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So much for El Niño, right? It's already time to start thinking of summer cocktails, and an early contender for the drink of the season is the Vesper Rosso at Pizzeria Ortica, perhaps the best bar in Orange County not named 320 Main. Head bartender Joel Caruso recently added a mujer to his stellar sausage-party crew, and the young woman (whose name I forgot since I was busy reporting news of the Orange County Register's demise) whipped up the Vesper Rosso pronto.
A great summer drink is light but bites, and that's the Vesper Rosso. Caruso's barrel-aged grappa, along with French and Italian vermouths mixes menacingly in a champagne coupe, with a maraschino cherry added in to become a beautifully boozy dessert. One can knock you out, mostly because it goes down lightly, with a syrupy aftertaste. Can't wait to spend sweltering days at Ortica, and Joel: May your cocktail coaching tree be as extensive as Bill Walsh's.
Pizzeri Ortica, 650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 445-4900; pizzeriaortica.com