Warm up your winter nights with thoughts of summertime while sipping these tropical cocktails.
By Sharael Kolberg
Although the temperatures in Laguna Beach don’t dip as low as many other locales, winter weather often leaves us dreaming of the warmer months. Escape the dreary doldrums with fruity drinks that will have you reminiscing about midsummer mixtures. From rum-filled mai tais to citrus-based margaritas, local bartenders are whipping up cocktails that are sure to put you in a sunshine state of mind—without having to slip on your swim trunks or squeeze into a bikini.
Reunion Kitchen & Drink
Step right up to the Reunion Kitchen & Drink dining room to enjoy a cocktail just like you’ll get in Hawaii: Dad’s Mai Tai is hand shaken with three types of rum—RumHaven Caribbean, Captain Morgan and Myers’s Rum—then blended with amaretto almond liqueur and fresh tropical juices. Refreshing due to its sweet and fruity undertones, the spirit-forward beverage is garnished with a dehydrated orange, a pineapple slice and a cherry. Reunion Kitchen & Drink focuses on innovative interpretations of classic comfort foods in a cozy dining room, presenting diners with a pleasant and relaxing experience reminiscent of being home with family—but this drink, says owner Scott McIntosh, is inspired by the urge to travel. “Hawaii is one of my favorite places to vacation and I always love enjoying a … [cocktail] by the beach,” he explains. “The laid-back feeling you get while visiting the island compares to enjoying a nice dinner in Laguna Beach while watching the sunset. It was a no-brainer to include a fresh mai tai on our menu to give the guest[s] a relaxing, vacation-like option.” (949-226-8393; reunionkitchen.net)
The Porch at The Ranch at Laguna Beach
Enjoy alfresco dining in a canyon setting while you warm up by the fire pit and sip the Chili Margarita. The Porch, an alfresco enclave nestled between The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s Harvest restaurant and Ben Brown’s Golf Course, offers a picturesque setting with live music, seasonal small plates and craft cocktails. Made with Milagro tequila, this refreshingly fruity twist on a class lime margarita features freshly squeezed blood orange juice, blackberries and raspberries, lime juice and maple syrup, garnished with a blood orange slice, jalapeno and a Tajín rim for a spicy kick. “The blood orange puree with blackberries and raspberries is made from fresh, locally grown fruit and has a bit more acidity than regular orange juice to help balance the drink,” says RJ Bear, director of food and beverage at the resort. Ingredients are sourced from the resort’s own organic, half-acre garden when available. (949-499-2271; theranchlb.com)
Rum Social Kitchen & Cocktails
Walking into this eatery feels like summer every time, expertly blending high-end luxury with island vibes. The Hemingway, a tart and frothy drink reminiscent of a daiquiri, is one of the restaurant’s signature sips that will have you embracing your inner storyteller as you mingle in the upstairs treehouse bar that overlooks Peppertree Lane. The drink is strong thanks to a healthy dose of Rum Social’s own barrel-aged rum, combined with fresh-squeezed grapefruit and lime juices plus Heering cherry liqueur. “Guests love … [The] Hemingway … not only for its flavor palate, but the presentation as well,” shares Marlene Spicer, the general manager at Rum Social. “Vigorously shaken egg whites give this cocktail its frothy finish, which we then stencil with our R.S. logo or even custom designs from the bartenders.” (949-549-4014; rumsocial.com)
Even though the skies may be cloudy and the temperatures cool, hop up on a barstool at the historic Hotel Laguna to daydream about sunny skies as you listen to the waves crashing and watch the sun sinking down—all while sipping a drink called Some Like it Hot. This delectable beverage mixes smoky mezcal, charred pineapple, Fresno chile, cilantro, lime juice and agave, then poured into a coupe glass and garnished with both a fresh pineapple frond and Sal de Chapulin (grasshopper salt). The drink was created by Daniel McCutchan, head bartender at Hotel Laguna, as a variation of a “mezcalita,” a margarita that swaps tequila for mezcal, but it can also be served sans alcohol. Bar Manager Neil Matchko adds that it’s a little spicy, noting, “It has a subtle but balanced tropical heat—[it] reminds you of sitting on a Caribbean beach with a campfire, enjoying the sunset and barbecue.” (949-494-1151; hotellaguna.org)
Gabe Whorley, group beverage director and partner at RJB Restaurant Group, which includes Sapphire, Cellar-Craft-Cook, thought that the Mariposa Effect, a cocktail made with butterfly tea-infused tequila, would be a great addition to the Sapphire menu given the fresh flowers and herbs that surround the restaurant’s patio. “Every once in a while, you will catch a glance of butterflies flying by,” he explains. “And tequila has become more and more popular every year.” Along with the infused tequila, Whorley’s concoction features limoncello, elderflower and orange liqueurs, lemon juice and basil. Whorley adds, “It’s not just beautiful—it’s light, refreshing, herbaceous and, with the vibrant color, it sells itself when guests see it being served.” The purple drink is garnished with basil leaves, a float of ginger beer and, for an extra special touch, an edible butterfly garnish. (949-715-9888; sapphirelagunabeach.com)