TAPS Fish House and Brewery in the Irvine Marketplace has launched their “Liquid Assets” initiative on the craft cocktail space with an impressive array of original creative cocktails that rivals those of the finest dining establishments in LA or Las Vegas.
Although TAPS is more known for their award-winning home brews (honored as the Mid-Size Brewpub and Brewery Team of the Year at the largest national beer competition—the 2015 Great American Beer Festival® held annually in Denver, Colorado), they are now diving into the craft cocktail category head first with unique and exciting Nitro Cocktails prepared tableside.
We began our tasting with a refreshing starter named Pine-y the Elder – a nod to the renowned Pliny the Elder double IPA from Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa whose scarce marketing strategy has earned it cult status in the craft brew industry.
Pine-y the Elder incorporates a non-Pliney IPA in its blend along with London Dry Gin, Lazzaroni Amaro, Zirbenz Stone Pine, Lemon Juice and Simple Syrup.
To keep our group of writers safe and satiated, TAPS indulged us in savory small plates during the course of the cocktail tasting. Pairing well with Piney the Elder, was a citrusy Ahi Tuna Tartare served sashimi style, thank you very much – so tired of the ubiquitous tower, and an artful Rib Eye Carpaccio.
Insanely delicious Eye of Ribeye Carpaccio is featured on the menu at TAPS in Irvine, as are all the dishes depicted here.
On this chilly January day, the next two cocktails evoked chaise lounges beneath swing palm trees at some sunny, warm tropical locale. TAPS’ refreshing take on the iconic Mint Julep is a Champagne Papi with Casa Noble Blanco Tequila, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur , fresh tarragon, lime juice, simple syrup, and celery bitters topped off with Sparkling Wine and served in a copper Julep cup.
But the Pineapple Under the Sea stole the show with its stunning presentation and paper umbrella nod to retro tropical Tiki cocktails.
Served in heavy copper lidded goblets which require a credit card deposit to keep them in the restaurant, the Pineapple Under the Sea is beyond dreamy. Components: Absolut Elyx Vodka, Corruba Coconut Rum, Giffard Orgeat Syrup, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Passionfruit -Lime Juice, Peychaud’s Bitters. A sophisticated tropical elixir vaguely reminiscent of those giant Scorpion Bowls, all the inherent fun sans long straws and cheap booze.
We paused for bites of a luscious Marinated Beet Salad with Citrus Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and grilled pain de campagne (country French bread) and turned our attention to owner Joe Manzella and Andrew Aoun, Manzella Restaurant Group’s new wine & spirits manager as they discussed TAPS’ new beverage direction for 2016: unique wines and spirits, cocktails crafted using classic techniques, and their fresh juicing program.
We tasted the difference between store bought grenadine and TAPS housemade grenadine and store bought lemon juice and fresh squeezed – as you can imagine, no comparison!
Andrew asked for a volunteer from our group to assist him in making their liquid nitrogen cocktail, “Lime in the Coconut” . Guess who volunteered?! Moi, of course. Remember that song? You can’t help feeling happy when you hear it. And with the tune in my head, it was absolutely a gas – couldn’t help myself – making my first liquid nitrogen cocktail.
The resulting confection was a total sensory experience – cool on your tongue with tropical flavors of coconut and bright lime for a subtly sweet, tart, sorbet-like delight – everything you would want on a hot summer’s day, or as a light dessert alternative.
Lime In The Coconut – Corruba Coconut Rum, Selvarey Cocoa Rum, Velvet Falernum Giffard Orgeat Syrup, Heavy Cream, Lime Juice, Pineapple, and Nutmeg frozen with liquid nitrogen and served in a food-safe coconut shell. (Photo by Patty Mitchell)
Clams and Mussels Cazuela with Spanish chorizo, Spanish-style rouille and French baguette for sopping up every bit of the delicious broth.
Being a whiskey woman, the next two cocktails really captured my heart. Above, is the Bye Felicia – not sure what the story is behind the name, but I do know that this is a libation to love. Bye Felicia is made with George Dickel Rye, Verdrenne Crème de Cassis, lemon juice, simply syrup, Thai basil and Bar Keep Fennel Bitters, served with crushed ice and a Thai basil garnish. Remember this one, my fellow whiskey lovers.
Dusk was drawing nigh and it was time to wrap up this palate pleasing party with a final digestif… another rye cocktail, a not-so-traditional Old Fashioned bearing an unusually exotic name – Shanghai Old Fashioned. It makes sense when you discover that George Dickel Rye is gussied up with smoked Chinese Black tea syrup (called Lapsang Souchong) and three bitters: Bar Keep Chinese bitters, Angostura bitters, and Reagn’s Orange bitters. Add a large ice cube and edible flower and this beauty is the perfect ending to a beautiful meal.
Visit TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Irvine for a casual, yet upscale dining experience, and be immersed in the ambiance and architecture that is a planned potpourri of a Chesapeake Bay crab house, old Chicago chop house and New Orleans oyster bar.
13390 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
Opening Photo Credit: Amy Boring