Fun fact: I used to live in Barcelona. Where gin and tonics flowed like bathwater, and the smell of rosemary hedges filled the nighttime air. Granted, this was at the Barcelona apartment complex in Aliso Viejo next to the toll road, though alas, my story stands true, and my roomies could whip up a damn fine G & T.
All these years later, I find myself at bar YNK, tucked into a freeway-side hotel in Irvine with no more than 10 seats and no bar seating; just some gray shag carpet and comfy furniture next to various coffee tables. Videos of Barcelona stream on both sides of the room, looking like a window view across the world. The bar changes international inspiration from time to time, and when I heard it’s currently Spain, I knew I had to get back to my deep Aliso Viejo roots.
“Yo quiero Gin & Tonic,” I say to Ravin, the tenured bartender at YNK from my cushy blue love seat. You see, Gin & Tonics are the national drink of Spain, where people sip them at all hours of the day on any occasion. Starting with a tall stemmed glass, the drink is built in layers, starting with the perfect ice, Sapphire East Gin, custom collaboration tonic, grapefruit peel, and a sprig of baby’s breath and some juniper berries. What’s in the glass is something remarkably refreshing, almost like inhaling cold air at a florist.
Other drinks involve the same level of refreshing fruity appeal, such as the Calimochto, which for being Malbec and Pepsi with a wedge of lime, is possibly the choice for a new generation of wine slurping millennials. It seriously made me contemplate kegging a batch for my next party. Other wine cocktails include a summery light and fruity dark sangria, both balanced on the wine side, which is nice.
Craving something boozier, the Spanish Armada sent cannonballs whizzing by my wheelhouse. Served in a gold-rimmed Nick & Nora glass, the rye whiskey and Olaroso sherry married beautifully in the glass. Brightening it up is a little apple vinegar and plum shrub, which sent waves of complexity until the very last sip.
The bar menu is also something that shouldn’t be missed. Each leather bound book is hand written and illustrated by bartender Ravin, making each a unique piece of art.
The bar menu is also something that shouldn’t be missed. Each leather-bound book is hand-written and illustrated by bartender Ravin, making each a unique piece of art.
YNK, for being in a large hotel, attracts more locals than travelers, and its intimate ambience feels sort of like a fancy hotel room party that you happened to crash. Bartender Ravin makes you feel at home, so much so I didn’t want to leave!
YNK is at 18000 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, inside the Marriott; free valet parking with validation up to three hours. ynk-irvine.com