Riffing on cocktail classics is a great way to forge a new cocktail menu. But when the riff transcends and elevates on the original, that’s when real magic can happen. Beverage director Julian Flores Torres, who was previously bar manager at the highly lauded Mayfield in San Juan Capistrano, recently left to open Union Social, a hip-vibey cocktail lounge at Stanton’s Rodeo 39 Public Market.
The Tetsu Sour seems like a traditional whiskey sour, but in the glass it shines with notes of fresh ginger, vanilla from the Nikka Japanese Whisky, and fresh lemon to balance it out. “I went back to the modern classics and wanted to use ginger, which is sort of like the classic penicillin cocktail, and then blended the two,” Torres says. Pairing the drink with fresh nigiri and sashimi is a great example of how a beverage can elevate a bite, and vice-versa.
Other cocktails on Union’s menu highlight pan-Asian ingredients, such as the Lychee Martini, pandan in the Yugyu Butcher, as well as matcha tea in the ultra-refreshing Union Matcha.
Using matcha in a cocktail can be difficult as it can easily add a bitter vegetal note, but Torres offers his secret to working with it: “Instead of using raw matcha, I incorporate it into the sugar, so in the end, it’s more of a latte and less of a tea.” With rum, coconut, lime, and pineapple, the drink is a piña colada at heart, except with that fresh healthy flavor you get from matcha.
Union Social’s menu is firmly centered on all things ocean. Start off with hamachi crudo, where executive chef Do Kyun Kim, former head chef at Katsuya in Beverly Hills, shows off his knife skills. Next, you can either go omakase with the nigiri and sashimi or order your favorites. There are raw oysters, clams, and scallops, and if you’re feeling a bit extra, each can be topped with fresh uni and even caviar. If raw isn’t your thing, try the sake kama or hamachi kama, which include all the crunchy-fatty tasty bits fish collar can offer.
Union Social, Rodeo 39 at 12885 Beach Blvd., Stanton unionsocialoc.com