As we head into late summer, there's no better time to beat the heat with some refreshing beverages. Local bars and restaurants have some new and popular libations to get your mind off the 100-plus-degree days.
Tiki-Ko/The Sinking Ship
The downtown tiki spot and its sister bar have already made names for themselves offering fresh takes on tiki drinks, which evoke summer getaways to the beach or at least a poolside lounge chair. But their entry into the summer sips series is a bit more adventurous courtesy of its Explorers Club.
"We do the Tuesday Explorers Club and I've been making a lot of drinks that aren't very sweet, ones that are stronger or a little more of an acquired taste," said Belisario "Benny" Dena of the experimental mixology.
Dena and fellow bartender Christian Dominique have helmed the weekly club since it started in April, offering a one-night-only cocktail that is a special treat for regulars and newcomers alike.
In developing drinks for the club, Dena struck upon the idea for the Pohaku Pele, which roughly translates to lava rock in Hawaiian. A variation on a lava flow — which features coconut cream, pineapple and strawberry — the new cocktail is a blend of pineapple, lemon and orange juices along with strawberry and coconut purees and Don Q Cristal rum, served in a glass rimmed with Pop Rocks.
"I wanted to make something that’s a little more fun, to bring out the kid in you, that's on the sweet end of things."
The blast from the past comes from a rim of blue raspberry Pop Rocks, which pop on the tongue when ingested.
Dena originally pitched the drink for the Explorers Club but bar co-owner Roy Scarazzo said it deserved a longer run at the bar.
"He said, 'No, this is a crowd-pleaser. Let's use this for the month."
Developing drinks for the Tuesday night club has made Dena a better bartender, he said, since it has challenged him to come up with recipes that are out of the ordinary, with new syrups, infused alcohol and unique spirits.
Along with trying the Pohaku Pele this month, he encourages people to come out on Tuesdays to check out what new ideas they're mixing up.
"If they've never been, they need to come check it out. This is the best bar in Bakersfield, the best bar in California, in my opinion. But it blows my mind how many people come in and say they've never been here."
Tiki-Ko is located at 1919 K St. The Sinking Ship is located at 1927 K St.
Camino Real Kitchen & Tequila/Bakersfield Pizza Co. & Bar
Sometimes success comes down to who you know. In Alejandro Ocampo's case, it's about the connections between his businesses, which allow products from one to enhance the others.
His Double O Creamery, which expanded from The Paleta Co. to focus on sorbets and vegan ice creams, is making cool enhancements for cocktails at two of his restaurants: Camino Real Kitchen & Tequila and Bakersfield Pizza Co. & Bar.
Camino is offering a summer cocktail flight, pairing two drinks with complementary sorbets.
The first cocktail is the Fruta Fresca, which is inspired by the roadside vendors that serve a mix of fruit with chamoy and Tajin.
"It recreates the same flavors in the Mexican fruit cup but adds alcohol," Ocampo said.
He said he got the idea after taking his wife out to get fruit and looking at the remains in the cup with all the fruit juices mixed together.
The libation, with flavors of watermelon, cucumber, chile and lime, is enhanced by a matching Fruta Fresca sorbet, which Ocampo described as more of an Italian ice with flavors of mango, pineapple, peach and watermelon.
Served alongside the Fruta Fresca combo is a pineapple tamarind margarita that is accompanied by pineapple sorbet.
Over at Bakersfield Pizza Co., which is known for its craft cocktails, the summer menu will include an Old Fashioned flight.
Along with a classic Old Fashioned, the flight will include a variation with peach and one made with vanilla beans.
The three drinks will be served with an Old Fashioned sorbet mimicking the flavors with orange zest, Luxardo cherry syrup, sugar water and a bit of bourbon.
Ocampo said the sorbet will debut with the flight but will later be sold by the pint at the restaurant.
In the summertime, both restaurants offer drinks that keep customers cool, the owner said.
"When it's really hot, they do need something refreshing."
And as Paleta Co. and Double O Creamery grow in their offerings, innovation and pairings will continue.
Camino Real is located at 4501 Stine Road, Suite 304. Bakersfield Pizza Co. is located at 4105 Ming Ave.
Chef's Choice Noodle Bar
When the popular Asian fusion restaurant moved from downtown out to The Marketplace, it made a few changes to the menu.
That included the addition of what has become its most popular cocktail: the Strawberry Lemon Drop. The drink is made with Hangar 1 vodka, lemon juice, triple sec, simple syrup and a house-made strawberry puree.
"The fresh puree gives it a tart finish," bartender Noah Maples said.
Assistant manager David Delgado said that the popular drink has also inspired a secret menu version, the raspberry lemon drop that adds Chambord for that alternative berry flavor.
Those who want a refreshing, crafted drink without the alcohol can enjoy one of the restaurant's three mocktails.
The Violet Elixir is a citrus-packed drink with pineapple, lime and orange juices along with almond syrup that has a float with blue butterfly pea flower powder. The contrast of the yellow base and vibrant violet-topped drink is a conversation starter.
"The presentation is beautiful," Delgado said.
In addition to the other mocktails, Ruby Refresher and Ginger Fizz, Delgado said customers enjoy the red and white sangrias in which Maples specializes. He also noted that all the bartenders are familiar with one another's specialty drinks so you'll never be left in the lurch when ordering.
Delgado said happy hour, which is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, is a good time to come in to enjoy discounted drinks with a local spin. The Tito's bloody mary base is made by local business Mr. Clamato, and Ebra Gin, distilled by Bakersfield native Caitlyn Krug, is available with your choice of mixer.
Chef's Choice is located at 9000 Ming Ave. Suite J-2.
Sandrini's Public House
Like some of its peers, Sandrini's knows how great the pairing of fruit and alcohol can be. One of the most popular drinks this summer is its take on the Paloma, whose star ingredient is pineapple-infused Teremana Blanco tequila.
Bartender Don Le said the infused tequila, made in house weekly, is popular not only in cocktails but as a shot.
"It is dangerously smooth. ... The infusion really rounds out any rough spots," he said.
He said they even made a fan out of Dolores Huerta, who enjoyed the spirit over ice when the civil rights activist stopped in one day.
"Some customers say that's all they drink through the night," he said, noting that the tequila is also popular with newcomers to the bar.
Along with the tequila, the Paloma features fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and a splash of ginger ale, which stands in for the common ingredient Topo Chico.
Another popular cocktail is the new Ruby Rickey, the downtown spot's riff on the gin-based highball.
Recipe development had the bartenders swapping in fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice for the classic lime and Luxardo cherry syrup in place of maraschino.
"It's a nice refreshing drink," Le said. "The Luxardo adds a lot more complexity, and the grapefruit juice is more subtle than the tartness of the lime."
The drink also features Spring44 Old Tom Gin and a spritz of soda water.
For those who want to imbibe for a good cause, $2 from the sale of every Ruby Rickey will go to benefit the Bakersfield Homeless Center, which recently merged with the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault to become The Open Door Network.
Le joked that they want Sandrini's to feel like your second living room where "you don't have to clean up after yourself."
He said that post-quarantine, more people are excited to have a night out with friends — especially somewhere that you're not paying the AC bill.
"Booze is cheaper than gas. It may not get you where you're going but it will get you there. But drink responsibly."
Sandrini's is located at 1918 Eye St.