In Wine Country, imbibing isn’t just about wine.
COURTESY OF GOOSE AND GANDER
In one of the world’s premier wine regions, why might you order a cocktail? Well, a carefully crafted concoction rejuvenates a weary palate after a long day of wine tasting; a sexy twist on a classic provides the perfect vacation nightcap; and an interesting mix of the two can jump-start an evening out in the area’s growing nightlife scene.
So if you’re looking to shake up your sips, here are our favorite cocktails, from the Sonoma Coast to the Vaca Mountains.
Fagiani’s Bar at The Thomas, Napa
Head barman Andrew Salazar and his staff take great pride in their handcrafted cocktails. In fact, they like Negronis so much that they’re featured on tap—but the real summer sipper is a riff on a classic.
What to get: The Bottled 76, a twist on the much-loved French 75. The 76 combines Square One Bergamot vodka with house-made preserved oranges, Aperol, and fresh citrus; is topped with sparkling wine; and is then capped. It’s served with a light spritz of orange blossom water.
When to get it: Anytime is good, but brunch is best.
Where to drink it: Order a bucket of bottles to sip on the rooftop patio, overlooking the Napa River. 813 Main St., Napa, (707) 226-7821, thethomas-napa.com.
Cook Tavern, St. Helena
This modern gastropub provides a casual atmosphere in which vacationers and locals alike kick back with small plates and cocktails. The drink menu features twists on classics, all of which are made using local shrubs and fresh lemons and limes.
What to get: The Chupacabra is a tequila-based drink made with smoky mezcal, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, citrus, and grapefruit syrup.
When to get it: Whenever you’re feeling daring.
Where to drink it: Pull up a stool to Cook’s crafted zinc bar in the 1891 building. 1304 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 963-8082, cooktavern.com.
El Dorado Kitchen, Sonoma
Located in the El Dorado Hotel, this swanky spot is not to be confused with the usual hotel bar or poolside pagoda. The courtyard is welcoming and friendly, and everything is clean and sharp—especially the cocktails.
What to get: The Clear Conscience, a mix of vodka, fresh-squeezed cucumber, orange, lime juice, and ginger ale.
When to get it: At sunset or to reset your palate.
Where to drink it: This “spa cocktail” is best enjoyed on the poolside patio. 405 First St. W., Sonoma, (707) 996-3030, eldoradosonoma.com/restaurant.
Mojito of the Future
Follow the bright koi fish painted on the floor to this hip, lounge-style bar with outdoor fire pits and can’t-miss hamachi bonbons. The cocktails are as colorful as they are tasty. Make a selection that suits your palate and matches your meal.
What to get: An eye-catching concoction with smoke billowing over the brim, the Mojito of the Future, which is made table-side with liquid nitrogen, is an exciting show and stunning sipper all in one.
When to get it: Late afternoon or with dinner.
Where to drink it: Sink into plush pillows atop the sleek lounge couches beside Eiko’s bar. 1385 Napa Town Center, Napa, (707) 501-4444, eikosnapa.com.
Bouchon Bistro, Yountville
After opening The French Laundry, Thomas Keller brought us Bouchon, an authentic French bistro
featuring antique light fixtures, mosaic floors, and a French zinc bar that will take you and your aperitif straight to the heart of Paris.
What to get: Bouchon’s signature Moscow Mule. Made with vodka, ginger beer, and fresh-squeezed lime juice, this beverage is deceptively simple.
When to get it: Early afternoon into the evening, when the sun begins to dip.
Where to drink it: On Bouchon’s outdoor patio, which is open until midnight every night. 6534 Washington St., Yountville, (707) 944-8037, thomaskeller.com.
At Spoonbar, where the bar manager Alec Vlastnik grows dozens of herbs and edible flowers, even the drink menu rotates with the seasons: Summer rums give way to a collection of classic tiki cocktails made with techniques from the 1940s and ’50s.
What to get: A spin on the classic Eastside, the New Eastside is reminiscent of a mint-cucumber gimlet, and is made with Hendrick’s gin, lime juice, and mint, then topped with a refreshing cucumber-elderflower foam and a little Japanese yuzu.
When to get it: On a warm summer night.
Where to drink it: In the bar, facing the wide-open patio doors. 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, (707) 433-7222, spoonbar.com.
Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar, Healdsburg
Vibrant colors and wild nights are the draw at this eclectic spot where Old Havana meets California Wine Country. Assorted small plates, eight varieties of fresh oysters, and a varied rotating menu of mixed drinks provide endless options to mix and match.
What to get: Equal parts Bird Dog bourbon and peach whiskey—with gunpowder green tea, Gran Classico
Bitter, lemonade, a splash of soda, and an orange wedge garnish—the Peach Peca is a summer delight.
When to get it: At twilight.
Where to drink it: Grab a seat at the oyster bar, or flip around to gaze out Willi’s window-side tables. 403 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, (707) 433-9191, stark restaurants.com/willis_seafood.html.
Prickly Pear Margarita
La Condesa Napa Valley, St. Helena
Sweet St. Helena needed a tequila bar, and La Condesa answered the call. Bright blue walls, funky decor, live music, and tequila bottles stacked to the ceiling welcome thirsty visitors; and cocktails ranging from spicy and creamy to smoky and sweet keep them coming back.
What to get: The Prickly Pear Margarita—made with pear puree and served with a habanero swizzle stick that releases heat—strikes a balance of sweet and tart.
When to get it: Happy hour on a warm day.
Where to drink it: Beside a plate of house-made guacamole at the custom concrete bar. 1320 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 967-8111, lcnapa.com.
Goose and Gander, St. Helena
Public houses started centuries ago as community centers offering a range of spirits and beverages, and this Napa-style pub keeps tradition going. You’re sure to feel at home noshing on bar bites and sipping custom-made cocktails in the cozy dining room, basement bar, or
garden of opera singer Walter Martini’s 1920s bungalow.
What to get: The Scarlet Gander, a refreshing mixture of Hangar 1’s Buddha’s Hand Citron vodka, shiso-ginger-galangal syrup, and a kick of ginger beer, garnished with lemon, mint, and pickled rhubarb.
When to get it: This drink beckons as early as noon.
Where to drink it: Out in Martini’s garden surrounded by inviting landscapes. 1245 Spring St., St. Helena, (707) 967-8779, gooseandgander.com.
Established by the Catelli family in 1936, this friendly restaurant and bar has been said to make the best Manhattan in town. Bar manager and mixologist Anna Catelli puts a playful spin on classic cocktails using local fruit and herbs sourced from the Catellis’ own garden.
What to get: The refreshingly sweet-and-tart Tru Lemonade made with Tru Organic Lemon vodka, house-made sweet and sour, soda, mint, and summer strawberries.
When to get it: When the sun is bringing the heat.
Where to drink it: On Catelli’s spacious remodeled patio or at the elegant outdoor bar. 21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, (707) 857-3471, mycatellis.com.
Mercantile Social, Napa
Local spirits and regional flavors are the fulcrum of the handcrafted cocktail list at Mercantile Social. Step into this agri-chic and inclusive setting to unwind from the day or set the tone for the evening.
What to get: The Washington’s Orchard—a combination of Barsol pisco fermented from grapes, Leopold Bros’ sour apple liqueur, Germain-Robin apple brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup, and cinnamon tincture.
When to get it: After wine tasting or as a nightcap.
Where to drink it: In the swanky bar. 1450 First St., Napa, (707) 687-1234, napa.andaz.hyatt.com.