In a social setting surrounded by peers, I’m a manly, bourbon-sipping kind of guy. But in secret, when I’m anonymous in a dark bar, I’m not opposed to ordering something far less hairy-chested.
The Cantaloupe Martini is my drink of choice at Starfish in Laguna Beach. When the server places it in front of me, my wife invariably looks around to see who might be snickering, as if I’ve just ordered a stem glass full of estrogen. But I can’t help myself.
First, I eat that succulent globe of melon impaled on the bamboo swizzle stick. It’s been marinating in vodka, watermelon liqueur, and fresh lime and orange juices. It always seems ripe, no matter the season. The rest of the experience is no less satisfying, and savoring that bright burst of flavors is a perfect way to enjoy the restaurant’s daily Opium Hour. So snicker if you must, but I know good when I taste it.
Those kind of transcendent sips are what dining critic Gretchen Kurz was looking for while researching this month’s cover story on the county’s best artisanal cocktails. She found a lot of them, including the rummy Phuket It’s Friday at OPM in Huntington Beach, the tequila-fueled Mexican Firing Squad at Juliette in Newport Beach, and the Japanese Hi-Ball No. 328 at Broadway in Laguna Beach.
She also found one at Mozambique in Laguna Beach that I’ve added to my bucket list. It’s a blend of pineapple-infused vodka, lime juice, and ginger liqueur, but they throw in a little jalapeno and call it a Manzini, technically reducing the estrogen content by half.