Keep warm this winter with an array of spicy sips around town.
By Beth Fhaner
Shorter daylight hours and cooler temps signal the arrival of winter around Laguna. Although ours is fairly mild compared to the rest of the nation, we still like to take the edge off the chill—and, typically, that equates to sitting fireside with a nice glass of red wine. While we love our wine, for those cool nights in Southern California, try heating things up by indulging in a cocktail with a kick. Laguna has several restaurants that offer creative concoctions made with peppery elements, so get out this season and feel the burn.
Watermarc’s Hot Lips and Fire & Ice
Watermarc offers an extensive list of handcrafted cocktails, and several libations on the bar menu are guaranteed to get your taste buds tingling. For a cool weather pick-me-up, try the Hot Lips, a zesty mixture featuring Smirnoff passion fruit vodka, sliced jalapeno, mango puree and grenadine. Or, opt for the Fire & Ice cocktail, which combines citrus vodka, triple sec, sliced jalapeno and cucumber. If margaritas are more your style, don’t miss the Laguna Heat, a combination of tequila, triple sec, lime, jalapeno, cucumber and agave, or the Maui, a refreshing blend of tequila, fresh muddled pineapple, lime and jalapeno. (949-376-6272; watermarcrestaurant.com)
Tommy Bahama’s Sunburn and Leap of Faith
Tommy Bahama Bar & Grill offers a selection of beverages that range from refreshing martinis to classic mojitos. However, when you’re looking for a little extra kick, two drinks are sure to raise your internal temperature—you’ll feel like you’re sitting on the beach in some far-off island in no time. The Sunburn, a concoction of Ron Matusalem Classico rum and St-Germain elderflower liqueur, blends passion fruit juice with the zesty flavors of muddled jalapeno and lemon. Served over ice and garnished with a jalapeno, it has just the right amount of sweetness to soften the spice. On the other hand, there’s also the Leap of Faith, which consists of Tanteo jalapeno tequila, lime, ruby red grapefruit and agave nectar. (949-376-6886; tommybahama.com)
AN UNEXPECTED KICK
The Deck’s California Cooler
Patrons at The Deck on Laguna Beach can drink handcrafted cocktails while enjoying an ocean view. For a boozy thirst-quencher with an edge, order the California Cooler and prepare to be pleasantly surprised by its mix of Hendrick’s Gin, cucumber, shishito peppers, lime sour, ginger beer and mint. “The Cali Cooler brings love and admiration to the somewhat-neglected spirit, gin,” says John Nye, director of operations, who oversees the daily processes of both The Deck and its sister restaurant, Driftwood Kitchen. “Often can be heard the words, ‘But I don’t like gin,’ but little do they know they have just fallen for it in this refreshing drink …” (949-494-6700; deckonlaguna.com)
K’ya Bistro Bar’s Blood Orange-Jalapeno margarita
The blood orange-jalapeno margarita at K’ya Bistro Bar inside La Casa del Camino hotel will keep dark days bright. A popular drink that packs a punch, this margarita features tequila that’s house-infused with the pepper. Grand Marnier, fresh lemon juice, lime juice, blood orange juice and simple syrup temper the kick provided by the spirit, and a sugared rim ensures the drink finishes on a sweet note. The cocktail pairs well with the chicken empanadas served with a cilantro chili sauce—just one of the savory dishes available on K’ya’s menu of small plates. (949-376-9718; kyabistro.com)
Mozambique’s Margatini and Manzini
Mozambique’s cocktail menu features several exotic libations that range from the fruity African Elixir Blends to the specialty Matobo and Drunken Elephant martinis. When it comes to heating things up at Mozambique, though, don’t miss the Cucumber Jalapeno Margatini—a fiery concoction made of agave silver tequila, jalapeno, cucumber and lime juice. Finished with pepper shavings and a slice of cucumber adorning the rim, it offers a juxtaposition of freshness and heat. If you’re in the mood for a more complex collaboration of flavors, start with the signature cocktails section. The Manzini has a similar base of jalapeno and lime juice, but substitutes tequila for pineapple-infused vodka and a splash of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. (949-715-7777; mozambiqueoc.com)
Three Seventy Common’s Miablo
At chef Ryan Adams’ Three Seventy Common Kitchen & Drink, there’s one cocktail that stands above all others. The Miablo is a take-no-prisoners creation of ghost chili tequila, cilantro, grilled pineapple and citrus—patrons should consider themselves forewarned. “The Miablo is affectionately named after my Sicilian wife, Mia, who can be a bit fiery at times, and she also enjoys a great cocktail,” Ryan says.
He explains that the the drink gets its heat from the ghost chili-infused Karma Tequila—a single dehydrated ghost chili is added to each bottle. Mixing the spirit with cilantro, grilled pineapple and lime juice tones down the spice level, but it’s still a worthy challenge for adventurous patrons. “Sometimes, we have guests who think they can ‘take the heat’ and order it just for the fun of it,” Ryan adds. “They end up trying to send it back, but our menu has a disclaimer next to The Miablo: ‘You order it, you pay for it!’ ” (949-494-8686; 370common.com)