The Place: The Cellar, 305 N. Harbor, Suite 001, Fullerton; (714) 525-5682.
The Hours: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday nights (into Saturday morning, obviously)
The Deal: 25% off drinks.
The Scene: Who says happy hour has to be at 5 p.m.? For all those people who are stuck poring over spreadsheets or in interminable meetings, there are a couple of late-night happy hours in the county.
The Cellar is located, as its name implies, in the cellar of the Villa del Sol building on Harbor and Wilshire. A French fine-dining restaurant, it features a plush, clubby bar to the right as you enter through the carved door. While the website talks about dress code, fully half the men at the bar were dressed in t-shirts and tennis shoes; dress up a little anyway and make it an occasion.
The Sauce: While the bar is extremely well-stocked, from gins to whiskies to digestifs, the reason to come to the "Green Hour" is for the green faerie herself: absinthe. The Cellar stocks between two and six different absinthes at any given time, from the sticky "absinthe-flavored vodka" to Kübler. The anise-flavored drink is given the Bohemian treatment: a generous measure of absinthe is tipped into a glass, across the rim of which a special slotted absinthe spoon is rested. A sugar cube, doused in absinthe, is set on the spoon and set afire; when it has burned itself out, ice water from a fountain is dripped over the sugar into the glass until the green liquor turns cloudy and milky (louche in French). Some of the patrons were drinking beer; the selection seemed to run Belgian and German.
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The Eats: There aren't any. At one point, according to the bar staff, there were snacks, but the recession put paid to that. That said, I suspect that if the kitchen were open, you could order from the restaurant menu at the bar.
The Verdict: A surprisingly nice, friendly, late-night option in a place riddled with college hangouts, and I'm not just saying that under the influence of a generous pour of 138-proof liquor. The absinthe selection on my visit was poor (two, plus the aforementioned "absinthe-flavored vodka"), though I'm assured by people who know that that isn't normal. Bring back the food, please, though, and not salty fried bar snacks either; absinthe practically screams for gougères, olives, crudités or an upscale mix of nuts. Drinking such strong liquor without food sort of screams desperation.
The Grade: B+; nice and late, a great selection of bottles at the bar.