Credit: Timothy Kwon

10 Orange County Bars Perfect for a Dark and Stormy Day

These Sultry Watering Holes Are Worth Changing Out of Your Comfies For

Is it just us, or does it seem like these winter nights drag on forever? As soon as the darkness sets in and the temperature drops, it’s practically impossible to get up and out again—especially if you add some rain to the equation. For the nights when you can Netflix and chill no more, switch up your evening routine with a nightcap at some of Orange County’s coziest hideaways. Warming up by a fireplace in a vintage lounge while sipping espresso martinis is a pastime well worth putting pants on for! Here are 10 of our favorite Orange County bars perfect for a dark and stormy day. Cheers!

 

P10NEER

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Best Orange County Bars
Credit: P10NEER

From the creators of a beloved local coffee shop comes an all-new cocktail concept. P10NEER, a pop-up in Costa Mesa until the flagship is finished, is the newest venture by Hopper and Burr. Hop into this bar before it blows up, and if you’re a whisky lover, order the Rob Boy. Upon nearing the entrance, it may look like you are approaching a closed diner, but you’ll find the intimate curtain-lined speakeasy around the back. It’s the perfect spot to relax with friends after dinner and quiet enough for first-date dialogue.

Location: Costa Mesa

 

SideDoor

Credit: Timothy Kwon

Marked by a bright red key off Poppy Street, SideDoor is a swanky English-style gastropub adjacent to Five Crowns. Antique French chandeliers cast a glow through paneled window panes, revealing scenes of couples sitting on vintage bar stools and old friends lounging beside the charming fireplace. This quaint bar is an endearing hideaway for any night of the week, offering full-service dinner and late-night happy hours, as well as trivia on Tuesdays and whiskey on Wednesdays. SideDoor is known for its rare whiskey collection. We recommend ordering a flight and calling it a night!

Local Insight: We’re all about a signature touch—and so is SideDoor! Take a photo on your phone, and ask the bartender to screenprint the image atop your cocktail.

Location: Corona del Mar

 

STOWAWAY

If there were a hidden bar inside the Pirates of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland, it would be modeled after this OC tiki bar. STOWAWAY is an eclectic excursion that is perfect for large groups—it even has three pool tables to spark some friendly competition. Take a shot, and then go shoot some pool. With a line-up of 100 rums from around the world, you’ll be tempted to drink like a pirate. And while STOWAWAY isn’t the only tiki bar in OC, it is the only one that offers weekend brunch! We recommend saving this one for a rainy day.

Location: Tustin

 

YNK Bar and Lounge

With an ever-changing menu, YNK can be on your regular rotation without ever getting old. And while we never know what we’ll find on the mixology menu, we do know where to find this speakeasy. Hidden behind the Marriott Irvine lobby bar, pull aside the glossed sliding doors to find this exclusive spot. Menus are delivered in envelopes, like a personal letter that reveals the elixirs offered each night. Go for a vapor cocktail, served in a coupe glass, that pops at your first sip. Don’t forget to snap a pic!

Location: Irvine

 

Bar Jane

Romantic candlelit tables, dim-lit crystal chandeliers and eclectic renaissance wallpaper set the mood for sophisticated sipping at this intimate neighborhood cocktail bar. Enter: Bar Jane. This cozy lounge in downtown San Clemente mixes modern touches with vintage flair and is perfect for a cozy date night. The result is a social house where characters like Mr. Gatsby would have frequented. There is even a doorbell to ring for champagne! We recommend getting your daily dose of greens with The Lush, a cocktail made with vodka, snap peas, cucumber and mint.

Location: San Clemente

 

The Cauldron

Best Orange County Bars
Credit: Will Hare Photography

While you might escape the storm at The Cauldron, be warned that the darkness lingers within. This ominous lair in Buena Park is known for witch’s brews and potions. Cozy antique chairs line the gothic fireplace where the cauldron bubbles over. As spooky as this burrow may seem, their menu is a different kind of magic. French-inspired meals, an extensive wine list and enchanting elixirs lure guests in all night long. Rainy season calls for all the comfort foods: French onion soup, beef bourguignon and a Wizard’s Cup to lighten the load!

Location: Buena Park

 

Club 616

Best Orange County Bars
Credit: Club 616

Few will remember Club 616 from century-old downtown Santa Ana, but this hotspot is quickly becoming unforgettable. Last year, new life was breathed into this now-beloved local bar, which maintains 60’s style charm muddled with sexy sophistication. Think moody red wallpaper and black leather booths. The restored building is branded by the club’s vintage neon sign, and the entire venue offers a warm welcome from the cold. There’s a drink for everyone on their menu of booze-forward and alcohol-free cocktails. Cheers to the fluttering notes of live jazz or hypnotic beats from local DJs.

Location: Santa Ana

 

Ruin Bar

Credit: Jennifer Eguiluz

A hodgepodge of portraits, quirky knick knacks—many of which are cat-themed—and craft cocktails await at Ruin Bar. Find this Costa Mesa speakeasy in The LAB Anti-mall, set behind cottage shutters and whimsical ivy walls. A cozy pre-dinner drink spot, Ruin Bar has curated a winter cocktail lineup that hits all the notes—from the Bittersweet Symphony to Baby One More Thyme. Order at the piano-lined bar, where mixologists craft award-winning drinks that have named Ruin Bar the best Orange County Bar by the OC Register. When the glass is empty, head to Habana for a date-night dinner.

Location: Costa Mesa

 

Marine Room Tavern

Credit: Hybrid Storytellers on Unsplash

This groovy coastal gastropub has been a Laguna Beach landmark since 1934. With the same timeless charm, Marine Room Tavern welcomes patrons looking to grab a drink, shoot some pool and find new music. A flicking fire and leather lounges give this local watering hole its cozy vibe, yet most swap the seating for the dance floor. Local bands attract a crowd on the weekends. The tavern boasts a fine whiskey list, and while it may sound off-brand, the espresso martini is among the best in town.

Location: Laguna Beach

 

Vacation Bar

Best Orange County Bars
Credit: @dana_gaydon

Transport yourself from stormy nights to warmer weather at Vacation Bar. This island-inspired speakeasy is marked by a glowing pink neon sign off of 4th Street in downtown Santa Ana. The dining room resembles the lobby of a five-star retro resort with vintage accents that nod to the building’s historic legacy. Vacation Bar is the place to dream of brighter days and summer getaways—and cocktails like The Surf Poncho help one do so. You can’t go wrong with a beverage that tastes like lime sour candy and a late-night pizza menu that always hits the spot.

Location: Santa Ana

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Lover of the beach, food and fitness, Emily enjoys exploring all sunny Southern California has to offer! She has a passion for sharing about her favorite local gems and began writing for Locale in 2022. On the weekends, find her creating recipes for her food blog or out in Laguna!

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