Somehow, after many, many months of successfully dodging media events and previews and other assorted occasions where I actually have to behave myself in front of my esteemed colleagues, I ended up at four events in a week.
The one I was looking most forward to, because I have this dream of being able to get a great cocktail anywhere in Orange County, is Pie Society, the new speakeasy behind Pitfire Pizza in Costa Mesa.
I call it a “speakeasy”, but it isn't really–it's not particularly secret, it's not illicit like the Del Monte in Venice, which just went legit, and it's not 1920's-themed, and it has a website. Nope. Not a speakeasy. It's a very, very good cocktail bar with bartenders who know what they're doing. Steve Garcia is the lead bartender, formerly of Mesa, and Mike Galicia was stolen away from the Surfin' Cowboy in Capistrano Beach.
You'll notice when drinking the cocktails that many of them are ungarnished or garnished with something inedible or hard to use, like a strip of citrus zest or a very thin lime wheel. There's method behind this madness: the cocktails are the result of a lot of testing and tweaking, and it's second nature to pick a wedge of citrus or a cherry off the side of a glass and squeeze it into the drink, which then throws the drink off balance. I may be addicted to the North Beach, which has Carpano Antica vermouth, Fernet, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, grapefruit cordial, and soda. Also excellent was the Art of the Kill, a tweaked Negroni with Death's Door gin, Gran Classico, and Cynar. There's also a list of classic cocktails, and if that doesn't work, you pick a spirit and a book from the shelf on the side of the bar and the bartender will make you a cocktail out of the book.
A modified Pitfire menu will be available until 8 p.m., after which there will be a selection of mostly-fried bar food served only in the cantina, the best of which is the sweet and sour crispy pork belly with pineapple and basil.
Pie Society's entrance is from the outside of the building in the back–was I supposed to tell you that?–and they're open Tuesdays through Sundays starting at 5 p.m. Valet parking; cocktails $10-$12, craft beer $6-$10, wine $13-$15, food $5-$13.