Cocktail Omakase, Detention DTSA Style

“I like my beers like I’m in Germany, and I like my cocktails like I’m in Spain,” I mention to Jarred Dooley, longtime barman and beverage nerd who runs the new cocktail omakase in the lounge area of recently renovated Detention DTSA (previously Playground). “I also have an aversion to Jeppson’s Malört, Malibu Rum, and Rumplemintz,” I jeer, waiting to see what kind of liquids he can combine with his library of spirits, house-made syrups, and liqueurs.

“tableside bubbles are a must,” pours Dooley. Photo by Greg Nagel

Detention’s cocktail omakase includes three incredible drinks per person over the course of about 70 to 90 minutes, a couple small-bite plates, and tons of information and good conversation. The reservation starts with some basic Q&A about your likes and dislikes. My wife, for instance, notes, “I like gin, bourbon, and tiki drinks,” and Dooley jots down notes on a small flip notebook.

When it comes to the lineup, each guest in the reservation receives cocktails specifically tailored to them. “The funny thing is, I often know what the last drink is before I know the first,” Dooley says, dashing off behind the bar to work his magic.

My first drink is exactly what I had in mind, something complex with some bubbles: a spritzy Spanish Brandy and soda, served in a tall Collins glass. “You may want to give it a zhuzh,” Dooley says as he tops the drink with club soda tableside. My wife’s Saturn is also spot on, as the classic tiki drink is making a solid comeback in recent years.

Saturn’s are making a comeback! Photo by Greg Nagel

Round two has us swooning with special selections from small-batch, single-barrel collaborations with a Mezcal distillery and a hand-selected Tennessee Rye with a riff on a watermelon daiquiri and a boulevardier made with house-made palo santo amaro. Incredible. Bite-wise, the “Fancy AF Artichoke Dip” with house malt vinegar potato chips, pickled shallot, and a blizzard of fresh parmesan is a delight to pair with the boozy selections.

Fancy AF Artichoke Dip, Photo by Greg Nagel

The final round and I’m surprised to see a wee-Glencairn glass of Laphroaig 22 sitting in front of me, in all its Islay Scotch glory. This taste alone is worth the price of admission. Goosebumps!

If you’re someone who stumbles over a cocktail menu or always goes with the same ol’, same ol’, this cocktail program is a must. You might just find your next favorite drink! The reservation can also run before or after a dinner reservation.

Detention DTSA, 220 E. 4th St., Santa Ana (parking via 3rd or 5th street due to construction). Book a reservation via tock:

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