The art of a craft cocktail is in the nuanced and careful balance in each concoction. A craft cocktail takes time, often infused with herbs and vapors, and has artistic and thoughtful details in its design and its presentation. There are hundreds of places in Irvine to get a drink that is labeled a “craft cocktail,” but only a few that can prove that their cocktails are crafted with care and thoughtfulness, truly earning that title.
Contributions by Evan Senn and Arielle Roude
Paul Martin’s is a high-end classic American restaurant and bar with international inspiration in its cuisine. Paul Martin’s bar, however, is even better. With classic pre-prohibition era craft cocktails and a flare for presentation and customer service, this is our high-end favorite. With your choice of drinking on sofas, private high-tops, at the bar, or at one of the many communal tables, this is a bar for every kind of drinker, but with a special gift for classic craft cocktails. We recommend the Chilton, the Vesper Martini or the Manhattan. 534 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine.
Y.N.K., aka You Never Know, is an eclectic micro-bar inside the lobby of the Irvine Marriott. Alongside its charming and quirky design, this speakeasy-inspired bar also serves delicious craft cocktails for every kind of taste. Not all their drinks are winners, but their bartenders are experienced and passionate mixologists that are not afraid to wow customers. With rotating seasonal craft cocktails and a “pick your poison” option where you get to choose every detail that goes into your cocktail — including the garnish — Y.N.K. is an intimate and enchanting little gem that will satiate your craft cocktail cravings without any fuss. 18000 Von Karman Ave., Irvine.
Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails
Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails is an enjoyable high-end experience in a very a strange space. A spacious second floor restaurant and bar, Andrei’s cuisine is health-conscious high-end omnivorous food, but their bar program is classically inspired by international craft cocktails and spirit-forward American tastes. Each drink is crafted with care and designed with nuanced details that light up in your mouth. The environment is relaxed and elegant with an open floor plan and central bar. The Elsa’s Revenge and Sage Advice are some of the best craft cocktails we’ve had in a long time. 2607 Main St., Irvine.
A surprising find in the craft cocktail search is The IRV at Whole Foods Market. This casual café and bar is always busy, covered in televisions and has become a favorite daytime spot, but if you go toward the end of the night, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the friendly service and interesting concoctions available at The IRV. Their craft cocktails are balanced, subtle and often made with organic spirits. The Carrot Top, Honey Fennel Smash and Beet Gimlet will clean your internal organs while treating your taste buds and fulfilling that deep desire for a nuanced craft cocktail. 8525 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.
Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Tokyo Table offers a huge menu of cocktails including many easy-drinking Tokyo-style mojitos, Japanese margaritas, Geisha Saketinis, and a number of different Japanese-tinged infused mules. But, they also offer a handful of new classic Japanese craft cocktails that are balanced and thoughtful. Their Tokyo Old Fashioned is a perfect, spirit-forward classic cocktail with a contemporary twist, and they can also make you a custom craft cocktail with meticulous care. 2710 Alton Parkway, Irvine.
Start off with their Puesto Perfect Margarita, which is a great rendition of everything found in a classic margarita. If you are looking to add a little kick to your drink, try their Spicy Margarita. It is one of the best spicy margaritas out there and provides just the right amount of heat without being too overwhelming. Are you on the adventurous side? Then try the La Verdad Margarita. Its notes of cucumber, cactus and lime will have you forgetting that you are drinking a margarita and instead have you believing you are drinking a healthy juice from Whole Foods. Los Olivos Irvine, 8577 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine; Park Place Irvine, 3311 Michelson Drive, Irvine.
A local favorite, Javier’s has the perfect mix of ambiance and classic margarita options, making it the ultimate romantic night out on the town. Try their Granada Margarita that adds a kick of pomegranate liquor to their classic margarita mix. Its sunset colors are almost too pretty to drink. Or try a more tropical flavor with their Pina Margarita. This margarita is so refreshing with fresh pineapple and a splash of St. Germain. Another local favorite is their Jalapeño Margarita. This margarita brings the heat with pieces of jalapeño added right into the drink. Irvine Spectrum, 536 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine.
This beach town hang-out spot offers margarita cocktails made with Sabe Blanco, a white tequila infused with sake. These flavor combinations are unique and add the ultimate flavor punch to the classic tequila margarita. It is the perfect margarita for anyone who is looking for a classic margarita but without the harsh tequila aftertaste. With refreshing fruit flavors like pineapple and watermelon, it’s hard not to love these margaritas. If you are looking to add an extra kick of heat to your drink, you have the option to make these concoctions spicy. 407 31st St., Newport Beach.
Having been a locals’ spot for over 40 years, Mi Casa infuses both tradition and flavor into their margaritas. All of their margaritas are made with fresh and seasonal fruits. Their house margarita includes an award-winning mix that has been a family secret since opening in 1972. Some favorite flavors are the Ultimate Cadillac Margarita, which uses their famous home-made margarita mix. We recommend the Coco-Rita Margarita, a blend of two classic drinks that seamlessly combines the flavors of pineapple, coconut and tequila. 296 E 17th St., Costa Mesa.
SOL Mexican Cocina
SOL has endless options when it comes to their margarita menu. They have frozen margaritas, skinny margaritas and about any flavor of margarita you can think of. Their frozen mango chili margarita is definitely a crowd favorite. It’s the perfect mix of both sweet and savory with its added chili-salted rim. Another fan favorite is their watermelon margarita that is the prettiest shade of pink. Their classic margarita is one of the best in town — made with house-made sour mix and fresh-squeezed orange juice, this cocktail is so smooth and delicious you can easily forget you are even sipping on an alcoholic beverage. 251 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach.
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