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Craft Cocktails in Napa Valley

Craft Cocktails in Napa Valley

 

When it comes to wine, it’s clear that Napa Valley excels. There are an estimated 400 wineries in Napa Valley today, and dozens of restaurants and wine bars that serve the wines they produce. But sometimes, especially after a long day of wine tasting or several days in the Valley, there’s nothing better than a cocktail. In recent years, Napa’s restaurants and lounges have caught on to the craft cocktail craze that’s been growing around the country, and several now offer great places to sip on something special. Here is our take on the best places to taste craft cocktails in Napa Valley.

Goose and Gander


The arrival of Goose and Gander in St. Helena brought one of the best options for those looking for something a little different in Napa. The wine list is long and well-curated, but the main focus is on the creative cocktails designed by bartenders Scott Beattie and Michael Jack Pazdon. The drinks are the perfect palate-refresher after a few too many days sipping big Napa Valley cabernets, and are made with ingredients like small-batch liquors, hand-cut ice cubes, and fragrant herbs. There are time-tested standbys like the Manhattan and Pimm’s Cup, plus some classics redefined, like the Bali Spice Old Fashioned made with St. George Breaking & Entering Bourbon, clove, cinnamon, star anise, orange, and bitters. If you can’t find your favorite on the multi-page drink menu, just tell your server what you like, and the bartenders will make you something special.

 

The upstairs is dark but inviting, with wood paneling and leather banquettes, and there’s a lively downstairs bar and relaxing garden space. The food on offer also has several different options to suit your mood and the menu changes according to what’s available fresh and locally. Bar snacks, appetizers, and salads range from $7-$15. Heartier entrees like seared halibut with oyster mushrooms and lemon beurre blanc, or the juicy G&G burger (which can be topped with bone marrow for extra decadence), range from $15-$26.

SolBar


At Calistoga’s trendy new Solage resort, the onsite restaurant, SolBar, has also earned accolades for its inventive cocktail menu. Try the Sex in the Valley with Charbay green tea vodka, thyme, mint, cucumber, and house-made lemonade, or the Récolte du Solage with #209 gin, house-made Meyer lemon cordial and vin d’orange, egg white, lemon-thyme bitters, and lavender dust. An eclectic, internationally inspired menu accompanies the drinks; most dishes on the lounge menu, such as crispy pork spring rolls or fish tacos, are under $15. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch are also served.

Redd & Redd Wood


Chef Richard Reddington’s two restaurants in Yountville, Asian-meets-Mediterranean Redd and its more casual small-plates-Italian cousin, Redd Wood, have wine lists that rival any in the area, but the cocktails aren’t to be missed. The menu changes often depending on the season and the bartenders’ whims, but you can expect creative concoctions that pair perfectly with the food, like the Stone Fruit Cooler made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Grand Marnier, peach, mint, and bitter lemon soda, or the Unusual Negroni, a new twist on an old favorite, made with Hendricks gin, aperol, dry vermouth, and a lemon twist.

Charbay


The cocktail and craft liquor scene even extends to area producers. Unlike the others on this list, Charbay isn’t a bar or restaurant, it’s a distillery. Producing tequila, rum, brandy, whiskey, wine, port, and several flavors of vodka, the St. Helena distillery welcomes guests for tours by appointment. Unfortunately, due to county laws, they can’t offer tastings of the hard alcohol, but visitors can enjoy the apertifs, wines, and ports crafted onsite and then buy a bottle to take home,  or head to a local bar, like SolBar, to sample the goods mixed into a cocktail. One grape grower has gone a step further, using grapes to produce what they are calling the world’s first Vintage Vodka. Napa Vodka uses only “100% premium single vintage, single estate Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc” grapes for their production; you can’t visit the distillery but you can find the vodka at SolBar, as well as other area restaurants like Farmstead or Morimoto.

 

Napa Valley may be best known for its wine production, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon, but now cocktail connoisseurs have a new reason to raise a glass in wine country. 

 

—By Katie Hammel
Katie Hammel is a freelance writer and the commissioning editor at Viator.com. Her writing has appeared on Gadling, BBC Travel, National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog, and BootsnAll. She tweets at @KatieHammel.

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