Enjoy a green-thumbed approach with these local drinks.
By Crawford McCarthy
Spending time wandering the great outdoors is said to be good for both physical and mental health—but what about incorporating the beauty and bounty of nature in our drinks? From botanical spirits to floral garnishes, garden-fresh beverages have begun to pop up all over town. Whether you opt for tea, coffee or a health-conscious cocktail, these local sips will have you breathing a bit deeper with a smile on your face as you delight in their fresh flavors.
Broadway by Amar Santana
The bar team at Broadway by Amar Santana are no strangers to weaving stories and meaning into their cocktails, and the Limpia is a prime example. Xicaru and Lopez Real Espadin mezcals, both infused with basil, blend with the earthy Salers Aperitif, lime juice, eucalyptus bitters and agave infused with dried Damiana to create a botanical beverage that sends the drinker on a journey. “I link the garden element to traditional Mexican magic,” says Broadway bartender Jade Bustamante. “… Damiana is an herb that’s been used for medicinal and ritualistic practices, and still is today. Eucalyptus, rosemary and basil are just a few ingredients used to bundle and sweep away the negative energies during a limpia—[the cleansing ceremony for which the drink is named]. These fresh ingredients … provide an earthy and herbaceous cocktail experience rich with culture and history.” (949-715-8234; broadwaybyamarsantana.com)
The bounty of the garden works well beyond boozy beverages, as proven by the offerings at Zinc Cafe. This airy, alfresco eatery, located downtown, is a master class in keeping things simple yet delicious. The addition of a few select herbs to a morning coffee, for instance, can make any day brighter. While there are numerous offerings to be enjoyed—either iced or hot—the lavender latte has been a mainstay for good reason. But a similar beverage was added to the menu in the fall: the salted rosemary latte. This coffee drink is crafted using a house-made simple syrup, in which dried rosemary is simmered in a sugar-water solution for 30 minutes; sea salt is also sprinkled in. Grab this divine concoction morning or midday, as any time is ideal for its vivid flavor—and the herbal scent of the rosemary sprig that completes the latte isn’t bad either. (949-494-6302; zinccafe.com)
The Rooftop Lounge
While the exact origin story is up for debate, it is no secret that the mojito is a refreshing gift that Cuba gave the world. The simple combination of rum, lime, simple syrup and a generous amount of muddled mint leaf makes it one of the most iconic cocktails in history, and no one does a mojito better than The Rooftop Lounge. Enjoy this classic cocktail, made with Mahina Platinum rum from the Caribbean, in the original lime flavor or opt for varieties such as mango, berry or tropical while overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the restaurant’s deck—a rite of passage for Laguna locals. Garnished with a chunk of sugar cane, the cool mint leaves make this an exhilarating sip to enjoy in California’s endless sunshine. (949-497-2446; rooftoplagunabeach.com)
Garden elements are often an addition to a drink, meant to act as a complement. However, ask for a cocktail made with Slowdays gin—which was developed by Jared Murphy, a local resident and bartender at Hotel Laguna—and that expectation flips entirely. “Slowdays is a modern gin with a refreshing and rich flavor profile driven by hibiscus, citrus, cinnamon, and ginger rather than traditional dry botanicals,” Murphy says. At Ahba, the bar team is well-versed in utilizing this locally designed gin, as they have developed a drink called Slow Dayzzz that combines the liquor with sweet vermouth, pink peppercorn, lavender honey, lemon and soda, all served over crushed ice and garnished with fresh lavender, for layer upon layer of flavor with each sip. (949-549-4556; eatahba.com)
Laguna Beach is best known for its stunning coastline, quaint coves and colorful sunsets, and the strawberry hibiscus tea at Poke Tiki is the perfect metaphor for all of these things: Vibrant and fresh, it’s the ideal sweet treat without the sugar, offering a refreshing blend of flavors that can brighten any day. The drink features hibiscus flowers, which are high in antioxidants and can also aid in weight loss, as well as apples, fresh strawberries, rosebuds and citrus peel; opt to add boba to make the drink really pop. Served cold, this drink is a light, invigorating beverage that pairs perfectly with the eatery’s rice and poke bowls. Other botanical-inspired drinks here include the jasmine or rose milk teas and an array of matcha lattes, such as original, strawberry and mango. (949-303-3417; poketiki.com)