with acidity of lime. Combined with fresh mint, white rum and simple syrup, the drink is sweetly stimulating.
Casa Cooler | The Rooftop Lounge
There are days when the pleasant breeze coming in off the ocean takes a siesta, and things start to heat up along the coastline. Luckily, The Rooftop Lounge atop La Casa del Camino hotel has the perfect way to quench your thirst.
The Casa Cooler is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and muddled lime and cucumber, topped with soda water. “It’s the perfect drink for a hot spring or summer day,” says Director of Restaurants Kai Perry. Alternatively, for those seeking something other than vodka, the drink can be made with Hendrick’s Gin.
If you still find yourself parched, fret not. The bar serves a rotating selection of specialty cocktails and, whichever you choose, it’s hard to do wrong. “The Rooftop is the best place to come grab a cocktail to sit, relax and enjoy the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean,” Perry says. “We use the freshest produce and every drink is made with care and consistency.”
The Red Tide | The Deck on Laguna Beach
A red tide is a destructive phenomenon caused by intense algal blooms in the sea. The water turns a rusty hue and can harm wildlife and people. Thankfully, the lone thing The Red Tide cocktail at Pacific Edge Hotel’s waterfront spot has in common with its namesake is bright color.
Reyka vodka, watermelon juice and cranberry-lime sour are tumbled together and served with a sprig of mint to make this drink rosy pink and delectable. It’s a refreshing companion to the exquisite, fresh seafood offered there and, with the sun shining down and the waves crashing on the sand, it can lead to a gratifying alfresco affair.
Montage Laguna Beach Beverage Manager Troy Smith shares this cocktail recipe with tantalizing flavors that can be made at home without much preparation.
East India Co.
2 ounces strong chai tea
1 ½ ounces Plantation pineapple rum
½ ounce lime
½ ounce orange juice
½ ounce honey
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass over a single large cube of ice and garnish with a fresh or dehydrated lime wheel.
(Recipe courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach)