Dave's Top 5 Drinks and Restaurants of 2015

Duck chilaquiles
Duck chilaquiles
Photo by Das Ubergeek

Another year, another Best Of roundup. And here we go...

5. Baja wine at San Clemente Wine Company

Dave's Top 5 Drinks and Restaurants of 2015

A while back, the San Clemente Wine Company held a week-long tasting of Baja wines, which are almost impossible to find north of the border, despite being two hours' drive from San Clemente. They imported what they could and it sold—quickly. Kudos to them for being one of the only places in the county to fight the bureaucracy keeping those amazing Tempranillos and big bold red meritages out of our glasses.

4. Amaro at Pizzeria Ortica

Dave's Top 5 Drinks and Restaurants of 2015

Not a single drink, but an entire class of drinks: to ask for amaro at Pizzeria Ortica is to get a lesson in how Italy finishes a big meal. Bottles will start lining up on the bar, and Joel Caruso and his tirapiedi (henchmen) will start talking about them. You'll taste several, from the cloyingly sweet Averna to the mouth-puckeringly dry Novasalus. You'll learn about the history of these amari, which appear all over Italy, and if you're very lucky, you'll get to taste some of the housemade liquors.

Dave's Top 5 Drinks and Restaurants of 2015

3. Detroiter at 320 Main

The most American spirit is not bourbon, as steeped in our culture as it is. No, it's applejack, the drink we drank before whiskey had made its way onto these shores, a way to use the billions and billions of apples that grow throughout the eastern half of the country. The best way to consume applejack is with Cynar, lemon, honey syrup, and a float of IPA; in other words, a Detroiter, in the bar where it was invented.

Noble Ale man Evan Price
Noble Ale man Evan Price
Photo by Cleo Tobbi

2. Czech beers at Noble Ale Works

One of the best things about the brewers in Orange County is their willingness to improve upon mass-market beers. TAPS had a Mexican lager that was meant to mimic Negra Modelo, and Noble Ale Works has embarked upon Czech pilsners. They're relatively low in alcohol, they taste amazing, they're Czech-approved, and they serve two functions: as a gateway to craft beer for the Budweiser crowd (Budweiser was originally a Czech lager), and as a way to let people who actually like good beer have something they can bring to a party.

Dave's Top 5 Drinks and Restaurants of 2015

1. Deconstructed Old Fashioned at Anepalco

Picking the year's best cocktail is an arduous, though delicious, endeavor. There are hundreds of imaginative bartenders in Orange County who are creating new classics. There are not very many, however, who are playing with texture, and the deconstructed Old Fashioned at Anepalco is all about the texture. An Old Fashioned is spirit (usually whiskey), water, sugar, and bitters. Generally, the latter three are muddled in a glass and the whiskey is poured on top, but at Anepalco, it's backwards: the whiskey and bitters are mixed in the glass, and then it's topped with piloncillo foam spritzed with orange oil, so you sip the liquor through the foam. Somehow, bartender Cesar Cerrudo manages to make a foam that is sturdy enough to make it through to the very last sip, and the result is magical.

And now, the food:



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