If plating food is an art form, building gorgeous cocktails is sort of like crafting a liquid sculpture. This is, of course, the odd “shower thought” that crossed my mind sitting at Whitestone’s U-shaped bar as a sunray sneaking through the window blind briefly lit the gold-leaf cocktail ice in my Inky and the Brain cocktail for a precise minute. “It must be some sort of happy hour sundial,” I said to the bartender.
Inky is black … not just activated charcoal black like other bars may do. It uses squid ink in such a way that I’m tempted to dip a fountain pen inside and write a love letter to it; “Dear Inky…I luh you, let’s meet again,” I would write. Yuzu, blanc vermouth, and tonic round out the sipper that were I to drink it with my eyes closed would taste like a very bright and citron-forward martini. Black martini high ball? That’s a first.
Based on the ingredients alone, I could tell this menu was crafted by noted cocktail consultant Emily Delicce, not from having any repeat-drinks done with different names but because her cocktail palette is painted with broad brushes from specific ingredients. Spirulina, fresh fruit and herb shrubs, quality booze, and often brown butter. One drink that checks all of those boxes is Berrys, Beets, Butterstar Gallactica. It’s a deep-violet coup filled with earthy notes on the low end of the flavor spectrum, bright fruit and citrus on the high, and finishes velvety-smooth.
On the simple side, Islay You (pronounced I LUH you) is demure in presentation, yet bold in flavor with Bruichladdich Scotch, white honey, and fleur de sel. I’m not sure how, but this drink encapsulates a moment in time in Scotland, when a peat fire burning off in the distance crosses a field of heather after a fresh rain. It’s really is that deep.
Delicce’s lineup at Whitestone is akin to a cocktail art show. Check it out at happy hour from 5-7 p.m. while it lasts!
Whitestone is at 34212 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, whitestonerestaurant.com