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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

TAPS Fish House & Brewery Ups Its Cocktail Game

We attended as a guest of the venue

Wine Tasting at Taps

Since its opening last June, I have had TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Irvine on my list of restaurants to try. I am a seafood lover and the pictures I see posted of their oysters on the half shell beckon me. Several of my foodie friends who are fans of TAPS have said, “You must go!”. It’s taken me awhile, but finally I found myself with an invitation to a tasting, tough it wasn’t for the oysters. It was for a preview of several new thoughtfully crafted cocktails created by TAPS Wine & Spirits Manager, Andrew Aoun and his crack team.

As one of Orange County’s oldest craft breweries, TAPS is well-known for their award-winning beers as well as great seafood and steaks, not to mention their solid selection of wines. With the restaurant scene in Orange County heating up like never before, TAPS founder, Joe Manzella has recognized that staying at the forefront of food and beverage trends is critical to keeping his customers happy. To this end, he and his team frequently travel and taste to stay inspired and at the top of their culinary game.

Pine-y the Elder at Taps Fish House

And what inspired cocktails did we sample? We started with their Pine-y the Elder. A walk in a pine forest on a sunny day… this refreshing concoction has London Dry Gin, fresh lemon juice, TAPS house IPA, Lazzaroni Amaro, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, house made simple syrup and is garnished with lemon zest and a baby pine cone.

Hamachi Crudo at Taps Fish House

When sampling cocktails, a few appetizers are a good idea and fortunately we were invited to try several, starting with Hamachi Crudo with shiso leaf, yuzu, beet juice and fried onion garnish. While not currently on the menu this fantastic starter will be on their Valentines Day and OC Restaurant Week menus. My mouth still waters thinking about this dish.

copper pineapples filled with Absolut Elux Vodka, Corruba Coconut Rum, passion fruit, fresh lime juice, allspice rum liqueur, floral bitters and orgeat

Meanwhile, we were taken from the forest to the tropics when stunning copper pineapples filled with Absolut Elux Vodka, Corruba Coconut Rum, passion fruit, fresh lime juice, allspice rum liqueur, floral bitters and orgeat began appearing at our table. Each Pineapple Under the Sea was colorfully garnished with, among other things, an umbrella. Nothing says, “I’m in Hawaii on vacation!” like an umbrella in my drink!

grilled bread and goat cheese spread topped with a salad of marinated beets, chicory and ground pistachios

Lately “artisanal toast” with simple spreads are popping up on menus more and more. And this version starting with grilled bread and goat cheese spread topped with a salad of marinated beets, chicory and ground pistachios, was next up. To me it’s like an open-faced salad sandwich. Normally I don’t get all that excited about sandwiches because I try to limit my bread, and although I intended to try only a bite or two, I couldn’t stop… I ate the whole thing.

And with that we were primed for the next cocktail. What would appear next? Well, this one was a show stopper. Anyone who has watched Top Chef is familiar with molecular gastronomy and this trend is not limited to just food. Bartenders looking to push the envelope have embraced some of these techniques as well. Just one example is the use of liquid nitrogen to create slushy cocktails. Liquid nitrogen is so cold it will freeze skin and tissue in seconds, but in the hands of a properly trained bartender or chef, it can create bar side entertainment resulting in delicious frozen cocktails and treats.

Coconut Rum Cocktail

In this case, our highly skilled Wine and Spirits Manager, Andrew, Put the Lime in the Coconut along with a little Corruba Coconut Rum, Cocoa Rum, spiced citrusy syrup, orgeat syrup, heavy cream, lime juice and of course some liquid nitrogen to create a very cold, tongue tingling tropical drink served up in a coconut shell with a spoon! Dessert or cocktail? I’m not sure. Maybe both!

rib eye carpaccio at Taps Fish House

While we were captivated with the nitro dramatics going on, rib eye carpaccio with baby arugula, Meyer lemon chimichurri, capers, pickled red onions, egg confetti, and croutons appeared at our table in a cloudy glass dome. When the dome was lifted little clouds of pecan smoke flowed out. Ahhh, the aroma. Was I in the tropics or was it a crisp fall day? That smoky twist was subtle and wonderful by the way.

Champagne Papi at Taps Fish House

And you know what went well with the carpaccio? The next cocktail, the Champagne Papi with Paso Noble Blanco Tequila, Luxardo Marachino Liqueur, fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and muddled tarragon served in a copper julep cup. This was intriguing and one of the more subtle tequila cocktails I’ve had.

Bye Felicia at Taps Fish House

As a whiskey fan however, my favorite cocktail was the Bye Felicia. This George Dickel Rye based drink served over crushed ice with crème de cassis, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, and Thai basil gets its berry color from opal basil and the crème de cassis.

mussels and clams

Our last appetizer was the mussels and clams in garlic, shallots, parsley, pepper flake, wine and butter broth with a French baguette to soak up all of that brothy deliciousness. A nicely done classic.

The Manhattan at Taps

And to cap it all off, another classic, with a twist. This Manhattan starts with George Dickel Rye and Angostura and orange bitters and a large ice cube. and then takes a luxurious trip to the Far East with smoked Chinese black tea syrup, Barkeep Chinese bitters with notes of fennel, star anise, black pepper, cinnamon, clove and vanilla. Oh and the flower garnish is edible!

So, my friends, my friends were right… go!

TAPS Fish House & Brewery is located at 13390 Jamboree Rd, Irvine, CA.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery Irvine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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