Arrive two hours before lunchtime opening at Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach and you will witness a flurry of activity behind the bar. Most everything except the spirits are prepped daily, either freshly squeezed or juiced or infused.
The whirl of the juicer syncopates with the rhythm of hand-driven squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Knives cut through fruit to craft garnishes. Bottles fill with potential elixirs.
The culinary-driven cocktails require a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, ingredients that make them delicious as well as beautiful. If the kitchen is the heart of the restaurant, the bar is the soul. Their rich bar program is led by Drew Coyle. He is the oh-so-talented son of Darren and Jean Coyle, the Irish-born restaurateurs who brought eateries Dublin 4 Gastropub, as well as Wineworks for Everyone to Orange County, before recently opening Fable & Spirit in the Lido Marina.
Born and raised in Orange County, Drew attended Capo Valley High School in Mission Viejo. He started working in the family’s restaurant business at 14, first as a dishwasher, then moved up to the sauté station at 18. At first, he aspired to become a chef.
Wanting to get experience at the front of the house, he spent some time behind the bar, thinking that cooking and bartending are very similar in their creativity levels. It was a fit. He loved engaging directly with guests and appreciated that it didn’t seem at all repetitive.
Morrigan’s Dream is one of his most popular cocktails. Bright and refreshing, this alluring ice-shaken-served-neat drink boasts gin and fresh celery juice, as well as pineapple and lime juice, plus a splash of yellow Chartreuse. Delicious.
The visual appeal of the drink is framed by the splendor of the beautifully designed restaurant, some walls painted in high-gloss peacock blue-green, others in marigold yellow. Behind the bar, a library ladder rests against the to-the-ceiling shelves of spirits.
Hares, not bunnies or rabbits, are showcased in paintings and objects around the space. In Irish lore, hares are thought of as fairy-blooded people. Who could resist such a notion, especially when downing a celery-green Morrigan’s Dream?
Secret Talents: He loves music and always sings in the car. A pianist and drummer, he credits his two younger sisters with having much more musical talent.
Mixology Mentors: In his early days behind the bar at the family’s Dublin 4 Gastropub in Mission Viejo, three co-worker bartenders took him under their wings. Andy Doyle taught him about personalities. Randy Thais and Ruya Ozbilen taught him techniques and formulas.
His Drink of Choice: An Aviation cocktail, a mix of London dry gin, fresh lemon juice, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette. It’s shaken and served up.
Collector: He collects bartender pins on his travels.
Equipment Fave: A yarai mixing glass is a favorite. It’s a smallish pitcher. “Yarai” refers to the diamond-cut shape in the glass.
Fable & Spirit is at 3441 Via Lido, Newport Beach
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”
Fable & Spirit’s Morrigan’s Dream
2 ounces Fords London dry gin
1 ounce celery juice
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/8 ounce (bar spoon) fresh lime juice
1/8 ounce (bar spoon) simple syrup infused with lime
1/8 ounce (bar spoon) yellow Chartreuse
Garnish: celery leaf
- Add ice to cocktail shaker. Add gin, celery juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup and chartreuse. Shake vigorously and strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with celery leaf.
Cook’s notes: Somewhere between a martini glass and a coupe, Nick and Nora glasses are named after the cinematic husband-and-wife detective team Nick and Nora Charles. Crate and Barrel’s website (one source for the glasses) writes that they bring back the suave sophistication of 1930s high life.