Text by With a Net
Images by Ryan Forbes
Taking his cues from Southern California’s temperate fall and winter season, master mixologist and Hotel Casa del Mar Food and Beverage Director Diego Ruiz de Porras shares his favorite cocktails to liven up dinner parties and the holidays. These deliciously balanced cocktails, much like the fall and winter weather at Santa Monica Beach, are a tad lighter than those that harken thoughts of the East Coast and donning down-filled puffer coats. Instead, consider these to be more like perfect-weight cashmere—silken botanical libations with tasty twists for that endless summer state of mind.
In his Better Gin & Tonic, Ruiz de Porras takes gin back to its roots with the addition of peppery juniper berries. A sprig of burned rosemary infuses that herbaceous and perfumed fall-favorite touch, and 1724 tonic is served on the side, to be added to taste. This refreshing Spanish-origin tonic has sweet and bitter middle notes and a crisp finish that allows the gin to shine.
Pachinko is a beautifully hued beverage built on the base of silky Suntory Toki. Simply combine this subtly sweet and spicy whisky with award-winning Heering cherry liqueur, rose liqueur, and fresh lime juice. The rich and robust natural cherry liqueur adds depth and vibrance, further buoyed by the floral notes of rose and the citrusy zing of the lime. The result is an irresistibly lush marvel served in a martini glass, almost too pretty to drink (rose petal garnish for the win). Almost.
For spirited mezcal aficionados, the Ultima Palabra is a contemporary take on the classic Prohibition-era cocktail The Last Word. In his version, Ruiz de Porras swaps the gin for mezcal, which ups the drink’s spiciness. The mezcal engages with Green Chartreuse, Luxardo, and lime juice for a vibrant potion to stave off fall or winter malaise.
Gin gets the boot again for Ruiz de Porras’ Hickory Negroni. Instead, he opts for Ilegal Mezcal, known for its “mouthful of agave and hint of smoke.” This balanced mezcal is complemented by the rich, dark notes of licorice, herbs, figs, cocoa, and cinnamon in the Carpano Antica and the distinctive bitterness of the Campari. Throw in a dash of chocolate bitters and serve over ice to let the parade of festive flavors slowly unfold.
“Crafting cocktails is an art form for those who really study the nuances of each ingredient. Refining each recipe, choosing the glass, topping it with the perfect garnish … a drink’s first impression is made with your eyes,” explains Ruiz de Porras. “The most rewarding moment for me is when I witness my guests’ satisfaction with their first sip, you can see it on their faces. If I’ve done it correctly, I’ll be seeing them again and again.”
THE BETTER GIN TONIC
Vessel: Wine glass
2 oz St. George Gin
1724 tonic on the side
Pour gin and tonic over ice, rosemary, and juniper berries.
Garnish with dried lime wheel.
THE PERFECT PEAR
Vessel: Martini glass
2 oz Grey Goose pear vodka
1 oz pear puree
1/2 oz agave syrup
Combine liquid ingredients over ice in a martini shake.
Shake, strain, and garnish.