The drink: The Algerian Boulevard at Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails. $7 normally, $5 at happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday)
Edwin's already pretty thoroughly examined the "cuisine" part of newly opened Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails in Irvine, but methinks the "cocktails" needs some talking about. I asked bar manager/lead bartender Kurt Van Dyke for a taste of the joint's signature drink. He delivered a pink concoction on the rocks, floating lemons and flecked with red pulp.
"It's the number one drink, man," he said. "Every chick loves it."
No great surprise there, given the appearance and the ingredients: crushed strawberries, Tru lemon vodka, agave nectar, soda water an a lemon squeeze. But I didn't feel too Carrie Bradshaw-esque as I sipped it. What Van Dyke has made is essentially strawberry lemonade with alcohol, but without the disgusting "hard lemonade" connotations. Instead of being syrupy, sweet and overly tart, the Algerian Boulevard's a lot like what you'd get at that imaginary 25-cent-lemonade-for-a-new-bike stand off the side of the road in the Napa Valley. Which is to say: fresh and light, with booze.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
This makes sense, given the restaurant's philosophy. Van Dyke told him that he came up with the Algerian Boulevard when the concept of Andrei's was pitched to him not too far ahead of its opening a few months ago. No puckers or artificial sweeteners allowed. Only organic, fresh, whole ingredients. To that end, the restaurant produces its own strawberry lemonade. At one end of the bar sits a jar that looks layered like a fruit tart: lemons, strawberries, lemons, strawberries, lemons. Van Dyke says they let the vodka mix with the fruit for a couple weeks before serving it.
Another way the Algerian Boulevard is superior to the average lemon + vodka mixture: You taste only the low, pleasing, almost-olive-like flavor of vodka, not its the tongue-wilting alcohol. The drink's strong but, like the most successfully pink drinks, it's easy to guzzle. "It's one of those ones you can drink all night," Van Dyke said. "And then..."
Right. Nice of him to warn us. "Conscious," even!
Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails
2607 Main Street, Irvine CA 92614. 949-387-8887.