TAPS in Brea? Of course. One of the few places populated mostly by the hoi polloi–crammed with them, really–that actually impresses with their offerings, whether it's perfectly barbecued oysters, Cajun-style taquitos dating back to the late 1990s but whose charms remain eternal, award-winning beers brewed on site, and steaks the size of a Gutenberg Bible. And a red velvet cake prepared tableside? Yes, please.
The restaurant can do nothing to stay current, and it'll draw crowds for decades to come–that's how pleasing it is. But TAPS management is nevertheless pushing forward, not content with merely dominating North County. In February, they revamped their cocktail menu to truly join the craft booze movement, with the bartenders making their own syrups and juices and trotting out rare liqueurs. My chica had some lavender martini that wasn't some Sex and the City abomination but subtle, wonderful. I, on the other hand, went with my mistress: bourbon, specifically in TAPS' Trace Element
I had never had Buffalo Trace Bourbon before, and it's time to score meself a bottle: bold, spicy, with the complexity of a Flatt & Scruggs breakdown. It makes a great base for a Manhattan, and I had TAPS' Manhattan later in the evening–but we're talking the Trace Element right now. The bartenders mixed the Buffalo Trace with Aperol, Bénédictine, Grand Marnier, and threw in some orange bitters.
The mix of all those funky liqueurs–the syrupy Marnier, the potent Bénédictine, the zesty Aperol, and the citrus bitters finish–tastes like a speakeasy out of a F. Scott Fitzgerald fantasy: easy going down, invigorating, potent but not as bracing as a Manhattan, as you can down two or three. Or four or five…