I still maintain that Bambú Lounge at the Fairmont Newport Beach is the most underrated hotel bar in the county, a place where the food is good and affordable considering the surroundings, and the cocktails spectacular. The bar is smart--they even know how to make a great Man o' War, a Kentucky cocktail that I predict will become this year's Negroni (and this is the second food prediction I've offered in this issue--tune in this time next year to see if I'm a veritable Jeremiah or Nostradamus!)
My Fairmont visits are rare--after all, I'm pulling in OC Weekly money, not Aaron Kushner cash. But I had a chance to visit recently at the expense of my jefe's American Express. We caught up on the state of this infernal rag, traded cocktail stories, each got a Manhattan--and then it came time to the Fairmont's version of the Boulevardier.
The harsh cocktail usually comes with bourbon, Campari, and Aperol: two liqueurs facing off against Kentucky Jesus juice. At the Fairmont, though, they use Johnnie Walker Black, switch out the Campari for red vermouth, and add a jigger of maple syrup. The results remain bracing--any time you put Aperol in anything, its wallop will linger--but get cut by the sweetness of the vermouth and the sugary maple syrup. The lemon-zest twist at the end tied everything together with a citrus zing. Drink it, and you'll always feel like a million bucks...even if your IRA is an empty tomato can bank hidden in your pantry.
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