Edwin's Top Five Drinks of 2014

Yes, we Forkers drink a lot and get to charge it to the company. I usually spend my allotted amount on drinks that has a lot of fruit juice in it. That and variations of gin and tonic. Because well, I like gin and tonic. So without further ado, herewith is my top five drinks of the year.


5. Strawberry Caipirinha at Agora

If you're going to Agora, you're going to need to order a caipirinha. And if you're going to have a caipirinha, you might as well make it a strawberry one, which are as delicious and dangerous as the regular stuff, but softened with fruit. The drink crunches with sugar, sharp with lime juice, and burns with cacha├ža, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice. In the glass they'll muddle some basil, which gives it the grassy note it needs. The whole thing is refreshing, tasting like a sort of pink strawberry lime-ade capable of knocking you down hard if you hadn't already fortified your stomach with all of that meat, meat and more meat.

4. Painkiller at The Black Marlin

I like drinks that involve pineapple juice. I think it's because pineapple juice-based reminds me of Hawaii. And who wouldn't like something that reminds you of Hawaii? Put the stuff in a glass, add rum, ice and you've got a cocktail worthy of a Don Ho soundtrack, a flowery shirt, and the silly totem-pole bamboo vessel you'll sip it from. Add coconut milk to that formula, and you get, well, a very basic pina colada. Introduce to it orange juice, and some grated nutmeg, and that pina colada turns into a Painkiller. The Black Marlin is a strange place to find a Painkiller, let alone a killer Painkiller. It is not a Hawaiian themed restaurant like Roy's, nor is it a faux-Hawaiian tiki bar like Don the Beachcomber; it's a “bar and seafood grill” housed in the garage-looking building behind Honda-Ya that was previously a BBQ restaurant, and another BBQ restaurant before that. The Painkiller is everything I mentioned earlier, using Pusser's rum, served in a tall glass sprinkled with gratings of nutmeg. Yes, it tastes just like a pina colada that someone's adulterated with orange juice, but it's a refreshing surge of the tart and fruity, tempered by the creaminess of coconut, then all of it burned off by the rum. And yes, it did remind me of Hawaii.

3. Magical Star Cocktail at Hearthstone Lounge at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

Disney enthusiasts like to refer to The Hearthstone Lounge as the only “adult” bar in the resort. And it just might be. Except for Mickey-shaped cutouts in the light fixtures, there's a lack of Disney-ness here. The bar is still majestic-looking, though, with lots of wood and large bay windows as big as the ones inside Napa Rose just a few steps away. The bar fare is decent-to-good with appetizers such as chicken quesadillas and a flat bread with tiny potatoes and chorizo. What you want, of course, are the cocktails. But especially The Magical Star Cocktail, not because it contains one of those glowing ice cubes that pulses colors, but because it actually tastes good, with X-Fusion Organic Mango and Passion Fruit Liqueur, coconut rum and pineapple juice. Though it's actually weaker than a daiquiri, this punch still manages to make the room come alive as though there were singing Animatronic parrots around you. Okay, the souvenir ice cube helps.
2. Gin-Gin Mule at Orange Hill

The bar at Orange Hill makes a good mojito, but it's the Gin-Gin Mule you want. What's a Gin-Gin Mule? Why, it's a recent invention credited to a woman named Audrey Sanders who opened The Pegu Club on SoHo, which is yes, in New York, where drinks like this are often invented. And yes, not unlike a real mule, it's a hybrid–a cross between a Gin and Tonic and a Moscow Mule. There's fresh lime juice in it, also simple syrup, but most importantly a spicy ginger beer and that Bombay Sapphire, which together is more refreshing than Gatorade on a hot day. But also, it's the perfect drink to sip as you peer out to the twinkly lights of suburban Orange County from the restaurant, which, to be honest, isn't ever going to be as impressive as, say, the view atop Seattle's Space Needle, or even any random office building in Manhattan. Still, it's ours, and if you do the Happy Hour, it'll be worth the cost of valet. And the drink is good.

1. The VIP at Del Frisco's Grille

One evening, on our server's recommendation, I ordered Del Frisco's special of the night–a humongous chicken pot pie that had the circumference of a hubcap. As an afterthought, I also took the drink he suggested. It was called the VIP and it's their signature cocktail. They make it by immersing Hawaiian pineapples in the Svedka Clementine Vodka for days, he said. And when it came out, it was served in a martini glass and topped with a creamy head of foam that kept it cold. When I drank it, it went down sweet and easy as though it were the alcoholic cousin of a Disneyland Dole Whip. That chicken pot pie was great, but the VIP turned out to be the best cocktail I've had this year.

620 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92618, (949) 341-0376; http://delfriscosgrille.com

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