Given the abundance of herbs, spices, and produce grown in Wine Country, paired with a trend toward locally produced spirits, it's no wonder that creative cocktails are increasingly popular here. Bonus: with farm-to-bar cocktails taking center stage, you can enjoy a few and pretend you’re getting your daily serving of fruit and veggies, too.
Archetype, St. Helena
The new Archetype is led by the chefs of Michelin-stared Solbar in Calistoga, bringing oak-fired Cal cuisine in a crisp, white, cream and wood setting. Equally stellar are the farm-inspired quaffs, such as the tart, colorful Rhubarb Blush of Wodka vodka, tarragon, rhubarb syrup, and lime juice. In a thoughtful tribute to one of the Bay Area’s finest chefs recently passed away, Donna Scala, the Scala is a delicious, bright concoction of jalapeno infused Cimarron tequila, lemongrass syrup, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, and lime juice.
Alexander Valley Store and Bar: Tasting Room and Speakeasy, Healdsburg
You can get away with some crazy concoctions when your bar is a speakeasy hidden behind a tasting room in the middle of vineyards. That’s why this funky saloon of old, dark, wood and a black punched tin ceiling behind a Medlock Ames tasting room door creates stuff like homemade bacon bourbon, doctored with organic maple syrup, Angostura, and fresh orange for a sipper called Miss Piggy. The cocktail garden just outside is lovingly tended, as well, so bartenders can procure fresh-picked ingredients like licorice, cassis, and Buddha's hand citrus.
Goose & Gander, St. Helena
With mixologist master Scott Beattie as a business partner, it’s no surprise this boisterous, tucked-in-the-basement hotspot packs a powerful punch in the drinks department. Cocktails are stiff but balanced, and you can go modern with a Rosemary Pear Shrub of Distillery No. 209 gin, rosemary pear shrub syrup, lemon, ginger, and seltzer, or groove with an updated classic like a Bali Spice Old Fashioned of St. George Breaking & Entering Bourbon, clove, cinnamon, star anise, orange, and bitters. Taste buds, stand up and cheer.
The bar side of this hip, sleek eatery in h2hotel was so popular that management doubled the space, stretching the lounge party into the restaurant dining room and lobby. The draw is the artfully shaken and stirred beverages (emphasis on over-the-head shaking antics), highlighting homemade shrubs, fruit, and vegetable extractions and infusions, and uncommon herbs. One favorite: The Carbonated Corpse Reviver #2 of St. George Dry Rye gin, Cocchi Americano wine, Cointreau, lemon juice, and St. George Absinthe, all fizzed with a Perlini carbonator. For top cool factor, try to snag a seat at the open air main bar featuring slide away doors to the sidewalk.
Mateo’s Cocina Latina, Healdsburg
There’s a touch of the Yucatan in Wine County, at this tin-top bar glistening with flickering candles and backed by shelves of remarkably rare tequilas and mescals. Chef-owner Mateo Granados grows his own chiles for knock-your-socks-off seasonal drinks like the Front Porch yellow watermelon margarita with a hint of habanero shrub, garden lemon verbena, and fresh habanero. Or, take a tasty retro twist with the Manhattan Mexicana of Tres Agaves Añejo tequila, Noilly Prat Vermouth, and chocolate bitters.
Underwood Bar & Bistro, Graton
The tiny, picturesque burg of Graton may not be where you expect to find a sexy, speakeasy-style bar, but chef-owner Matthew Greenbaum doesn’t have use for same-old, expected things. Rich red leather furniture, yellow walls and black trim speak of older times, and the parlor mood continues with cleverly updated recipes like the Ginger Hot Toddy of Kraken black spiced rum, Canton ginger liqueur, clove spiked lemon, and honey, or the Elderflower Gin Rickey marrying Magellan gin, St. Germain liqueur, fresh lemon, and a splash of Prosecco.