Memphis (whether at the Costa Mesa mothership or its much-missed SanTana location) is rightfully loved for locally pioneering the use of whiskey, rye, and bourbon in its cocktails, but it’s never gotten enough love for a great rum collection. I still remember former bartender Johnny Sampson turning me on to Zaya rum a good decade ago, the best mass-market rum of them all gracias to a caramel start and sugarcane finish. And I couldn’t help but to think of the chingón Sampson after I sipped on one of Memphis’ newer cocktails: the elegantly named Orleans Presidente.
It’s Havana meets the bayou: Zaya starts the drink, then gets tempered by vermouth and Montaine Curaçao, a particularly potent version of the liqueur that adds a perfect bottom. An orange peel adds zest to a cocktail that’s potent, sweet and perfect for this sweltering summer. Sit inside, or in the patio, it doesn’t matter: remember to order two.
Memphis Cafe, 2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-7685; memphiscafe.com