Register
A password will be e-mailed to you.

Their Drinks Are Already Your Favorite and Now, They’re About to Become Your Favorite People, Too!

Written By: Allison Belda Newport Beach Mixologist

Summer is here and Newport Beach is living up to the “West Coast, Best Coast” mantra with great restaurants and clear, sunny days. The best way to beat the heat? A refreshing cocktail in Newport served up by Newport’s finest cocktail pros. You voted in our “Newport Beach Cocktail Pro Poll,” and the results are in! Learn more about your favorite cocktail pros and see what makes them the dynamite drink specialists they are today.

Newport Beach Mixologist

Ben Carpenter, A&O Kitchen+Bar

Q: How did you first get into making cocktails?

Ben Carpenter: I was lucky enough to work behind the bar at Green Street Restaurant in Pasadena for 11 years. In 2013, when bitters began to re-emerge as a popular cocktail component, I began to experiment with making my own at home. When the owner found out, he encouraged me to bring samples into the restaurant. Upon tasting, he not only encouraged me to start my own bitters company but promised to be my first account once I did.

Q: Where do you go to for inspiration to make new drinks?

BC: Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. I’ll never forget tasting things like Lamb Merguez and Steak au Poivre. The textures and combinations of flavors really got my mind racing. With that said, developing flavor profiles and interesting textures in drinks has always been the foundation of cocktail development for me.

Q: As a cocktail pro, what are some drink trends you have picked up on in Orange County?

BC: One that I am enjoying in particular is the zero waste or Trash Tiki movement. Bartenders are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and are utilizing previously discarded ingredients in their cocktails such as lemon and lime husks, pulp and cherry pits with incredible results.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted favorite cocktail pro in Newport Beach?

BC: The recognition means a lot. When I moved down here three and a half years ago, I didn’t know anyone in the bar community and, in many ways, had to start from scratch. I was lucky enough to meet brilliant guys like Ryan Wehner, Eliott Montero and Mike West who made me feel at home.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who are trying to be the next cocktail pro?

BC: Just keep challenging yourself and escape your comfort zone from time to time. When I finally realized this, my career really began to take off.

Q: Why is Fire Walk With Me your favorite drink?

BC: I love California and to me, this is the quintessential spring cocktail for Californians. It features two expressions of St. George Spirits, which is based in Alameda and utilizes California-grown produce in their offerings. Local mint and blood oranges are also key components which play nicely with the Blood Orange IPA that brings balance with bitterness and a light effervescence.

Q: What kind of role do you think Instagram has played on your success as a cocktail pro?

BC: It has definitely been integral to my success in the bar community. It is a place where bartenders can highlight what they are currently working on and exchange ideas in a way that is both entertaining and informative.

A&O Kitchen + Bar
1221 West Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663
949.630.4285

Newport Beach Mixologist

Trevor Jensen, Jellyfish Lounge at The Cannery

Q: How did you first get into making cocktails?

Trevor Jensen: I started bartending at Sharkeez down the street, but my cocktails didn’t take off until I came to The Cannery in 2005. We worked on prohibition style stuff.

Q: Where do you go to for inspiration to make new drinks?

TJ: Since I have three little ones, I don’t make it out much. I get my inspiration from the solid staff of great mixologists.

Q: As a cocktail pro, what are some drink trends you have picked up on in Orange County?

TJ: Just as kitchens do farm-to-table, people want the same fresh ingredients in their drinks. Lesser-known spirits are also coming in, such as Pisco.

Q: What does is it mean to you to be voted favorite cocktail pro in Newport Beach?

TJ: It means I’m doing well at my job and people appreciate what I do. Since I have been there for 13 years, I’ve built a lot of special relationships with the guests. Locals come in numerous times a week, and it makes my job easier because I know what they order. They have also seen me mature and grow up, considering I have been behind the bar for 18 years.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who are trying to be the next cocktail pro?

TJ: Focus on making the best cocktail you can. Slow down a bit, and use three easy ingredients. The main thing is trial and error. I whip something up by looking at random bottles and seeing if my guests like it. If not, then I start somewhere else.

Q: Is Mezcal Me Later your favorite cocktail to make or drink, and why?

TJ: It is fun to make with fresh ingredients, like the fresh-squeezed Costa Rican pineapple juice. I’m trying to get more people to try mezcal so I put it into a summery tiki cocktail. It’s fun to see the reaction on their faces.

Q: Do you make any special non-alcoholic drinks for your kids?

TJ: They are more into smoothies. I wouldn’t call them daiquiris.

Jellyfish Lounge at The Cannery
3010 Lafayette Ave
Newport Beach, CA 92663
949.566.0060

Newport Beach Mixologist

Anthony Laborin, Farmhouse

Q: How did you first get into making cocktails?

Anthony Laborin: I started off barbacking at Arc Food & Libations in Costa Mesa. I was the bartenders right-hand man, which meant I had to make sure everything was always stocked. Once I got good enough, I started making cocktails.

Q: Where do you go to for inspiration to make new drinks?

AL: I go to the Santa Monica Farmers Market with Rich Mead, the owner of Farmhouse in Roger’s Gardens. He has been going there for over 30 years with his family. There is always fresh stuff there. For example, we got ingredients for chimichurri sauce, which normally goes great on chicken, but we decided to put it in a Bloody Mary. People love it!

Q: As a cocktail pro, what are some drink trends you have picked up on in Orange County?

AL: A lot of drinks are going full-circle, which means we are going back to the basics. Our clientele is 99 percent women, so we are using low alcohol content cocktails. These are made with old-school recipes with “outside of the box” liquors.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted favorite cocktail pro in Newport Beach?

AL: It’s great…humbling! Since I’m the bar manager, it’s nice to see the rest of my team executing when I’m not there.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who are trying to be the next cocktail pro?

AL: Work hard, and see what other people do for inspiration. Don’t shun anything out.

Q: What makes Not Mushroom In This Bar your favorite drink?

AL: It’s a cool drink that was inspired funkily. We combined shiitake mushrooms with whiskey.

Q: Why do you travel to the Santa Monica Farmers Market for your cocktails?

AL: We want to be more acquainted with what we are doing at the restaurant. I want to know where we get limes or even lettuce for our beautiful salads. It is a huge opportunity because not many chefs are this involved with their food. Rich is extremely involved, and since I go with him, it gives me an opportunity to talk to people and stay ahead of the curve. I always know what produce is on the way, and I can ask for custom-grown ingredients.

Farmhouse
2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
949.640.1415

Colin Pflugradt, Sol Cocina

A post shared by SOL Mexican Cocina (@solcocina) on

Q: How did you first get into making cocktails?

Colin Pflugradt: At 19, I started bartending in Arizona. It’s legal there! I was exposed to cocktails before my friends and I could even drink. I started with lemon drops and long island iced teas.

Q: Where do you go to for inspiration to make new drinks?

CP: I am very fortunate to go to Mexico 2-3 times a year, as far south as Oaxaca. I come back with a whole palate of flavors, which is so helpful for working in a Mexican restaurant.

Q: As a cocktail pro, what are some drink trends you have picked up on in Orange County?

CP: This is kind of a funny one. It is all about the presentation. It doesn’t even have to taste good; it just has to look good on Instagram. People are shopping with their eyes.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted favorite cocktail pro in Orange County?

CP: It is a huge honor for drinks to be recognized. I don’t like attention. I want the drinks to get attention, which they do. I am proud people enjoy them, but it is one thing to vote on it. Very flattering.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who are trying to be the next cocktail pro?

CP: Put on a show and pay attention to detail. I notice a lot of things when I’m sitting at a bar. The cleaner, the better. It is so much more than just making drinks. It’s important to multi-task and not let your guests know you’re busy. Stay cool and collected.

Q: Since Frozen Beer is your favorite drink, how do you promote this twist on a classic beverage?

CP: In Orange County, it is sunny and summer every day. The Frozen Beer is refreshing, even if you don’t like beer. I’m not even a beer guy, and I love it. It also gives you a good buzz. You can bring in fruity beers or keep your standard Pacifico.

Q:  At 19, you started bartending at a New Mexican restaurant in Arizona. How has that influenced the drinks you make today?

CP: Margarita world. Tequila. I don’t venture out to whiskey or rum. I grew up with tequila. It’s all I drink, and I enjoy working with it. I found my niche that I enjoy creating.

Sol Cocina
251 East Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949.675.9800

Newport Beach Mixologist

Jeff Protesta, Nobu Newport Beach

Q: How did you first get into making cocktails?

Jeff Protesta: It all really happened for me when the Grand Cordon Cocktail competition started. Grand Cordon really excited me – it was the first time I actually created my own cocktail, and my first cocktail placed in the top three. Also, because I was at Nobu LA, which is where the judging took place, I had to prep everyone else’s cocktails too. This helped me get inside the heads of my fellow Nobu bartenders around the country.

Q: Where do you go to for inspiration to make new drinks?

JP: Restaurants and bars around Newport Beach and in LA. I also draw a lot of inspiration from our customers and from the Nobu Style, which is about simplicity, local and Japanese ingredients, quality and experiencing something new.

Q: As a cocktail pro, what are some drink trends you have picked up on in Orange County?

JP: Lately, mezcal is coming on the scene, and we are also starting to see a lot of nitro infusion.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted favorite cocktail pro in Newport Beach?

JP: It’s motivating and pretty awesome to be recognized within the community. I know a lot of the other favorites on the list, and they are doing great things, so it’s nice to be in such great company.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who are trying to be the next cocktail pro?

JP: Keep experimenting – experience all kinds of bars and talk with any and every kind of bartender. Just go into the field and taste and see what people are doing.

Q: What inspired the creation of your favorite drink, Nashi Kumo?

JP: So, it’s important to say that this is not my cocktail. Everything we do at Nobu is very focused on collaboration and working as a team. I can tell you the reason why it is my favorite is that it has ingredients that surprise guests, require a lot of interaction and may seem at odds. They are pisco, house-made meyer lemonade, nashi pear, monk fruit simple syrup, amaro nonino, hand-chipped quail egg whites and black sea salt.

Q: What is something you learned from Le Cordon Bleu that you still practice into your work now?

JP: My time at Le Cordon Bleu was amazing because it led to me becoming a bartender – even though that was not the intended path. I’m just glad it all came together.

Nobu Newport Beach
3450 Via Oporto Ste 101
Newport Beach, CA 92663
949.429.4440

Simple Share ButtonsSHARE:
Simple Share Buttons