Gustavo's 5 Favorite Drinks and Restaurants of 2015!

Nguyen: El chingón chinito
Nguyen: El chingón chinito
OC Weekly archives

Another year of eating and boozin', another year of OC's dining scene getting more recognition nationwide. Per previous years, I'm excluding the winner of of our Best Restaurant Award (because Taco Maria is the best restaurant in the land) and 320 Main, as they remain tops of anything boozy. But the following list is a great way to acquaint yourself with the state of OC eating. To an even better 2016!

First, the booze:

Reverse Sazerac
Reverse Sazerac
Photo by The Mexican

5. Anything by Aristotle Alstaetter

I'm beyond proud of Alstaetter, the right-hand man to Joel Caruso at best-bar-in-OC-right-now Pizzeria Ortica. I remember when he was but a humble waiter at the late, great Memphis at the Santora, serving as the seventh-string bartender and learning along the way from multiple mentors. He was unassuming then, unassuming now, but I marked him for great things—and he's achieving them at Ortica, and then some. And if someone already swooped in a stole Alstaetter in the five minutes since I started writing this article? You've got the Bartender to Watch for 2016.

What, him worry?
What, him worry?
Photo by Dave Mau

4. Anything by Jefferson Van Billiard

Speaking of former Memphis at the Santora who went big, this guy. We (not me) named him Best New Bartender in 2012,  I named him my favorite barteneder that year as well, and he dominated the downtown SanTana drinking scene until the restaurant's untimely demise early last year. Van Billiard then dropped off the OC map for a bit, no doubt affected by the wanderlust that claims too many of our finest (I'm looking at you, Aron!) but made a triumphant return at Lola Gaspar. To more Blood and Sands and Hanky Pankys!

Tolstoy DEEZ NUTZ
Tolstoy DEEZ NUTZ
Photo by The Mexican

3. War and Peace at Chapter One: The Modern Bistro

My go-to drink right now is the War and Peace—lest I repeat what I just wrote a couple of weeks ago, read the review yourself.

2. Some Blackberry-and-Sherry Punch by Gabrielle Dion

Last-minute shopping right here, folks!
Last-minute shopping right here, folks!
Photo courtesy of The Mixing Glass

But lest you think OC drinking is one giant sausage party, don't forget OC Bartender's Cabinet board member Gabrielle Dion. Nowadays spending most of her time at her excellent booze shop, The Mixing Glass, Dion doesn't publicly make drinks as much as she used to—which only means you need to pay attention to her shop's calendar. Her monthly lectures at The OC Mix on a particular spirt sell out quickly, and she usually pitches in during the Costa Mesa shopping center's many society gatherings with a cocktail booth. It's during one of them that I had a punch that she later replicated for a workshop on sherry: tart, with a hefty bottom. It was like drinking an icy pie, and I'm not ashamed to say I got fourths and fifths—designated driver, cabrones! Anyhoo, may 2016 bring more Dion moonlights—and in the meanwhile, get to The Mixing Glass.

1. Anything by Joel Anthony Caruso

The Adriatic Coast, yet another Ortica masterpiece
The Adriatic Coast, yet another Ortica masterpiece
Photo by The Mexican

Right now, OC is Caruso's booze-soaked oyster. We (not me) named him Best Bartender this year, and that was before he undoubtedly hiked up the Apennines to find yet another obscure amaro for his collection. And, given Alstaetter is his barback, Pizzeria Ortica can boast of the finest one-two punch since Joe Montana and Steve Young. Haven't been to Pizzeria Ortica yet? Then you don't know good booze.

Now, the food:



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