Remember a Negroni or Martini? The North Bay’s best bartenders certainly do. But these days, they’re shaking things up – quite literally – basing their drinks on fresh ingredients and often unexpected flavors. Some are even growing cocktail gardens, to ensure the best possible sources for hand-plucked mint, lemon verbana, and more obscure fruits like Buddha’s hand citrus.
Mateo’s Cocina Latina
Chef-owner Mateo Granados is known for his “modern Yucatán” cuisine served at farmers’ markets. But in this new restaurant across the street from Spoonbar and h2hotel, he has brought on cult-celeb cocktail king Scott Beattie as consulting partner, and drinks vie for attention as much as the colorful food. Cocktails are seasonal, and actually showcase many of the same seasonal boutique Sonoma County ingredients used in the kitchen. Sip on complex, tingling flavors such as a tomato fresca con fuma combining Tres Agaves Blanco tequila with fresh pressed tomato juice, pickled onion, lime juice, sea salt, black pepper and smoked chile powder, or the Sandia Linda of fresh watermelon and lime juices with Arette Blanco tequila, pickled watermelon rind, chile powder, black pepper, Sonoma Coast sea salt and cilantro.
214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1520, mateoscocinalatina.com.
Underwood Bar & Bistro
The picturesque burg of Graton is tiny, but it’s the heartbeat of Sonoma’s West County, centered between Occidental, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. From its roots as a apple cannery center, Graton morphed into a dynamic destination when, in 1995, Matthew Greenbaum and Sally Spittles opened Willow Wood Market Café, followed by the sexy, speakeasy-style Underwood. This led the transformation of the town into what Wine Spectator has described as “New York’s East Village meets the Wine Country in this hip gathering spot for local elite wine makers and wine travelers alike.” Wine & spirits guy Frank Dice creates classic tributes with the Lulu (named for owner Sally), bringing a long pour of Junipero gin, lime and tonic; and delights like an Old Havana Sidecar of Germain-Robin Old Havana brandy, Cointreau and fresh lemon.
9113 Graton Road, Graton, 707-823-7023, underwoodgraton.com.
For the details on mixologist Scott Beattie, see Mateo’s, above. This consultant is in high demand. But sip on his signature cocktails and you’ll see why, and why crowds throng to this high-profile, high-energy lounge that is the lobby of h2hotel. Drinks change with the seasons, but you can count on classics updated with premium ingredients and distinctive twists. Two to thrill: the mojito with Flor de Cana and Charbay vanilla rum, lime, mint, sugar and seltzer; or the Siddartha with Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron, Beefeater Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, lemon, Thai coconut milk and lemon verbena.
219 Healdsburg Avenue (in h2hotel), Healdsburg, 707-431-2202, h2hotel.com.
Classic steakhouse fare mixes with a modern culinary approach at downtown Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square, from the dark, clubby rooms, to the vintage neon sign shining from the rooftop like a beacon in the night. Young and old gather for the vintage-chic mood, supping on corn-fed prime and dry aged steaks, natural grass fed beef, and of course, the classic cocktails that complement them so well. Try the Rufus, a sweet-strong drink of Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon, ginger ale and lemon; or the playful Lucy in a tart blend of Sobieski Vodka, citrus and peach bitters.
521 Adams Street, Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100, starkrestaurants.com.
In 2007, this longtime favorite traditional Thai eatery underwent an extensive revamp. After a decade as a family friendly dining destination, the restaurant added something extra exciting: a full bar, making it a hip after-hours hangout, too. On some nights, DJs spin music in the Ultra Bar, and there’s real style to the sleek Asian decor with walls of backlit bottles that are turned into some of the town’s most creative cocktails. One signature is the kiwi mint mojito, crushed with fresh herb and fruit and a squeeze of fresh lime. Lychee Passion is another delight, mixed with X-rated Pink Fusion Vodka and a real lychee nestled at the bottom of the glass. Here’s where you’ll also find other uncommon temptations like Hou Hou Shu, tiny bottles of sparkling sake that remind of Champagne, plus Ty Ku, a coveted Asian citrus liquor packaged in a beautiful bottle that glows in the color of Kryptonite.
208 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-762-5966, thaipetaluma.com.
True, it can be hard to find hard alcohol amid all the vineyards in this Wine Country part of the world. And it can be easy to pass right by this small bar, tucked in the Jack London Lodge at the gateway to Jack London Historic State Park. But venture in, and find a turn-of-the-century historic room set with sofas and chairs and vintage memorabilia around an antique polished oak bar. The bartender has a skilled, generous hand with classic cocktails, and he pours until at least midnight (busier times find the door open until 2 a.m.). Clientele is mostly locals, and if you don’t have a favorite drink of your own, they’ll gladly recommend their favorite potent libation.
13740 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-938-8510, jacklondonlodge.com.
Alexander Valley Store and Bar, Tasting Room and Speakeasy
Fruit from Buddha’s Hand lime trees and pineapple guava bushes find their way into custom crafted cocktails, spiked with licorice, cassis, and other fresh, edible mix-ins. That’s the philosophy of this delightful hideaway from Medlock Ames, better known for its organic wines, but now showcasing a speakeasy behind the tasting room. Drawing it together are the lush organic gardens, which grow the ingredients for delicious quaffs like Setenta y Cinco (Bellringer Gin, fresh picked mint, lime and orange bitters topped with J cuvee), Boys n’ Basil (a 10 Cane Rum style mojito with estate-grown boysenberries, blue basil, lime and jaggery syrup), or a fiery Pascual (an Arette tequila margarita with Serrano peppers, cilantro, fresh lemon, lime and agave nectar). Oh, and if you don’t see the speakeasy at first, well, that’s the point. It’s accessed by a hidden door and appropriately dark and slinky, furnished with an old factory table anchored with metal swivel stools.
6487 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-431-8845, medlockames.com.
Tip: Don’t drink and drive. Let Pure Luxury be your designated driver as you sip and enjoy these Sonoma’s finest beverages.