Whenever a restaurant is dimly lit with red lights, I have a hard time not feeling a bit devilish, where no one shoulder has a small angel version of myself, and the other a red version, complete with a pointy tail and red pitchfork. In the crimson glow of Newport’s A Restaurant’s bar, let’s just say my pointy red side made my halo-winged side poof into a cloud of smoke while several drinks got ordered.
Pitchfork pointed firmly at my first drink, A Buck is where things got started. “Does it cost a buck, too?” I ask Warren Junowich, A’s bar manager. “If I had a nickel…” he says with a pirate smile, starting to shake the drink in a blurry red vigor. A buck is a mule, as in, a cocktail made with some sort of ginger beer base and a good kick of acid from fresh lime. There’s a layer of complexity I can’t quite put my finger on with the drink and grumble. “Oh, that’s the rhubarb amaro,” says Warren, showing me a bottle of Zucca Rabarbaro, which vaguely smells like a 1980’s record store. If you think hard enough about the words ginger, lime, strawberry, rye whiskey (Basil Hayden), and record store, the drink probably smells exactly like The Beatles Abbey Road Studios during the recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” “Basil Hayden is quite the talk of whiskey town,” I mention, taking another sip, refreshed. Such a perfect summer drink.
Exploring the rest of the cocktail menu like the third circle of Dante’s Inferno, I find it hard to choose, as everything sounds simple and well-put-together. Drinks like the Drunken Golfer, a boozy-take on an Arnold Palmer, has a simple base of Ketel One Citroen, lemonade, and iced tea, but the twist of chamomille Cointreau adds an unexpected twist. Uptown Funk, Summer Sipper, and All Good Things v2.0, are also completely summery and worthy of a summertime sip.
Don’t miss out on the nightly food specials, which tend to sell out. For the cheese-geeks, A’s cheese and charcuterie options are worthy of a meal as well.
A Restaurant is at 3334 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach // arestaurantnb.com