Friday, February 15, 2013 at 3 p.m.
I'm not sure what to make of the Surfin' Cowboy, which replaced Coconuts in Capistrano Beach. On the one hand, it's got a kind of schizophrenic theme (cowboys who surf?) and they're still shaking off the Affliction-shirted, vodka-Red Bull-drinking UFC wannabes who infested the location's previous iteration, a notorious dive bar. (Incidentally, if you see the drunk dipshit who followed me out to my car and shoved me, ask him how his jaw's doing.)
On the other hand, on the much better hand, the drinks menu has had a serious upgrade. There's good tequila (though skip the ludicrously overpriced Casa Dragones at $50 a shot) and cocktails that were actually researched and don't rely on artificially flavored vodka. There's freshly squeezed citrus juice and simple syrup, not neon-green bottled sour mix; there's a full complement of amari and a lot of whiskey. It's all a very, very good thing in a place that's been deprived of a good cocktail for a long time.
As for the drink? Mezcal is a relative newcomer to most palates in California, though as the quality of the mezcal available here improves, more and more bartenders are exploring it as more than a frat-boy trick ("eat the worm, bruh!").
The Surfin' Cowboy's signature mezcal drink, the Aztec Revolver, is a slow drink. You want to sip it and let the ice dilute it just a little bit. It combines Delirio mezcal jóven with amaro Averna and orange bitters, with some Zaya 12-year-old rum for a little extra sugarcane funk.
Mezcal and bitters is one of those magic combinations, like gin and vermouth, rum and lime, or whiskey and absinthe; it just works. That it's found in such an unlikely place is even better.