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You'd think Haven Gastropub would be a bit easier to get into now that Chapman University ended its year and all those Undie Run-loving coeds are out of session and interning for the lords of Orange County, but no! The place remains packed during weeknights, slammed on weekends, and for good reason: the Haven guys haven't let taco asylum distract them too much and continue to try different things on the booze and food front. And while the Cherry Thyme martini has been on the menu for a while, the cocktail deserves closer consideration when you're not knocking down steins of their beers.
Trendy martinis, of course, are so Sex and the City era, as most mixologists have reverted to the classic concoctions of gin, olives, vermouth and little else. But Haven's take is more like a Manhattan than a frou-frou thing: the booze is Michter's straight rye whiskey, potent and sweet, and they add the syrup of the house-made maraschino cherries. Great maraschinos have a almost-blackberry quality to them, muskier instead of syrupy like the store-bought version, and Haven's cherries are worth popping (sorry, couldn't resist).
The only thing truly lacking in the Cherry Thyme is, well, thyme. Sure, there's a sprig of it as a garnish, but the rye and cherry overpower thyme's delicate flavor like Dirk Nowitzki over hapless Heat defenders. Not too much of a concern: here is a cocktail that can do the job when you want a Manhattan's feel but not its knockout blow. Now, if they can only work on that $12 price...