Seven Drinks in OC That Require More Than a Straw to Finish

Take a Spoonful of Drinks That Leave Your Taste Buds and Your Stomach Full.

Written By: Dionne Evans Five Drinks in OC That Require More Than a Straw to Finish
Photographed By: Caroline Chambers

You won’t find a lack of creativity in the food and drink world of Orange County. There’s always a new twist on something, and that trend will likely continue. Currently, there’s been an uptick of bars and restaurants finding inspiration from much-loved food items and creating unique drinks. Everybody loves the familiar, but they want to try something new too. That’s why these drinks from local bars and cafes are so great. They take the familiar and put a new spin on it to make drinks you won’t forget. Haven Gastropub’s PB & J Float, Ramos House’s Scotch Quail Egg Bloody Mary, Vitaly’s Affogato, Social’s Negroni Float, ARC Restaurant Food & Libations’ Pina Colada and Watertable’s Bloody Marys are all derived by everyday treats, but taken to the next level. The food-inspired drinks I tried at each place showed me what a little creativity can do to transform something we already love into something we’ve never experienced but love just as much. The stories behind the drinks are just as interesting as their delicious outcomes. For a charity event during National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month, the PB&J Float was made; the Scotch Quail Egg Bloody Mary was created to be the best tasting hangover cure possible. The Affogato is a long-time Italian treat where you can substitute with any of their many gelato flavors. The Negroni Float was thought up for Negroni Week, which is also a charity event. Lastly, the Pina Colada at ARC Restaurant Food & Libations is a fresh take on a standing classic. Read below for the full stories on both the drinks and their creators.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time: A Happy Haven for Comfort Food Turned Drink
Haven Gastropub
190 South Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866
714.221.0680 | www.havengastropub.com

Haven Gastropub, located in Orange, fits the London gastropub theme to a tee. It has a rustic feel, and the dim lighting, yellow and maroon painted walls and copper menus remind me a little of my high school visit to Medieval Times. It also looks like it belongs in its neighborhood of Old Towne Orange, aka “The Antique Capital of Southern California.” The antique, Victorian-esque black chandeliers and the wooden shield with an insignia, similar to that of the pub’s, were both found at one of the neighboring antique stores. Haven’s logo is a lion wielding a knife and fork, and while they got their inspiration from the London gastropub scene, they take cues from both European and American comfort food. While there, I spoke to Partners Wil Dee, who’s also the Beverage Director, and Greg Daniels, who serves as Haven’s Executive Chef.

The two told me a little bit about their PB&J Float, as I waited with anticipation to try it. The drink itself consists of housemade Reese’s Peanut Butter ice cream and a blueberry sour ale from Cascade Brewery. It made its way onto Haven’s menu last year during National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month in November. The restaurant donated one dollar from the sale of each drink to Stop SAM, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The recipe was slightly different when the drink was first created for the fundraising event. “As far as development goes, ” Dee tells me, “Chef Craig Brady (Haven’s Chef de Cuisine) crafted the peanut butter ice cream and I paired it with this blueberry sour to make it fantastic. We specialize in comfort food and there’s nothing more comforting than this.” Not only is it comfort food, but it fits in with the gastropub identity. Dee says, “Our menu focuses on gourmet comfort food, and many of the dishes feature a worldly spin on American classics. Here, we present our take on the very American PB&J.”

While still waiting to try it, I ask what menu item goes well with the PB&J Float. Both partners agree that because it is a dessert, it can stand out on its own. “It’s a food and beer pairing in a glass, ” Chef Daniels explains. When it’s finally time for me to taste the float, I immediately love the ice cream. It’s very creamy, and when I take a big spoonful out, the blueberry ale complements it well. On its own, the ale is too tart and bitter for me, but with the ice cream, it’s toned down and tastes delicious.

Other than the PB&J Float, which is offered for a limited time during the year, there are currently no other drinks on the bar menu that are inspired by food. However, the Partners reveal that there is a chance that there may be some additional specials in the future since creativity is a big part of Haven’s success. “Creativity is the foundation and backbone of our menu, ” Dee explains. “Without creativity, you’re just like everybody else. We continue to push the envelope with ingredients, technique, and executing our menus consistently.”

Native Knowledge: Many of the Gastropub’s clientele are students from Chapman University.

The House of (Bloody) Mary: Brunch Served Sunny-Side Up
The Ramos House Cafe
31752 Los Rios St
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
949.443.1342 | www.ramoshouse.com

John Q. Humphreys, or just “Q” as he prefers, is the owner and resident of The Ramos House Cafe. He fits in well with the historic neighborhood he lives and works but is not actually from there. He was working as a night-time chef in New York City when he decided he needed a change of pace and a new place to live. He found his home in the heart of The Los Rios Historical District in San Juan Capistrano. In 1994, he opened The Ramos House Cafe. Humphreys calls the cafe his home and sleeps in the bedroom inside the house. He tells me an interesting story about the cellar underneath his bedroom which was once just a room with a cot that was used as a hideout for an infamous train robber. Nowadays, it is used as a wine cellar and music studio. At the back of the house is a commercial kitchen and on the outside is the seating area, where the guests enjoy their meals. The cafe is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day and serves only breakfast and brunch menu items.

Ironically, Humphreys doesn’t actually like breakfast and his morning meal usually consists of nothing more than a cocktail like the Scotch Quail Egg Bloody Mary I’ve come to try. While we talk at the house, the outdoor and patio seating areas are full of customers. We’re in the small area just outside of his bedroom. The historical home has an old-time feel with a black and white portrait and old paintings on the walls. A gun is also on the wall of the office, a guitar leans up against the corner, and a wiry metal cat holding out matchboxes is on the coffee table. The cafe itself is decorated with plants, burlap tablecloths, and Smith & Hawken dining chairs. Humphreys fits in with the style of the cafe, wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a boater hat.

It’s not a surprise when he tells me about the Scotch Quail Egg Bloody Mary, “I invented that drink on New Year’s day 20 years ago. All my cooks and I had hangovers, and we set out to make the world’s best Bloody Mary — I think we nailed it.” The handcrafted Bloody Mary differs from its namesake as boasts a Scotch quail egg wrapped in meat, mustard, pickled green beans and crab legs. When I sample the drink, I notice it’s not as spicy as the usual Bloody Mary is, and the pickled green beans add flavor. It’s sweeter than I expected it would be and the fresh crab leg it’s paired with is delicious.

The cafe is still bustling with patrons, which is obviously an everyday occurrence due to loyal locals and tourists. Humphreys accounts his business’s success to hard work. “Like I said, I live here. I’m here everyday. I care about the people who work here. We work hard. It’s my home, so there’s more care involved than other places. It’s pride of ownership.” When I leave, there’s still a line to get in, and I hear one customer gushing about how much she loves the place.

Native Knowledge: The menu of The Ramos House Cafe is based on what ingredients grow in the nearby area. “I built the menu around ingredients. I set out to make an American menu. I used predominately indigenous ingredients. I tried to represent what was here in this valley, and I tried to stay true to what’s indigenous to America. Almost everything is organic, locally grown, seasonal, the eggs are cage-free, any catch-phrase you can use, ” explained Humphreys.

Native Knowledge: Kids are allowed to dine at The Ramos House Cafe, but that doesn’t make it a family-friendly restaurant. Humphreys insists kids are well-behaved — it’s his home after all.

Espresso Yourself: Vitaly’s New Take on a Traditional Italian Treat
Vitaly
2937 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.662.5500 | www.vitaly.net

Maurizio and Barbara Cocchi, owners of Costa Mesa’s Vitaly Caffe, have a unique advantage over their competitors — they learned how to make all of their specialties in Italy while living there for decades. They also went to a Gelato University and attended the only, true Piadina masters program in the Emilia Romagna hills. The school is near their hometown of Bologna, Italy, and it teaches its students how to make gelato — Italy’s creamy answer to ice cream. The Italian couple is friendly, outgoing and says hello to almost every customer that comes in.

I’m excited to try the cafe’s take on the Affogato, an Italian drink made by pouring espresso onto gelato. The cafe is unique; you can feel in the second you walk in. “Everything we do is authentic Italian because we are authentic Italian.” He continues, in his strong accent, “For example, our coffee is imported from Italy, the best in Bologna for three generations. Their roasting technique is totally different from American espresso. Our menu consists of top of the line Italian ingredients and equipment. Both Barbara and I graduated from gelato school in Bologna called Gelato University. We are the first restaurant that brought California the Piadina Flatbread, which is the real and authentic flatbread originating from Emilia e Romagna hills. Somebody else tried to copy it, but it wasn’t the real one. But we are proud to say people copy us, ” Cocchi tells me. He’s not that he’s arrogant or cocky, but Cocchi is very proud of his cafe and what they produce.

The locals are what make it so special for him. “They give compliments. That’s one of the best parts of owning a restaurant. The biggest compliment for me has been when people say thank you for doing this in Orange County and thank you for bringing us these products.” As he’s talking, a long-time customer walks in. She’s from the East Coast, where she says she was “spoiled with good gelato” and mentions that she’s so happy she was able to find a place like Vitaly. She loves the place so much that her birthday party was in the space just in front of the cafe.“You have to try their fettuccine with porcini mushrooms from Italy, ” she gushes.

After she leaves, Cocchi continues “We are the first real Italians to bring real Italian gelato to Orange County. Our pasta, bolognese; there’s nothing like ours. We do as much as possible from scratch, and we don’t buy anything pre-made. Fresh produce is delivered every day. The only things we import (from Italy) are the things that are impossible to find here.” Before I try the Affogato, I try a couple of the different flavors of gelato Vitaly offers like their mint topped with chocolate and their espresso gelato. Both are rich, creamy and delicious. For my Affogato, I choose the hazelnut — amazing. The espresso and gelato together make for a delicious pairing. I’m tempted to try more but am too full to shovel down anything else (sadly).

Native Knowledge: A portable gelato case was delivered to Vitaly so the gelato will be more accessible to locals.

Snow Day: A Classic Cocktail Takes a Creative Curve
Social
512 W 19th St
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
949.642.2425 | www.socialcostamesa.com

The sign at the door of Social in Costa Mesa, says, “Welcome Home.” When I walk into the dimly lit space, Outkast is playing in the speakers, and a group of bearded, tattooed men are gathered at the bar. One of them is Mike West, Social’s Bar Director. When he approaches, he mentions he’ll be the one making my Negroni Float. The drink, not surprisingly, was created during Negroni Week, a week when bars across America choose a charity to donate proceeds. A Negroni is a usually a bitter Italian cocktail meant for opening up the palette, but West says, “I wanted to do a different Negroni and recreate it in a dessert form. I wanted to get a little more creative with the cocktail.”
The Negroni Float consists of Campari ice cream, Punt e Mes, The Botanist gin, and Regan’s Orange Bitters whipped cream. Though it was featured on the menu only during Negroni Week, customers can still order the drink when visiting Social.

West became a mixologist when he saw people becoming more aware of what they put into their bodies. He thought there was a lack of what he now does as a mixologist in Orange County. When asked why he Social West responds, “I enjoy creating. Social provides me the opportunity and foundation to push off and take it to the next level.” When my drink is ready, I initially expect it to either be too bitter or too sweet. However, it has a nice balance of flavor. I love the orange bitters whipped cream and keep spooning it off the top wanting more. West tells me, “I think incorporating drinks into a float or ice cream appeals to anyone of any age or gender.”

Although the bar at Social doesn’t exactly specialize in dessert cocktails, they’re looking to add more. By this October, you should expect to see their new Popsicle cocktails on the menu. Already on the menu are the Oaxaca King, which is a drink reminiscent of Mexican candy, and the B Rabbit, a play on the White Negroni and topped with a baby carrot. One thing I notice about the menu is that a lot of the drinks have fun and unique names. For example, there’s the Sage Against The Machine, Swipe Right, and the Rent Check. “We’re always trying to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other, ” West proudly says. “We have a mutual respect for food and drinks — not just what we put into a cocktail.”

Native Knowledge: Social is very community-oriented as they like to promote local artists and musicians.

A Lotta Colada: A Full Taste of Summer
ARC
3321 Hyland Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
949.500.5561 | www.arcrestaurant.com

Like all of their other drinks and food items, the ARC in Costa Mesa makes their pina colada with fresh ingredients. The drink is made with aged rum, coconut milk, lime juice, fresh pineapple juice, orgeat and is served in a coconut so you can eat when you’re done drinking. ARC’s Bar Chef Koire Rogers, who came up with the refreshing drink, says it is a great choice for the summer and is a top choice for customers. Though a pina colada is more of a tiki style drink, it fits in at ARC where they specialize in serving classic drinks made with fresh ingredients. It’s not actually on ARC’s menu, but roughly 5 or 6 people order it daily.

Noah Blom, ARC’s Executive Chef, is one of Rogers’ best friends. The two had always wanted to do something together, and when the timing was right, they started working together at ARC. Both were there during the restaurant and bar’s inception. At the time, Rogers was working at Five Crowns in Corona del Mar, and he says the opportunity to come over to ARC came at the right time. On ARC’s website, it describes the bar’s drinks as tapping into a simpler era. Rogers says, “We stick to fewer ingredients and let all the flavors stand out on their own. We’re not into using a bunch of ingredients. We keep it simple, keep everything fresh and try not make it too complicated. We don’t do infusion drinks or anything like that. We use unique ingredients, but not a whole bunch of random things put together.” This technique has won over customers and keep them coming. “We’ve got a good response from the locals, ” Rogers tells me. “We’re really busy during the week. We have diners who come in multiple days a week all of the time.” Consistency is probably one of the contributing factors as to why customers keep coming back. Also, the bitters, syrups and sodas are all made in house, and they juice everything fresh daily.

Native Knowledge: ARC likes to be involved with local charities like SOS Wild & Crazy Taco Night and Bobby Navarro’s Pig Out event.

 

Honorable Mention

The Ultimate Bloody Mary and The Krackin’ Bloody Mary: A Full Breakfast in a Mason Jar
Watertable
21500 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
714.845.4776

The Watertable, located at The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, is serving up a bloody brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Their Ultimate Bloody Mary is jam packed with epic flavor and could also be a full meal, too! Filled to the brim with Ketel One Vodka, celery, pickled carrots, six pepper bacon pancakes, two egg-hashbrown-cheese burritos and avocado, how could you not accept the challenge and give this breakfast-in-a-Mason-Jar a try? Thier Krackin’ Bloody Mary spills over with Ketel One Vodka, three King Crab legs, six jumbo shrimp, six fried oysters, celery, and blistered peppers for a wow-worthy seafood fix. What a perfect way to start your weekend.

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Dionne, a graduate from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in Communicaiton Arts, has been a professional writer for over 7 years. She loves everything food, beauty, and travel related. Though currently a freelance writer, she has experience working for national magazines FITTNESS and New You. To see her portfolio, visit dionneevans.contently.com

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