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Photo By: Krizia Loechle
Photo By: Krizia Loechle

You Voted: Here Are Your Favorite Mixologists in Costa Mesa

These Guys Are Shaking Things Up

Written By: Ameihia Turingan  Mixologists in Costa Mesa

From serving up drinks to developing new cocktails, mixologists work hard to provide delectable and tantalizing experiences for their guests. In our last poll, we brought together the best mixologists in Costa Mesa whose passion and exceptional service made an impact on their customers. Our winners, who currently work in Costa Mesa restaurants and cocktail bars, have practiced their craft diligently for years in order to perfect their flavorful drinks. In our interviews, they each provided insightful remarks that demonstrate their dedication and artistry.


Daniel Zarate of Casa

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Daniel Zarate: The most rewarding aspect of my career is kind of a hard thing to pinpoint. There are so many moving parts that make it edifying. However, ensuring [that] my guests are enjoying themselves and the ability to create interesting, unique cocktails that have both approachability and complexity are very rewarding.

Q: What is your favorite drink from the Casa menu?

DZ: Currently it’s the Mi Placa, which has a special meaning due to its name. It translates to ‘my mark’ in English. So it was my mark on my bar and the cocktail world. I tried to channel myself through it by using products and ingredients that are representative of myself and my culture. It has Ilegal Mezcal, which is a crucial component due to the rich agave flavor, the gentle smoke, and the amazingly rich viscosity; Damiana Tea, which is a Mexican herb that is said to have some pretty interesting effects (especially regarding ‘potency’ in the bedroom); honey, lime, ancho chile pepper and gusano (worms).

Q: What does being voted one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists mean to you?

DZ: It means a lot to me. Especially not being from Orange County where, let’s face it, it can be pretty hard to make your way into any social setting here. The cocktail community has welcomed me and I am very appreciative of that. As far as being a mixologist goes, I am but a humble bartender. But I try to let my work speak for itself by providing a bar with a fantastic atmosphere, drinks that are second to none and a dialogue with my guests rather than a monologue. I’d also like to thank FSS and Casa for their support. It means a lot.  

Q: In your career, you’ve served up drinks on both coasts and learned the art of mixology from observation and experimentation. What has been your most integral experience so far?

DZ: #FSS. I learned from several people over the years and hell, I learn new things every day. So I’d have to say [that] the most integral part of my experience is having the privilege of being able to learn from some amazing bartenders in amazing bars. What is also really nice is that I have a core group of friends (who happen to be in the hospitality industry) [and] we all take care of and support each other. We are constantly talking about ideas and we all kind of help drive each other to be the best we can be. This community is second to none.


Ryan Redondo of Ruin Bar

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Ryan Redondo: Whenever someone walks into Ruin Bar for a cocktail that I customized to their preference, a moment of truth occurs the first time they taste that drink. It’s a circle of events that happens almost instantly. For that guest, the room stands still. The ambiance of the bar takes over and the vibe they feel is changed. At that moment I can only imagine what the guest is thinking, is it [about] the taste of the cocktail? The video playing on the projector? The charismatic statue in the middle of the room? Or the warm lighting? The truth is, I can’t possibly know. What I do know is that Ruin Bar gives me set on a stage to perform my job and portray my art in my own style. Which is what is truly rewarding about working for Shaheen Sadegh’s Ruin Bar.

Q: What does being voted one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists mean to you?

RR: I’m grateful to be voted as one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists, it means [that] I must be doing something right and it’s an enormous compliment to be among the ranks of so many other amazing mixologists in the area.

Q: What is your favorite drink from the Ruin Bar menu?

RR: My favorite drink on the menu is a recent creation called 7th Chamber Infusion that is made from infusing a soju with a blend of mango tea, hibiscus and a variety of other spices and floral essences for a period of time [and] then taking the finished infusion and serving it as a cocktail. The cocktail got its name from one of my favorite songs off of Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album.

Q: How did you discover your passion and talent for bartending?

RR: After I got out of the army, I found bartending through trial and error. Well, mostly error. I had tried everything from selling electronics to working in law enforcement. It took me a while, but once I discovered [that] I had a talent for making people laugh and a passion for creating unique cocktails, I decided that bartending was for me.

Andrew Paniagua of Water Grill

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Andrew Paniagua: The most rewarding part of my job always seems to happen at the very end of the guests’ experience. When they stand up with a smile on their face and you just know that you helped create an awesome memory. It feels good and I always imagine them looking for me when they come back.

Q: What is your favorite drink on the Water Grill menu?

AP: My favorite drink on the current menu is definitely the Margarita Verde. It’s spicy, but then you’re cooled down by the cucumber. It’s perfect for day drinking. I’m also a fan of our monthly specials. We’re constantly trying to bring our guests new and exciting cocktails and we use our Cocktail of the Month as our ‘freestyle.’

Q: What does being voted one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists mean to you?

AP: I try to avoid the ‘m’ word, but it truly means the world to me that so many people voted. It tells me that all of the countless friends and guests really do appreciate what I’ve put in front of them. Thank you guys!

Q: Prior to mixology, you did special effects makeup. How did you discover your passion for cocktails and what skills from your makeup artistry experience helped you make the transition to your current industry?

AP: I’ve always been a visual person. Makeup artistry only enhanced that. I love cooking too and I’m always experimenting in the kitchen. I definitely eat and drink with my eyes first, so the look of my cocktails is always just as important to me as the taste.


Dave Nola of the Kitsch Bar

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Dave Nola: The most rewarding part of my job is when an idea for a cocktail goes from its initial design, through the development stage, then ultimately to the consumer for the first time and watching their face light up when it is just right. Many people don’t realize how much time could actually go into a drink. It could take several attempts and tweaks before the balance and flavor profile is just right.

Q: What does being voted one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists mean to you?

DN: It’s definitely an honor. After 15 years it helps solidify that you can still advance in your craft.

Q: What is your favorite drink from the Kitsch Bar menu?

DN: I’m a minimalist when it comes to cocktails that I prefer. No more than four to five ingredients or it’s too complex for my liking. That being said, it’s either the Tequila Mockingbird or the Bourbon and Bee.

Q: In your 15 years of experience, you’ve worked at various bars throughout the Orange County area, but have spent the last seven years at Kitsch Bar. What drew you to work at and eventually co-own Kitsch?

DN: Kitsch Bar was one of a kind when it first opened and working there was like working with a big family. The old owner and I became very close and when he was done with the bar life he gave me the first right of refusal before taking it into a bidding war. It had always been a dream to own a bar so I buckled down, created a business plan and I was able to get two great friends to believe in me and the next chapter for Kitsch. Mike Hannegan and Preston Altobello are still my partners to this day.


Zack Ricks of The Wayfarer

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Zack Ricks: I think the most rewarding would be the hospitality aspect. I mean, people usually go to The Wayfarer or any bar to have a good time. And it’s a very satisfying feeling knowing that I was able to help make and be a part of that good time.

Q: What is your favorite drink from the The Wayfarer menu?

ZR: My favorite is called the Stayed Up Late. It’s a shaken cocktail with gin, Hennessy, lemon and simple syrup. It’s a stiff cocktail that’s [an] easy drink.

Q: What does being voted one of Costa Mesa’s favorite mixologists mean to you?

ZR: It’s extremely humbling. I mean the support that I got from everyone that voted really gives me a sense of pride in what I love doing and also motivates me to be even better.

Q: As you aspire to own a bar someday, do you have a certain type of bar concept in mind for your business?

ZR: For me, I enjoy going to so many different bars, a lot of which the concepts are very different, so when it comes down to one day hoping to own one, I would want it to be a lot like The Wayfarer. I feel like The Wayfarer provides a setting that is not pretentious in any way. You can go there and have a fancy cocktail or a really nice craft beer or you can just have a simple vodka soda or Coors Light beer without ever feeling out of place or judged. It’s not divey, but also not too crafty so whatever that concept’s called is what I would want my bar to be.

Your Top Five Favorite Mixologists in Costa Mesa

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