Set your sights on a refreshing summer cocktail near the water.
By Tanya A. Yacina
There are few better ways to relish a hot summer day or balmy evening than with a perfectly crafted cocktail. Newport Beach has no shortage of places for breathtaking views, coupled with a refreshing drink and summer breeze. The only thing left to do is enjoy yourself.
Here are some of the best spots in town to cool off, soak up the sun and watch the world go by with a cocktail in hand this summer.
Newport Beach’s first rooftop bar, Topside invites guests to enjoy this elevated, coastal retreat and indulge in a playful setting surrounded by nautical flair and Cape Cod-style architecture at Lido House hotel. Guests experience communal seating around fire pits that overlook a saltwater pool fringed by lawn chairs and three private cabanas. Topside also features an ocean-facing reserved space in the iconic turret reminiscent of a lighthouse.
“With unique, 360-[degree] views of the peninsula, cozy fire pits and welcoming spaces, Topside exudes the adored California atmosphere day or night,” says Riley Huddleston, executive chef partner at Lido House. “Topside possesses 3,000 square feet of relaxed and sophisticated space that offers scenic and unforgettable views.”
Lido House is one of the first hotels in the country to blend and bottle its own Champagne in partnership with a major Champagne house, Piper-Heidsieck, and Topside guests are some of the only people in the world to experience this unique blend. Guests can also enjoy Champagne pairings with popular menu items, including oysters, fried chicken and mini caviar pizza.
Topside’s most popular cocktail is the Topside Margarita, which packs a punch with a blend of Don Julio Blanco tequila, Hellfire, Grand Marnier and fresh juice. The refreshing libation is garnished with a seasonal fruit ice pop and a spiced rim. (949-524-8500; lidohousehotel.com)
During the day, The Beachcomber is surrounded by beachgoers and hikers exploring Crystal Cove State Park with its historic cottages and marine life. At night, a slower, unhurried pace ensues and guests sip cocktails while watching sunsets at horizon level.
“Being in the cove transforms you to being on vacation in paradise even though we are just steps off of PCH in Orange County,” says Chris Seevers, The Beachcomber’s general manager.
The cafe provides monogrammed “Stolen from the Beachcomber” blankets and portable fire pits are available to rent for use on the beach. Guests enjoy creative cocktails including the Big Bad Bloody Mary or the Tonga Lei and, in the summer months, the express tent is open for guests to purchase food and drinks directly on the beach.
Seever says the restaurant raises the martini flag every night at 5 p.m. and at sunset, and guests salute and cheer with their cocktails in hand. Built right on the sand, The Beachcomber embodies the natural ambience of the surrounding coves and ocean, and is a great setting to enjoy fresh food and handcrafted cocktails with friends and family.
A signature cocktail of the beach cafe is the Big Bad Bloody Mary. The concoction includes bloody Mary mix and Tito’s vodka, and is topped with a giant crab claw, jumbo shrimp and fresh vegetables. (949-376-6900; thebeachcombercafe.com)
Established in 1965, Woody’s Wharf occupies a unique waterfront location that was once used to store and repair local fishermen’s boats. Originally, a small watering hole was established where the fisherman could gather to tell their fishing tales, and quickly drew crowds seeking dockside food and libations.
“Guests enjoy the view of the Newport harbor, boats, yachts and paddleboarders enjoying the water,” says co-owner Ralph Nudo. “During the weekdays, Woody’s is quiet and tranquil with a nice feel. It gets a little busier on the weekends.”
A place where you can always find a friendly face, the bar offers happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests can also enjoy karaoke on Tuesday evenings, as well as live dinner music Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A DJ also performs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“Our docks and nightlife set us apart from most restaurants in Newport Beach,” says bartender Walt Richards. He recommends Woody’s Whiskey Smash, which combines Angels Envy bourbon, muddled lemon, mint and fresh citrus. (949-675-0474; woodyswharf.com)
A&O Kitchen & Bar
At Balboa Bay Resort, A&O Kitchen & Bar offers guests beautiful views, warm breezes and live music on summer afternoons, while evenings offer stunning sunsets and the opportunity to get cozy next to the fire pits.
“The waterfront views and cocktail menu are what keep people coming back, but guests also really enjoy our laid-back atmosphere,” says mixologist Travis Johnson. “A&O is a place where people can feel comfortable on a first date, an anniversary or enjoying a meal with their families.”
Three fire pits with lounge seating are on the patios, as well as blankets and heaters for chillier evenings. The easygoing atmosphere of A&O encourages relaxation and offers a way spend a leisurely afternoon or evening soaking in the sunshine and views.
During A&O’s social hour, available from 4-6 p.m. weekdays and noon to 3 p.m. weekends, guests can purchase draft beers, house wines, select cocktails and small bites at special prices. Johnson says the Rose All Day cocktail is the establishment’s most popular, combining rose with rose vodka, lemon and grapefruit juice, but he also loves making a whiskey cocktail to showcase A&O’s signature barrels.
“We’re fortunate to feature custom barrels from Woodford Reserve and Hudson Whiskey and, later this year, we’ll be including our latest blends from Knob Creek and Maker’s Mark,” Johnson says. “If a guest is visiting from out of town, I always like to offer them one of these selections, as it’s an experience that is truly unique to A&O.” (949-645-5000; balboabayresort.com)
Nobu Newport Beach
A culinary adventure and waterfront views await guests at Nobu Newport Beach within the animated ambiance of Lido Marina Village. General Manager John Greer says that this particular Nobu location personifies the Newport lifestyle.
“I feel that the numerous options of dining we provide are what appeals most to our guests,” Greer says. “You can indulge in the full Nobu dining experience in our second-floor restaurant or become immersed in the Newport Beach social scene that envelops our first-floor bar and lounge on the weekends. Our covered patio seating [areas] on both floors are consistently requested by guests.”
Diners overlook the marina from the second-floor deck while the first-floor, marina-level deck offers partial views of the Lido Marina Village promenade. On cooler evenings, Nobu provides blankets upon request, overhead heaters and automated, transparent awnings that don’t obscure the view.
“Nobu has always been about the energy,” Greer says. “The food, service, music and setting combine to create something that you can really only experience here. During the … daylight hours, you have a very relaxed vibe, but at night, it definitely kicks up a bit.”
Nobu hosts “tanoshi hour,” Japanese for happy hour, every day including weekends, from 5-6 p.m. in the bar and lounge. Cocktails made with Japanese whisky, vodka or tequila are offered, plus sake, wine and beer. A crowd favorite, the Blood Orange Old-Fashioned, is mixed with Iwai whisky by Mars Shinsu distillery, bitters, Demerara (instead of cane sugar), and a muddled slice of blood orange and Luxardo cherry. (949-429-4440; noburestaurants.com)