Two sips deep into Mix Mix Kitchen Bar’s new Shaken & Stirred cocktail program, I’m already seduced. Nine new drinks, each bursting with unique personality. At first, I was a bit confused, asking, “you’re not going to shake AND stir each drink, right?” Bartender Joe O’Carlin and Dasy Munoz chuckled at my naivety, handing me a menu that quickly addressed my concern. There are shaken cocktails, and there are stirred cocktails, simple as that. Traditionally, your booze-forward drinks with a big clunky cube are stirred. This adds a nice viscosity to any drink without over-dilution. Shaken cocktails are usually fruit-forward, where the act of shaking them can aerate the ingredients, creating a more velvety foam soft sort of mouth feel.
Being a stirred type of guy, I waste no time getting to the bottom of Dawn’s Hour, a familiar-looking cocktail whose aroma has me reminiscing about smoking clove cigarettes at a Cure concert. Every drink, a subtle reminder that “It’s Friday, I’m in Love.” The only thing that would make this drink better would be if my nails were painted black and I had eyeliner on. I nearly cried when my glass was empty, but I laughed about it, covering it all up with lies and ordered a Barrel Aged Classico.
The Classico seems incredibly complicated in theory, but the flavor and aromatics beam rays of complexity. One drink is all about the smoke and Barrel Hitch whiskey. The next, bittersweet Gran Classico. Tying everything together is a house vermouth that adds a bridge to both. It’s earthy, herbal, floral, and super approachable to boot.
With the smoke-and-mirror drinks out of the way, I try a couple shaken. Although Big Green’s gin game is on point, I much preferred the Endless Summer, not only because it’s February, but the cocktail is reminiscent of a long summer day at the beach, complete with frothy foam that is fun to play with. La Niña Mescal takes a smoky backseat over a tropical vibe, and the rosemary garnish a subtle reminder of laying the wetsuit on a bush while changing on the street in front of complete strangers.
Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday in the bar; $8 cocktails and $2 off the best albacore tostada you’ve ever had.
The rest of the menu:
Smoked and Oaked – barrel hitch whiskey, Gran Classico, house-made sweet vermouth aged in “Beyond Barrels” staves & smoked
Dawn’s Hour – Rum blanco, allspice dram, house-made mole bitters, essence of licorice root and cinchona bark
Highlander – single malt scotch, elderflower liqueur, cardamom bitters, star anise, lemon oil
Bolivian Breakfast – Singani 63, St. George Nola coffee liqueur, trinity bitters, spiced demerara syrup, whipped cream, cinnamon
Silly Rabbit – Arette Reposado Tequila, vanilla Madagascar liqueur, carrot & Thai chile syrup, lemon-lime juice, cloves, mezcal misting
Take Me Back – Spring 44 Vodka, Asian pear shrub, thyme, lemon-lime juice, lavender bitters
OC Sour – rye whiskey, honey, lemon, red wine bubbles
Endless Summer – mescal, cranberry liqueur, ginger syrup, tajin, lime juice, rosemary foam
Big Green – London dry gin, Green Chartreuse, vanilla syrup, cucumber, mint, lime juice
Barkeep’s Inspiration – crafted on a whim
Mix Mix Kitchen Bar, 300 N. Main St., Santa Ana // mixmixkitchenbar.com