Welcome to our annual Top 5 countdown, where most of our our SAFII writers tell you what impressed them over the past year! Here, we have our former intern Cynthia Rebolledo tell you what she loved—enjoy, and drink up!
We’re talking about Haven Gastropub’s artisanal Nuestra Soledad mezcal cocktail. An exceptional single village mezcal bursting with complex floral notes enhanced with elderflower liqueur and citrus. The flavor is bold and smoky as well as mildly sweet. It finishes crisp, is ridiculously refreshing and easy to drink — now that's what we're Oaxacan 'bout. 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 221-0680; www.havengastropub.com
2. Don't Rye About It at Ironwood
In addition to Ironwood’s exceptional seasonal menu offerings is their standout craft cocktail pairings, and with corresponding attention to detail is the Don’t Rye About It. Rye's bold spiciness becomes tamed when infused with vanilla pods, giving off a full bodied aroma after being soaked for 30 days. Stimulated with herbaceous aperol and finished with sweet and smokey vermouth, it’s a prime cocktail to zest any meal. 25250 La Paz Rd., Laguna Hills, (949) 446-8772; www.ironwoodlagunahills.com
3. Bottle Rocket at Irenia
The best things are sweet and spicy, but add some mezcal to the mix and you have Irenia’s piquant Bottle Rocket. A wonderfully addicting smoky mezcal cocktail, mixed with a smack of ancho chili heat, some tamarind for that nice tart finish and garnished with a tender sweet mango slice seasoned with tajin — it’s like an alcohol infused Vero mango lollipop that leaves you puckering for more. 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (657) 245-3466; www.ireniarestaurant.com
4. Manhattan at Carthay Circle
The Mouse's Diamond Manhattan is handcrafted with all the necessary basics of rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and candied Luxardo maraschino cherries — it’s spirit-forward and simply classic.
5. War and Peace at Chapter One
An oldie but a goodie, Chapter One’s War and Peace. Our Mexican-in-Chief dubbed it our drink of the week back in 2015, “Here is a drink that calls to my liver: Ilegal Reposado mezcal, Angostura bitters, and Punt e Mes, an Italian digestif that makes Fernet Branc taste like rosewater.” This smoky full-bodied cocktail continues to win us over. 227 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 352-2225; www.chapteronetml.com