Top Five Orange County Cocktails of 2016, Taylor Hamby Edition!

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 web editrix Hellcat Hamby tell you what she loved—enjoy, and drink up!

5. The Boilermaker at the Wayfarer
When watching up-and-coming local bands in OC, you're lucky if the venue even has a liquor license. Luckily the Wayfarer in Costa Mesa continues the Detroit Bar's tradition of fostering budding musical talent at a legitimate venue within a Costa Mexico strip mall. The cocktail menu, while well-meaning, often leaves something to be desired, especially for the $12 price tag. But then there's the Boilermaker.  $10 gets you any draft craft beer plus a shot of some damn fine whiskey selections. Among them: Bulliet, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses. This deal is affordable enough for the poorest of local musicians or journalists.

4. Jameson Ginger at the Fling
Craft cocktail snobs, skip ahead. Yeah, this ain't no palate busting, mind-blowing cocktail. But this is a drink I've consistently enjoyed at the Fling (voted the Best Dive Bar in OC by us this year) and it's a little different than the Jameo-Ging you may receive at other neighborhood bars. Some dives have ginger ale in the gun. But most just give you the 7-Up and splash of Coke treatment. The Fling does not have ginger ale but it does have bartender Ace, who will ask you your preference. He recommends 7 and a couple dashes of bitters, which ends up being tastier and less synthetically sweet than a squirt from a gun. Bonus points: It's the cheapest drink you'll see on any of our year-end cocktail lists.

3. The Bee Sting at Pie Society
It's no secret Pie Society consistently turns out some of Orange County's finest cocktails, even if the location is supposed to be a secret. The seasonally rotating menu boasts inventive and exciting cocktails but they also offer a daily selection. And while many original creations have graced the list, the classic cocktail of the Bee Sting shines in the hands of the mixologists of this “speakeasy.” Three ingredients: whiskey, lemon, honey. I was going through an egg white kick early this year so I asked them to shake some egg whites in and the result was pure, drinkable perfection. I racked up half a day's pay on these cocktails in one night #noregrets

2. The Cuff at the Cellar
Any drink you get at the Cellar is going to be good. It might not always be to your tastes, but you can still recognize the care and skill that goes into making each drink. So take the guess work out of ordering cocktails and place yourself into the capable hands of their bartenders and order The Cuff. These skilled poison pushers are so brimming with ideas that they offer a new cocktail daily, “off the cuff”. Recent Cuff offerings have been Mezcal, Lime, Pineapple syrup, muddle Cilantro, Green Chartreuse, Habanero bitters with a Tajin/ Brown sugar rim and Lavender Gin, Lime, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Lavender bitters, topped with Sparkling Wine. Hot damn!

1. New Fashioned at Mulberry Street Ristorante
Mulberry is the most underrated bar in Downtown Fullerton. It doesn't get a lot of buzz but it's where Fullerton locals come to drink. In fact I saw drink master Rich from the Cellar there last night after work.
Now, Crown Royal has no business being in an Old Fashioned. But this is the New Fashioned. It's a surprisingly delicious cocktail that blends amaretto and bitters, garnished with an orange peel for a smooth as hell cocktail. The amaretto replaces the traditional simple syrup for a different but welcome sweetness. It goes down as quick and easy as I do after a couple of these!

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