Winter cocktails are like regular cocktails, but they usually don a Jansport puffy vest, leg warmers and maybe a hand-knit bearded stocking cap. Kidding aside, the usual nogs, holiday-spiced punches and hot-buttered rums of the world may be delicious, but after one, I’m usually good for the year.
Then there are drinks at the Bow Room in Irvine. A knock on a special door inside the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is your key to some of the best cocktails in OC.
The drinks are not super desserty-sweet, but they are designed to evoke childhood cravings. They deliver on creativity, top-shelf ingredients and, most of all, balance.
Emily Delicce created four new drinks for wintertime, and although she retired my favorite of 2018, there’s some new deliciousness to discover. In order to make efficient time of your 75-minute reservation, pick any one of these stunners, all of which will make you purr.
The Love You a Latte is served with strawberries and cream and a glass of sparkling rosé. This two-parter is perfect for a 5 p.m. reservation, as it’s the only actual food served during cocktail service. Love You a Latte has fresh-pressed espresso, St. George coffee liqueur and orgeat, all topped with cream foam, then dusted with a stylish cacao-chocolate Hello Kitty logo. I often consider a drink’s mouthfeel, and this pairing had me thinking of lip-feels. Overall, it’s so velvety and dense, with a lasting coffee finish from the St. George’s, that the little bit you lick off your lips keeps on giving between sips. Oh, and the Hello Kitty rosé that comes with the strawberries is the perfect bubbly chaser to wrap up your visit.
Kitty White is another jazzy new cocktail that looks like a sundae, yet drinks like a Friday. The coconut foam on top is generous and satisfying, and the vodka and banana liqueur mixed with ultra-pink beet shrub made me forget about Dear Daniel, the spirulina-blue mezcal cocktail it replaced. I’m not sure how Hello Kitty gets me to drink healthy, but beet shrub and spirulina additions seem like some sort of holistic ingredients, yet they’re so vibrant.
Speaking of eating healthy, Apple of My Eye includes a genuinely sweet mini apple as a garnish, and the earthy sage leaves next to it are as soft as Hello Kitty’s ears. St. George Bruto Americano and apple brandy make up this easy sipper, which is balanced and complex.
As my time was up, I sadly missed out on the fourth new drink, the Sugar Plum Kitty. I guess I have a reason to get back soon!
The Bow Room at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe, 860 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 536-5357. Reservations available via www.sanrio.com/pages/hellokittycafe-bowroom-res-ca.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.