Back in the ’90s, drinks were so much more elementary. I distinctly recall sipping an espresso martini (or two) back when I had frosted-tipped hair, sitting somewhere in Laguna, probably listening to Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca. All those vibes came back sitting at Gracias Madre’s long marble bar, trying their three new ironic 90’s memetails, each riffed from the decade’s most beloved drinks: the Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmopolitan, and my beloved Espresso Martini, and oh boy, these versions have sure grown up.
Bar manager Kacie Lambert and beverage director Maxwell Reis’ bar program is far from the norm. To start, try playing Where’s Waldo on their back bar for a bottle you might recognize…their list reads like an agave library filled with diffuser-free Tequilas and Mezcals. Luckily you don’t need the Dewey decimal system to order a drink.
“I like to really dive in and focus on one or two spirits a month,” notes Kacie. “I think that every spirit pairs well with other flavors or other spirits, so really honoring that is the very heart of crafting a cocktail,” she continued.
Each drink beams with a house personality you can only get here, as Gracias Madre’s 100% plant-based menu also extends to their drinks. Where cashew cream and aquafaba provide the creamy decadent texture of the espresso martini, in the Isla Grande, four different distillates layer on top of a tasty root beer kombucha: Tequila, Mezcal, Raicilla, and Sotol…each playing a different part like a four-piece band. The Cosmo, on the other hand is what one would expect; sweet, sour, with a dry citrusy finish, brightened with a kick of Tequila.
Which one would you start with? Let us know in the comments.
Gracias Madre, 1617 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach graciasmadre.co