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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Welcome to the bar lull, the time when thirsty, hard-working citizens’ insidious New Year’s resolutions interfere with my ability to ply them with high-quality wares.

Is your humble bar correspondent succumbing to such self-deception? No, no false resolutions for me. Instead, I am using the New Year to explore some new-to-me places—perhaps making a questionable decision or two along the way.

My first stop of the evening was an early dinner at Rooster and the Pig (356 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs). I would be lying if I said that I was going there for cocktails and not for the food, and this brings up an important issue: There are great restaurants all over the country without a full liquor license. I imagine that for every over-ambitious restaurant popping up with a confused menu and an unnecessarily overwrought craft-cocktail program, there are 10 places without a full liquor license making focused and passionate cuisine—and it is always interesting to see what bartenders can do with wine, sake, lillet, etc., when forced to compromise.

Bartender Trish mixed me a Green Lantern—a tasty mix of cilantro, cucumber, lime and what chef/owner Tai referred to as “gin-ish,” a 20-proof non-distilled gin. Boozy? Well, no, but it was oh-so refreshing. It went down smooth, like an agua fresca or a green smoothie, hold the kale. The freshness complemented the flavors of plate after plate of Vietnamese-American cuisine and accompanying sriracha. This seems like it could also be a great non-alcoholic drink—perhaps for you “resolution” people. If you are looking for boozy, they clued me in about some exciting plans for the near future, so stay tuned.

Belly full, I went to meet some friends at the Dråughtsman (1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive). I was anxiously waiting for this place to open—like everyone else, it seems. Unlike everyone else, it seems, I waited to check it out. (I hate waiting for bar seats, as you might know.) Despite my gluttony at Rooster and the Pig, Paul and Robbie behind the bar convinced me to try some “off the menu” pretzel bites with ale-cheese sauce—who could say no to that? Thinking I required Irish whiskey, because I often require Irish whiskey, I ordered the Delorean. This is a mixture of Powers whiskey, lemon, house Irish cream, Guinness syrup and sarsaparilla bitters. It came out with spices grated on top—looking quite like a dessert cocktail or eggnog. The looks were deceiving, however, because the flavor was bright, with citrus as the main note, whiskey coming through, and the cream just adding a little mouth-feel. It drinks like a whiskey sour with an Irish-American twist.

Knowing this was a Chad Austin menu (best known as the drink engineer of Bootlegger Tiki), I went for a rum drink next. The Tubular Dude is Banks 7 rum, Cynar 70, pineapple gomme syrup and tiki bitters served over a large ice cube. It’s part tiki old-fashioned, part stripped-down Jungle Bird—a 1970’s tiki classic from the Aviary Bar in Kuala Lumpur that features Campari and pineapple, also one of my favorites. If you are looking for a sweet and sour tiki drink, look elsewhere; this one is for an amaro fan, a Negroni lover. Don’t fret if you don’t like bitter; it looks like they have options on the menu for all kinds of palates, and a really nice back bar to boot!

I finished the evening at a nearby dive bar, not to be named by (possibly tongue-in-cheek) request. Some kind soul with a Prince Valiant haircut bought the bar a round, in between muttering to himself and watching TV. Two 21-year-olds celebrated their new legal tippling with Flaming Dr. Peppers and Incredible Hulks (Hennessy and Hpnotiq … yeah, I started my bartending career in a nightclub) amongst other drinks with which I am not so familiar.

Here’s a poorly kept secret: Craft bartenders don’t always drink craft. When I see a round of sugary, hangover-inducing booze-bombs appear and think about the year gone by, I often say: “To hell with it; give me one of those!” I ask the bartender what’s in it, he says: “Alcohol!” Fair enough!

I put a ’90s hip-hop song on the jukebox. One of the guys says, “You like this music? You must be my mom’s age!”

Cut to the next day. My head was in a proverbial vice, and I walked the rainy streets of Palm Springs in search of a remedy. I pulled up a table for one at Farm (6 La Plaza), where the rain, chansons d’amour and rustic ambience transported me away from downtown Palm Springs and last night’s follies. I ordered a Bloody Mary—advertised on the menu as the best in town, with jalapeño-infused vodka, house-made hot sauce and bacon.

An aside about the Bloody Mary: Nearly every time I order one, I wish I’d ordered something else. At best, I like the first one and order a second, and I generally regret the second one. Why? Well, most of them are horrid. The mix has sat too long, congealing the horseradish and tomato into an astringent gel, with the vodka drawing those offensive flavors out and delivering them straight to the palate. The tabasco sauce turns the whole thing to a vinegary mess, garnished with a pale stick of what was at one point celery, limply hanging over the side of the glass. I made my living for a period hawking Bloody Marys to hungover tourists, so I am a tough critic. Still, it is one of the most popular cocktails around, so I would be remiss to ignore it.

After all that, I must say … this was a darned tasty Bloody Mary! The jalapeño was subtle; the tomato juice was thin, not pasty. The horseradish, if there (the server wasn’t sure, but I thought I tasted a tiny bit), wasn’t overbearing, and the hot sauce wasn’t just vinegar. The drink tasted super fresh and light, rare for the species. Only complaint: Bacon should stay dry and never go into the drink. Nobody wants soggy bacon.

So … is it the best in town? Let’s go find out!

Just kidding … I know better than to push my luck. Instead, I am going to make myself my a Oaxacan Brunch, a great way to get rid of that leftover sage (and hangover) from the holidays.

• 2 ounces of mezcal

• 1 ounce of lime juice

• 1 ounce of simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water)

• 1 egg white

• Fresh sage

Muddle several leaves of sage into the simple syrup in the small tin of a metal shaker (the back of a spoon works nicely), and add the rest of the ingredients. Shake without ice, and then with ice. Pour on the rocks, and garnish with a sage leaf. Enjoy with an omelet … and Happy (Belated) New Year!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s/Mr. Lyons and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

BEVMO! Opens in Downtown Palm Springs—but I'm Still Going to Total Wine for the Better Prices

Fans of booze and spirits who reside in the western portion of the Coachella Valley got good news in November, when BevMo! opened at 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, in part of the building that formerly housed The Alley.

This is the second valley location for BevMo! The other is located at 79715 Highway 111, in La Quinta.

I reside in Palm Springs, within walking distance of the new BevMo!, and I was looking forward to no longer having to drive to the Total Wine and More at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert when I needed to stock my personal bar.

Then I tried to get a bottle of my go-to bourbon at the Palm Springs BevMo!—and found it was about three bucks more expensive than it is at the lovely Palm Desert Total Wine.

Hmm. That made me wonder: Which of these two mega-booze chains have better prices? Might it still be financially prudent for those of us in Palm Springs and La Quinta (and beyond) to head to Total Wine?

I decided to do a little experiment. I checked the prices at each place of eight spirits and two wines that I happen to have at home: Maker’s Mark bourbon (750 milliliters); Evan Williams bourbon (750 ml); Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin (1.75 liters); Tanqueray gin (750 ml); Herradura reposado tequila (750 ml); Don Julio blanco tequila (750 ml); Fireball (don’t ask why I have it; 750 ml); Ketel One (750 ml); Bogle Vineyards merlot; and Toasted Head cabernet sauvignon.

The verdict? I’m still going to be making the drive to Palm Desert.

The tally (before taxes) for the nine items both BevMo! and Total Wine had—BevMo! does not stock the Toasted Head cabernet, according to the website—came to $179.39 at Total Wine, while it came to $204.91 at BevMo! That’s a substantial difference of $25.52, or more than 14 percent.

Total Wine’s prices are basically lower across the board: Eight of the nine items were between $1 and $5 cheaper at Total Wine. There was one tie: The Herradura reposado was $38.99 at both places.

Check the prices on your own favorite liquors at www.totalwine.com and www.bevmo.com.


Cello's Bistro Closed; Cello's Pantry, Catering Remain Open

Cello’s Bistro, a cute restaurant with yummy food at 35943 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, is no more.

The owners announced the news in an email on Nov. 8.

“After seven seasons, we have decided to close the restaurant,” the email said. “This was not an easy decision, but every year when we are off during the summer, we ask ourselves the same question: ‘Do we want to open the restaurant this season?’ Unfortunately, the answer this year was no. We want to thank all of our lovely and gracious guests who were so supportive to us over the years.”

The owners will now focus on Cello’s bustling catering business, as well as serving grab-and-go meals at Cello’s Pantry, at 70225 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Customers can get breakfast at Cello’s Pantry on the weekends, too.

For more information, call 760-328-4200, or visit www.cellospantry.com.


In Brief

Gelson’s Market, at 36101 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, is offering several free wine-tastings this coming weekend! Stop in between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, to try Catena malbec and Fat Bastard chardonnay, and/or Saturday, Dec. 3, between 2 and 5 p.m. for three different Donati wines. Again, tastings are free—and everyone who attends will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 gift card. Call 760-770-0010 for more information. … Mark your calendars: Draughtsman, the “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” from the team behind the Arrive hotel, will mark its for-real grand opening on Monday, Dec. 5. The venue is located at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; get more details draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The long-delayed and much-anticipated reopening of Bernie’s Lounge and Supper Club at 69830 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage is close enough that management held a job fair just before Thanksgiving. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening around Christmas. Ironically, it was on Christmas day in 2014 when a fire doomed Bernie’s at its old location at 292 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Watch for updates at www.facebook.com/Berniesfans. … More good news: Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria and Restaurant, at 12856 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs, finally reopened in November. Some folks (myself included) feared Rocky’s was gone for good after a “summer closure” drifted well into the fall—especially since the building that houses Rocky’s was at one point gutted. Peruse the menu at www.rockyspizzadhs.com. … Rubio’s, a chain known for its fish tacos and other “coastal” fare, will open another valley location on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 73399 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. … Coming soon to the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs: Blaze Pizza. The first valley location of the chain can be found in Palm Desert, just down from that new Rubio’s. … I was startled to see the building that houses beloved Palm Springs Italian restaurant Johnny Costa’s, at 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, listed for lease on a commercial real estate website. Turns out Johnny Costa’s is slated to move sometime in the new year to 333 S. Palm Canyon Drive, the same building the aforementioned new BevMo! calls home. … Village Pub, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, is celebrating its 21st birthday with a new menu. Find details at www.palmspringsvillagepub.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Everything Old Is New Again: Acqua California Bistro to Open at The River

When Acqua Pazza California Bistro closed at The River back in December 2014, owner Jerry Keller told the local daily that he was ending Acqua Pazza’s 10-year run because his lease was up, and he had decided it was time for him to slow down and focus on his other restaurant, the wildly successful Lulu California Bistro in downtown Palm Springs.

Keller has apparently decided it’s time to speed up again: Acqua Pazza is coming back … sort of.

Jerry and Barbara Keller, along with The River, announced on Sept. 12 that Acqua California Bistro will open in the old Acqua Pazza space—most recently occupied by the now-shuttered BB’s at The River—this winter.

“There’s not a day that goes by when we meet someone who misses our first restaurant at The River,” said Jerry Keller in a news release. “Our customers have asked us to come back to Rancho Mirage, and we will this winter with Acqua California Bistro.”

Whatever the owners of The River did to lure the Kellers back, it was shrewd. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, has been battered by negative buzz, due to various closures and empty storefronts.

“We are very excited to welcome Acqua California Bistro into our mix of retail shopping, dining and entertainment experiences, and of course, to welcome the Keller family back to Rancho Mirage,” said Ungar Kung, the principal at CL Asset Management, the owners’ representative of The River, in a could-only-be-said-in-a-press-release statement. “Acqua Pazza was an important destination restaurant during the first 15 years or so in The River’s history. I am confident that the Kellers will bring the same energy and excitement back to this location with their new Acqua California Bistro.”

Expect a December opening. Visit www.facebook.com/AcquaRanchoMirage for details and updates.


Taste of Palm Springs Returns to Colony 29 on Oct. 11

Every year, the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce puts on the 2016 Business Expo and Taste of Palm Springs. The good folks there will like you to know that the annual Business Expo—which takes place at the Colony 29, nestled against the mountain at 147 S. Tahquitz Drive, in Palm Springs—will feature more than 100 businesses showing off products and services from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11.

OK, well, that’s nice. But what about … you know, the Taste of Palm Springs part? Here’s the scoop: More than 30 area restaurants will offer bites of their fare, along with beer and wine—and there’s a cocktail bar there to boot.

Now we’re talking!

Admission to the event is technically free, but you’ll want to pay $25 for a wristband that allows you to enjoy the food, beer and wine. Also, a tip: Park at one of the downtown garages, and get to and from the festival at Colony 29 by catching one of the special Buzz trollies at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Cahuilla Road, or Palm Canyon Drive and Baristo Road.

Participating bars and restaurants are slated to include Appetito, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, Frankinbun, Lulu California Bistro, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, Ruby’s Diner, Sherman’s Delicatessen and Bakery, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace, TRIO, Woody’s Palm House and a whole bunch more!

Get those wristbands and more information by calling 760-325-1577, or visiting pschamber.org.


In Brief

Man, a lot of good stuff is coming to the 1000s section of North Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs—including Draughtsman, at what used to be a Pizza Hut at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The “renderer of fine foods and craft beer” should open within a month or two. Visit www.facebook.com/draughtsmanpalmsprings for photos, details and updates. … What’s going on at Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria, at 12856 Palm Drive, in Desert Hot Springs? The place often closes for the summer—but last we looked, not only is Rocky’s still closed; the inside has been gutted. When you call Rocky’s phone number, a message reassures callers that Rocky’s will reopen in the fall. Hmmm. Something either really bad or really good is happening; we’ll keep our eye on things. … Fans of donuts and good coffee, rejoice! Dunkin Donuts is supposed to open sometime in October at 42225 Jackson St., in Indio. … It’s been a rough couple of months for mid-valley chain restaurants. Both Richie’s Real American Diner, inside the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111, and Johnny Rockets, at 71885 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage, have closed their doors. … Keep your eyes on the space at 73330 El Paseo, in Palm Desert: Yard House Restaurants founder Steele Platt announced on Facebook that he is working on Grafton’s Steakhouse, slated to open in the summer of 2017. It’ll be a two-story restaurant with an island bar, a rooftop deck with mountain views, and all sorts of premium meats. We shall keep you posted. … Tickets are now on sale for the Palm Desert Food and Wine festival, slated for March 24-26, 2017. Head to palmdesertfoodandwine.com to get ’em; grand tasting tickets start at $100. 

Published in Restaurant & Food News