These bars find inspiration in a single liquor, offering extraordinary selections, often passionately amassed over many years of hunting and string‑pulling.
Tequila→ Looking to be a tequila geek, or just want a damn fine margarita in Newport Beach? Put yourself in the hands of Sol Cocina’s friendly bar team, a gang in love with a collection of 90 tequilas from 30 families or brands and a fast-growing list of mezcals. One secret weapon is Sol’s hand‑picked Casa Noble single barrel reposado aged 11 months. At 360 bottles per barrel, it’s poured only here and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Gin→ Bustling new Vaca doubles down with the deepest gin game around, curated by cocktail pundits Gabrielle Dion and Michael Rooney. Dion deems gin “the most expressive, complicated, and beautiful of all spirits,” requiring a skillful balancing of botanicals. Scores of gins cover the gamut of expressions and include grapefruit‑redolent Xoriguer Mahon from Spain, small‑batch Sipsmith London Dry, and Blue Gin from Austria, by famed producer Hans Reisetbauer. For those who need to erase bad memories of warm shots in college, she suggests a Southside, a cocktail that’s bright, refreshing, and complex all at once.
Whiskey→ Brown booze fans, Brea’s newish Macallans Public House is the best whiskey bar in O.C. Named after the legendary distillery in Craigellachie, Moray, Scotland, Macallans is a classy joint with on‑point service. Owners Mark and Vinka Ferrell delight connoisseurs with more than 200 types of Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon. Seven themed flights include four half‑ounce pours of Scotch and whiskey, ranging from The Novice ($21) to The Prodigy ($250). Beverage director Andrew Aoun calls out the McClelland’s single‑malt for “great value and a unique drinking experience,” but dubs Glenfarclas 40‑year single‑malt one of the bar’s rarest diamonds.
Rum→ Don’t be deceived by the homey digs at Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen in south Laguna Beach. Here’s where chef‑owner Eva Madray nurtures a dazzling collection of more than 400 rums. Blogger‑bartender Matthew Robold (RumDood.com) ranks her stash “the tippity top” on his list, and many an O.C. chef has closed out the night over an impromptu rum‑tasting with Madray. Some of her most desired gems include Black Tot from Barbados; Renegade Angostura 1991, a bourbon cask‑aged 16 years in Trinidad; and El Dorado 25‑year from Guyana, now out of production. Madray suggests beginners start with the Rum Punch cocktail. All others should sip their rum neat.