The 5 Best Whiskey Joints in Orange County

Traversing the globe to taste the variations of whiskey sure macallanssounds like fun, but hunting down the brown in your own backyard is just as educational and more budget-friendly. Here are five places to experience the best of bourbon, rye, Scotch, Irish whiskey, and Japanese whiskey—neat, shaken, or stirred.

Macallan’s Public House

Although there are some fine blended Scotch whisky cocktails in the world, a neat single malt Scotch is almost a cocktail on its own. One whiff of an Islay can transport you to the Scottish coastline, where peat fire smoke rises from chimneys on thatched-roof cottages and the briny scent of the ocean resets your senses. And that’s just one regional Scotch! At Macallans, choose from seven flight offerings. Start with The Novice, which includes tasters of Ardbeg 10 (Islay), Auchentoshan 12 (Lowland), Glenfarclas 10 (Speyside), and Springbank 10 (Campbelton) for $21. 330 W. Birch St., Brea, 714-529-1224,

320 Main

While watching the bartenders at 320 Main stir an Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon, you’ll feel as if they’ve opened a wormhole to 1806, when the cocktail was invented. “By 1881, people were tired of the many variations and started asking for a whiskey cocktail to be made the old-fashioned way,” says proprietor Jason Schiffer. His version is no different than the classic, marrying whiskey, water, sugar, and bitters. It seems simple, until the first sip, when the russet-toned drink’s velvety viscosity melds everything from orange peel aromatics to subtle notes of oak stave, vanilla, and apricot … all from the whiskey. $11. 320 Main St., Seal Beach, 562‑799‑6246,


There are a lot of reasons to love rye whiskey, including its gorgeous brindled hue, mild grainy spiciness, and an orchestra of anise, floral, and sometimes meadowy aromatics. With Arc’s Cigarettes & Coffee cocktail, we can’t help but picture a crackly old record spinning on a turntable, the scent of ashtrays and coffee mingling in the air. It’s a gorgeous drink that’s not shy about romance, much like the atmosphere of Arc itself with the flickering warmth of the kitchen’s open flames nearby. Bar chef Koire Rogers says Rittenhouse Rye is the heart and soul of this drink, which uses house-smoked bitters with cigar leaf, amaro, and a few shaved coffee beans from nearby Portola Coffee Lab. $14. 3321 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949‑500-5561,

#4  Dublin 4 Gastropub
Few Irish whiskey cocktails can be found in Orange County, and Dublin 4 is home to most of them. The Hooligan (aka an Irish Manhattan) is a donnybrook in a dainty glass. Blushing red with an ultra-thin orange peel garnish and house-made spiced syrup with cinnamon and clove, the drink brings to mind Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. The mulled cocktail is strong enough to cut through the heartiest of cottage pies, yet gentle enough to sip solo at the bar over good conversation, no doubt the goal of a good whiskey cocktail at an Irish pub. $13. 26342 Oso Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949-582-0026,

#5  Sushi Roku
Finding a cocktail with Japanese whiskey was nearly impossible in Orange County until Hibiki released Japanese Harmony, a gorgeous whiskey blend bursting with notes of citrus and pear, marinated in layers of oak. Sushi Roku harmonizes the whiskey with black walnut bitters garnished with orange peel. The result is a drink called Old Osaka, a remarkably deep bow to an Old Fashioned, loaded with nutty maple and dark fruit notes while accentuating the complex wood character. $15. 327 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, 949-706-3622,

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