Vacation Bar: Around the World in 12 Drinks
e’ve all felt it in our deepest selves—the impulse to “get away,” the need to go on an adventure, to rejuvenate your body and soul, and cast aside the frantic pace of our everyday lives. For many of us, however, hopping on a plane to some exotic locale to blow off steam for a few days may be a little unrealistic. So what is one to do when that edge must come off, but that 9 a.m. conference is too important to miss? Simple. Have yourself a little Vacation.
The brainchild of globetrotters Chris Parker and Harry Kho, Vacation was designed to provide respite, and comfort in a casual environment. The environment is cultivated by talented local artisan craftsmen and welcomes a mix of locals and travelers, young and “experienced,” trendy and classic. The music is varied, upbeat, and fills the space with an unmistakable invitation: relax and have a little fun! Combine all of this with the consummately affable staff, and you will soon find the stress of the day has been left at the door, leaving you only with the task of deciding what to enjoy first!
Presenting something truly unique to the well-traveled connoisseurs of all-things-gourmet who call Orange County home is no easy feat. To meet this challenge, Parker and Kho enlisted the valedictorian of victuals, Gabriella Mlynarcyzk, of Melrose’s Ink. The goal was to create cocktails that feature the flavors and foods native to 12 iconic locations found in Lonely Planet travel guides.
Of course, every top-shelf beverage program requires a complimentary menu of exquisite edibles. To this end Executive Chef Aron Habiger has designed a selection of offerings that appeal to the most refined palate, in the most uncanny, laid-back, Orange County sort of way. Classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and perfected under renowned chef Ludo Lefebvre at L.A. hotspot Petit Trois, Chef Habiger has reimagined casual dining without sacrificing the fresh, local, organic, seasonal and sustainable ingredients we all have come to expect. In fact, all of the meats are sourced just down the street from Electric City Butcher!
For your esteemed consideration, I offer the following ways to satiate your wanderlust from the comfort of your barstool.
INSIDER TIP: A great way to start off your Vacation is to blend in! Here’s how to do that here: Order the “Baller Boilermaker.” It’s an off-menu specialty that has become a house favorite that all the regulars love! Featuring only sparkling rosé and green chartreuse, it’s a refined but fun way to “shoot the roots”!
An easy to drink, accessible drink for a quick trip across the pond. This beautiful, deep fuchsia beverage is a sous-vide concoction of gin, vermouth, and blackberry, and strained into a polychromatic yet clear liquid, along with sparkling rosé to bring the vibrant color to life. Sophisticated indeed.
After a long day of doffing your cap and playing the part of a Jane Austen character on the streets of London, it’s time to skip up north to the foggy Scottish island of Islay. Known for their heavily peat-smoked whisky (no “e”), Islay produces some of the mightiest spirits on the planet. This cocktail named for the island does a marvelous job of providing a spirit-forward flavor profile that is not overwhelming. Plenty of smoke up front, but heavily mellowed by the rich sweetness of the sherry, and clean acidity of the pineapple. Hints of chocolate delight the middle of tongue mid-taste. Shaken with aquafaba for a thick egg-free foam on top, the whole profile comes off as sweet, smoky, and consummately pleasant.
After spending time on the dewy British Isles, its time to warm up on one of the world’s most luxurious locales upon the Mediterranean. The lush peninsula just east of Nice is known for all things decadent, which is perfectly suited for this cocktail. A blend of raspberry eau de vie (a colorless, clear fruit brandy), Orgeat, lemon, and absinthe, this alabaster potion presents strong raspberry sweet and tart flavors up-front. Aquafaba helps bind together the ingredients, while a splash of sparkling berry water animates the contents of the slender glass. While slightly spirit forward, the presence of the absinthe is not as prominent as one would expect, presenting only at the end for a bright finish.
Continuing along the Mediterranean Sea unto the Rock of Gibraltar comes the coastal region of Andalusia. One of the favored drinks of the locals in this region is chamomile tea, or in the regional parlance, Manzanilla. Hence comes the inspiration for this cocktail. Another sous-vide mixture of strawberry, manzanilla sherry, and rosewater provide an exquisite base for this complex libation. The manzanilla offers hints of coastal seaspray flavors, along with the characteristic chamomile. Exceptionally sweet, slightly tart strawberry throughout. De Troch Fraises lambic smells and tastes of strawberry preserves. Omnipresent rose palate complexion gives this elixir a sublime, luxurious character.
Bacuit Bay, Philippines
On the other side of the world is a beach party waiting for you to join! Bacuit Bay, the westernmost island of the Philippines is known for its world-renowned eco-tourism featuring white sand beaches, and towering basalt cliffs covered with verdant jungle greenery. In such a place, an umbrella is virtually required in your beverage, and on this Vacation, the bar has you covered. Nestled within a brightly colored hand-woven bucket and beside a banana resembling a dolphin holding an umbrella is this local desert-inspired concoction. Giffard (banana liquor), and aged white rum provide the base for this light, festive drink, but careful touches take it to the next level! The super pure muscovado sugar offers an almost nutty flavor, while the condensed sweet coconut milk makes the drink slightly creamy. But then the drink is topped with a purple yam foam with Nara de Coco jellies! The jellies are tiny cubes of gelatin made with pea flower tea, and have a remarkably pleasant, highly unusual flavor! In fact, the entire drink is so unusual that it’s impossible to nail down precisely what is happening with your taste buds, which, by my lights, make this drink that much more fun! It tastes like a party, and everyone is invited!
Chicken Chicharrón Quesadilla
(WRITER’S FAVORITE SNACK)
This is literally the best quesadilla I have ever eaten. Ever. Forever. This amazing creation reimagines a quesadilla’s layers and makes each one important. Evidently, flavor perfection is composed of Oaxaca-cheese crusted blue corn tortillas filled with melted manchego cheese and crunchy chicken chicarróns, then topped with Tapatio crema, shredded iceberg, and avocado tomatillo salsa. Get it. You’ll thank me later.
Vegan or Heathen Tartare
Whether you love beef, or not so much, Vacation has you covered and offers two variations on this low-fat favorite. Using very similar mixtures, the flavors are almost indistinguishable! The vegan option features capers, texture-firming mushrooms, and dehydrated tomato skins that are faintly sweet, salty, light, and oh-so-crunchy!!! I was so impressed with this dish that I wouldn’t hesitate to order this in place of a meat dish. However, the “heathen” tartare features the freshest, leanest grass fed wild-roam humanely butchered eye-on-round beef from Electric City Butchers. Both are phenomenal!
Pork Belly Lollipops
Sometimes it’s hard to reinvent a food classic, but Chef Habiger did it again with this marvelous yet straightforward spin on pork belly. Rather than sandwich the salty, fatty, meaty amazingness that is basically ultra-bacon, they merely covered this cooked-to-perfection pork belly with soy, lemongrass, and ginger caramel glaze, and topped it with a light parsnip puree. If you love bacon, this is a MUST!
Both Mlynarcyzk and Habiger bring myriad experiences, influences, and techniques to the table (or bar top), but most importantly, they bring a level of expertise that is impossible to miss. The result is nothing short of being truly spectacular.
Vacation | 204 W 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701 | vacationdtsa.com
Get your passports ready! The Vacation team is in the process of transitioning the drink and food menus for the season.