Why hello there, lovers of Old Towne Orange. How’re you this week? I gotta say… a gorgeous week like this one deserves some celebration. And what’s not to celebrate? The new parking structure is open, our state is being hydrated from all of the recent rain, and there are updated OTO events to attend! This week, in order to celebrate my favorite hour, Happy Hour, we hit up the best spots in town to grab a cocktail after a long day at work (or to treat yourself any day, let’s be honest).
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar
The first place that comes to mind with a variety of alcoholic beverages is Haven Craft Kitchen. Haven has a relaxed, casual vibe with specialty food items that are very enticing. But what Haven Craft Kitchen is mostly known for is their wide variety of Beers and Whisky. Speaking of beers, as I was having my Sunday morning breakfast at Kimmie’s (located right next to Haven) I noticed about 30 people waiting in line at Haven. This was unusual at 7:30 in the morning because Haven opens for brunch at 9 AM. Unless the Queen of England was planning on stopping by, there was no reason to have such a long line so early in the morning.
After talking to a few people, I found out that they all were waiting for a special tasting of a beer from the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, CA, that is released once a year in very small batches and in only a handful of places. As I was listening to the excitement I could not imagine getting in line early in the morning to try some mystery beer. But that’s just me, I don’t know too much about beer, period. That said, if you’re a beer connoisseur, you could probably relate to these early risers. If you know your way around the specialty beers you guessed it, the beer was Pliny the Younger. Later that night I went back to Haven to have some cocktails and catch up with friends and surprise surprise, they were all out of Pliny the Younger.
Cocktails, at least for me, is where it’s at. As I approached the bar at Haven I noticed that the right side of the bar was glistening with American and Japanese whiskeys, malts and scotches. After my amazement of this beautiful bar and combing through the few pages of signature house cocktails I asked for a drink recommendation from the bartender. He hesitated for a few seconds but then he said, “if you want something refreshing with a punch of flavor I recommend the Hibiscus Punch.”
After reading the ingredients which consisted of cane rum, lime, house-made hibiscus
liqueur, soda, and mint, I was happy with his recommendation. With a price tag of $12, which is average for most cocktails I had nothing to lose.
One of the joys of a place like Haven is watching the bartender make your drink in front
of you. They are like skilled chefs performing their art – shaking and straining, grinding the mint and sometimes even incorporating some dance moves.
A few minutes later and tada- your masterpiece is ready. The cocktail had an undertone
of honey and it was fruity, but not overwhelmingly sweet. This is a drink you can enjoy quickly because the fruitiness of the drink masks the taste of the alcohol.
The cocktail was deep pink from the hibiscus liqueur. It came in a tall glass and was
decorated with mint leaves and a slice of lime. If there’s one thing I learned from watching cooking shows it’s that you never present anything on your plate or glass that’s not edible. Since the ingredients on the outside of the glass reflected the taste on the inside, this mix was singing to my senses.
A definite no-no in my cocktail enjoyment is when all the booze is sitting right on top as you take a sip. Not a great first impression, right? This was not the case for the Hibiscus Punch. It was perfectly mixed and the first sip tasted just as good as the last.
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen
Gabbi’s is one of my favorite places in Old Towne Orange – and I think I’m reminded of that every time I visit. The establishment offers a beautiful menu in a moody yet colorful ambience. I sat at the bar in the back, which gave me a beautiful elevated view of the restaurant and the stain glass artwork that hangs on the walls. Being I was at a Mexican restaurant, it was obvious that I’d go with a margarita. I went spicy and ordered the Jalapeño Pepino Margarita and it was absolutely delicious.
This cocktail contained corralejo blanco, cucumbers, jalapeño, lime, agave nectar, and Hawaiian red sea salt and was the perfect blend of sweetener, bitter, and alcoholic. This cocktail comes in at $14. Gabbi’s also offers Sangria (red and white), Bloody Mary, and more exciting cocktails to check out this weekend.
Citrus City Grille
The Citrus City Grille has a huge bar and is an amazing spot to visit during Happy Hour! I asked the bartender (and my new friend – special shout out) what her favorite cocktail was and she couldn’t recommend a few of them enough! I told her that I was a sucker for anything coconut and she suggested the Coconut Margarita – which is made with coconut tequila and rims the glass with coconut stuck to agave. I thought this drink was absolutely delicious! And now that I think about it, made me crave it even more! This drink wasn’t too sweet and I could definitely taste the jalepeño! So yum!!
This cocktail is $13!
I just had to throw this one in there – but Rutas has an awesome happy hour between 3-5PM every day, offering nachos, hummus, and $3 beers! It doesn’t get cheaper and more fun than that! Rutas is great for pre-dinner snack or for when you get out of class or work at 3:45 PM.
And that is all for this week everyone! Please remember to always drink responsibly. Love,
I Heart Old Towne Orange