Hope you are thirsty, because we are headed to California! The first stop on our cocktail road trip is my home state. And what a diverse state it is! California is huge with Northern, Central and Southern Cali being drastically different. We have farming and agriculture, the glam of big cities like LA and San Francisco, Wine County, beaches, deserts, mountains and diverse cultures with strong Mexican influences. It is fantastic! So how do I pick only 5 cocktails and mocktails to represent this hugely sundry state? Well, I’m going to pick my favorites and do my best, as Tupac would say, “to take you from the Bay Area and back down.”

First, let’s take you to the Wild Wild West. Everyone headed out to California to strike it rich with during the Gold Rush! Seems fitting that we start our sipping here! Reminiscent of dirty gold, this cocktail is a classic and perfect for taking a step back in California history.

Gold Rush:
2 oz Bourbon
¾ oz Lemon Juice (fresh if possible)
¾ Honey Syrup (diluted honey with hot water: 2:1 honey to water)

Add all ingredients to shaker. Fill with ice and shake it baby! Strain into a chilled coupe glass or champagne saucer and garnish with a lemon twist.

Gold Rush

Gold Rush Mocktail:
2oz Lemon juice
2oz Honey syrup

Shake and strain into plastic coupe glass (kids and glass are no bueno!)

Gold Rush Mocktail

Very symbolic of California is the Golden Gate Bridge and the Gold Gate cocktail will clear away the fog as it brings back memories of sunny days.

Golden Gate
2 oz Irish Whiskey
3/4 oz Orange Curacao
¼ oz Orange cordial or syrup
Egg white
Dash Fernet Branca or any anise flavored liquor (Fernet is very popular in San Francisco, which is why I love to incorporate this particular brand).

Add Whiskey, Orange Curacao, Orange syrup and Fernet to shaker and shake with ice. Strain liquid in separate glass of shaker and dump ice. Add egg white to cocktail in shaker and dry shake, creating froth. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with grated orange zest.

Golden Gate Mocktail:
2 oz Cranberry Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1/4 Orange syrup or simple
Egg white
Kids probably won’t like anise flavor, so omit the seasoning or if you would like to try just use a dash of anise flavoring. I garnish with grated orange zest or even carrots. My kids eat the garnishes and love the bitter sweet of the carrots with the mocktail. Add the get their veggie, YAY!

Golden Gate

If you are in San Francisco, I suggest sipping some cocktails at Bourbon & Branch and it is kind of a must to visit the Buena Visita and have their famous Irish Coffee.

The next cocktail on my list, I actually discovered in Santa Monica, which is a perfect blend of California’s merged cultures in Los Angeles. There Will Be Blood mixes Mezcal and ginger! The scent of this drink is amazing!!

There Will Be Blood:
2oz Mezcal
¾ Lime Juice (fresh if possible)
¾ Ginger Syrup
Splash of Sangria (red) for color

Add all ingredients to shaker. Shake with ice. Pour over ice in highball glass. Garnish with candied ginger.

There Will Be Blood Mocktail:
2 oz of Cranberry juice
¾ Lime juice
¾ Ginger syrup

Prepared same way: Just shake and strain over ice and garnish with candied ginger. Think your kids won’t like ginger? Try it. You’ll be surprised what they like when it is presented in a fun way.

When visiting Los Angeles I suggest stopping in at Bungalow in Santa Monica and Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice!

There will be blood

California is very intertwined with Mexican culture, especially in cities like San Diego. Needless to say, the Margarita it huge in California and can be easily be found in any bar you stumble into. Since California is such a spicy mix of people and cultures, I think it’s we should kick up the heat with the Jalapeno Margarita! Also see Where to Drink in Old Town San Diego.

Jalapeno Margarita
2 oz Reposado Tequila
¾ Orange Curacao
¾ Lime Juice (fresh if possible)
½ oz Agave Syrup
2 Jalapeno Slices (more if you like a lot of spice)

If you like salt, rim the glass first. Muddle jalapenos, lime juice and agave syrup in shaker. Add Tequila and Orange Curacao to shaker and shake it hard with ice. Pour over ice into margarita glass. I like to garnish with lime twist and jalapeno slice, but you can use lime wedge too. I just don’t like people being tempted to squeeze extra lime into the already perfect cocktail.

Jalapeno Margarita Mocktail:
2 oz lime Juice
¾ oz Orange Juice
¾ oz Agave Syrup
1-2 Jalapeno Slice without seeds (optional)

Muddle the lime juice, agave syrup and jalapeno (if you are adding jalapeno) into shaker. Add the orange juice and ice, and then shake. Strain into plastic margarita glass and garish with lime twist or wedge. Most kids don’t like spice, so you can opt out of the jalapeno slice.

Jalapeno Margarita

Representing the sunsets on the beach and Southern California’s history of orange groves, the Californication is a fun twist on the Long Island Iced Tea.

½ oz Vodka
½ oz Gin
½ oz White Rum
½ oz Tequila Blanca
¾ Orange Curacao
¾ Lemon juice
Splash of Orange Juice

Shake all ingredients, except O.J. Strain over ice in highball. Splash O.J on top, giving it that sunset appearance. Garnish with orange and lemon twist.

Californication Mocktail:
2oz Orange juice
¾ Lemon Juice
¾ Simple Syrup

Shake all ingredients and strain over ice. Garnish with orange and lemon twist or wedges for kids.

California knows how to party, so kick up your heels, make some drinks and get down Cali-style. Cheers everyone!!


For more information on where to drink check out my Chug-A-Lug category as well as my suggestions on the best happy hours in Orange County at OC Happy Hour Examiner!