When it's time to meet for a drink, you probably drive somewhere next to the workplace. It's familiar, right? Here's the thing—you're kind of missing out. We're not saying you need to drive two cities over for happy hour. Just try a few blocks over. Or in the case of Pizzeria Ortica, drive towards Costa Mesa.
Their bar is at the far end of a long counter top that begins in the kitchen and meanders down the length of the restaurant. The open feel makes for a relaxed vibe that's often buzzing the hour before showtime. Once the curtain rises, there's room to pull up a chair and engage in some serious drinking. If you find yourself here, try a Vesper.
A grappa-based cocktail isn't the first thing that comes to mind when ordering. But again, push those boundaries a little (it's the point of the drink). A barrel-aged blend of Candolini Classica and Candolini Ruta, this alone is still pretty harsh on the throat. The awesomely named Aristotle Altstaetter and his boss, head bartender Joel Caruso, factor in Contratto Vermouth Bianco and Lillet vino, plus a bar spoon of small batch tonic. He gives it a shake, shake, shake over ice, finishing with a peel of lemon. The result: Unexpected balance. Vesper is smooth as silk.
Your beverage is named after a special character from a notorious classic— Ian Fleming's Bond tale, Casino Royale. Vesper Lynd is a strong presence, before the “shaken, not stirred” era. Every drop should be savored, because we don't know when they'll create another batch.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.