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Eat, then drink, and be merry

First OC Cocktail Week, set to begin March 2 at dozens of venues, follows on the heels of OC Restaurant Week.

February 27, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani | This post has been corrected, as noted below.
  • Jason Schiffer, co-owner of 320 Main in Seal Beach, makes a drink called the Detroiter on Tuesday. The restaurant is preparing for the OC Cocktail Week from March 2 to 8.
Jason Schiffer, co-owner of 320 Main in Seal Beach, makes… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

It was not "Mad Men" protagonist Don Draper's name or profession that viewers learned first.

It was his drink of choice: "Do this again — old-fashioned, please."

Whether meeting clients or dining with his wife, Megan, that's what the advertising executive was seen reaching for.

Guests with a similar preference can visit Mesa, which counts the Mesa Old Fashioned among its bestsellers, between March 2 and 8. The Costa Mesa bar is one of 45 participating in the first-ever OC Cocktail Week, organized by the OC Restaurant Assn. — the same group that hosts OC Restaurant Week.

Eliott Montero, Mesa's bar director and assistant general manager, concedes that he is on somewhat of a "cocktail week" kick: He's on the advisory board for Los Angeles' The Golden State of Cocktails, recently visited Scottsdale for Arizona Cocktail Week and is already gearing up for New Orleans-based Tales of Cocktail in July.

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He finds that the upcoming festivities are a great opportunity for spots in Southern California to show off their drinks.

"Orange County has kind of been in the dark in terms of cocktail culture ... a little slow coming out of the Cosmopolitan and RedBull-Vodka era," Montero remarked.

Socializing has long revolved around alcohol, but about five years ago Montero noticed an increase in the importance of cocktails. He recalled accompanying Mesa's bar captain, Devon Encheff, to downtown Los Angeles just for a drink.

"I think this is happening because people are starting to care about what they eat and drink again," he said. "Fresh ingredients are alive and well again, people are much more health-conscious, and this reflects on what they choose to eat, and now it's finally making its way into cocktails. We are in the era of the celebrity chef. I guarantee we'll see the bartender hit that level soon."

For $20.14, participants can pair food with drinks at restaurants including Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's, CUCINA enoteca, McCormick & Schmick's, RA Sushi, Tamarind of London and Zimzala.

Pam Waitt, president of the OC Restaurant Assn., has been toying with the idea of such an event for almost three years. Guests often wish that Restaurant Week, running from Feb. 23 to March 1, lasted two weeks instead of one, she said. So this year the group's members voted to offer Orange County a fortnight of two different kinds of culinary fun.

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