Drinking Spring Cocktails Until the Vaca’s Come Home

Fun fact: “vaca” is Spanish for cow. Another fun fact: if you add the letter “y” to vaca, you get vacay. At Vaca restaurant in Costa Mesa, you can get a little bit of both. As 14 new spring cocktailes have been inked on their menu, here’s a look at a few highlights that will get your tastebuds ready for a spring.

Sherry Cobbler No. 8, Photos and story Greg Nagel

Although there are so many new drinks, the cocktail menu still reflects semblances of the past. Take for instance the Sherry Cobbler #8 that’s served in the sturdy tin cup topped with small ice, mint, and dollop of sweet tamarind. Being Vaca’s eighth menu, the drink has evolved each season over time. Eight brings some tart cherry and mint to the nose initially, but once the ice slowly melts like the polar icecaps, a nice cocoa-oak character comes out from the bourbon. Cobblers are so refreshing and full of complexity at the same time.

The Keeneland

“For the Keeneland drink, I wanted to do a derby cocktail variant. When it comes to horse racing, the tourists tend to go to the Kentucky Derby, but the locals all go to Keeneland (Race Course),” says David Saenz, Vaca bartender and drink creator. When I think spring, I think kumquats and this kumquat shrub drink is laced with Wild Turkey 101 and house-made vermouth. It’s so easy drinking it’s almost a race to the finish.

Water Gin Tonic

If you crave gin and tonic like I do, Vaca is a home away from home. This menu consists of four variants, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. I went with Water, which features Oakland Spirits Co. Sea Gin, Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic, fennel seed, nori, and sea beans built in a glass over an ice ball. I can’t say I’ve ever had an umami experience with a gin and tonic, but this drink delivers. Fennel and anise play a substantial role. Plus, if someone asks what you’re drinking and you say “water,” you won’t be lying.


Continuing the current tiki craze, #Sonámbulo comes in a custom mug from Tiki Farm down in San Clemente. The skull is filled with Paranubes Oaxacan Rum, Casa Magdalena Rum, house falernum, grenadine, C&K Absinthe. Although the absinthe gives off a nice Good & Plenty vibe, the Oaxacan rum has notes of green olive that play great with the overall heady, ice-packed drink. If available, the drink is topped with red sugar cane that can be nibbled on to get all the rum and sugar out.

Vaca is at 695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa // vacarestaurant.com

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