I still maintain that Bambú Lounge at the Fairmont Newport Beach is the most underrated hotel bar in the county, a place where the food is good and affordable considering the surroundings, and the cocktails spectacular. The bar is smart–they even know how to make a great Man o' War, a Kentucky cocktail that I predict will become this year's Negroni (and this is the second food prediction I've offered in this issue–tune in this time next year to see if I'm a veritable Jeremiah or Nostradamus!)
My Fairmont visits are rare–after all, I'm pulling in OC Weekly money, not Aaron Kushner cash. But I had a chance to visit recently at the expense of my jefe's American Express. We caught up on the state of this infernal rag, traded cocktail stories, each got a Manhattan–and then it came time to the Fairmont's version of the Boulevardier.
The harsh cocktail usually comes with bourbon, Campari, and Aperol: two liqueurs facing off against Kentucky Jesus juice. At the Fairmont, though, they use Johnnie Walker Black, switch out the Campari for red vermouth, and add a jigger of maple syrup. The results remain bracing–any time you put Aperol in anything, its wallop will linger–but get cut by the sweetness of the vermouth and the sugary maple syrup. The lemon-zest twist at the end tied everything together with a citrus zing. Drink it, and you'll always feel like a million bucks…even if your IRA is an empty tomato can bank hidden in your pantry.