Known for its Pinot Noirs, Alsace-style varietals, and plenty of great beer, Mendocino County is also home to some lively spirits making the rounds in bars and saloons around the county. Take a turn with us as we visit our favorite watering holes and discover some of the secrets behind building a great adult beverage.
Fog Eater Cafe
Fog Eater: that’s Boontling speak for the coast dwellers! Here, in the heart of Mendocino village, Southern twang marries vegetables of all shapes and sizes to create menus that please both the palate and the planet. The lack of a liquor license presents no bar to the creative twist given to the signature cocktail menu. In the style of Gone with the Wind, the Frankly, Scarlett weds amaro–that pleasingly aged nutty vermouth–with sparkling wine, strawberries and herbs… kind of like the marriage of Rhett and Scarlett! Challenge the bartender and order up That Dog Won’t Hunt… a prize to whoever guesses the ingredients!
Noyo Harbor Inn
This Craftsman-styled inn has a magnificent location juxtaposed above bustling Noyo Harbor and the calming reaches of the Noyo River. From your seat on the deck, watch seals and sea lions vie for basking space on the docks and spy kayakers paddling up-river in search of birds and wildlife. Watch the sun go down with an appropriately named Noyo Sunset in hand, or come for brunch and indulge in a Sunday Best. The talented mixologists are happy to tend to your every whim… check out their Honorable Phryne Fisher cocktail!
The Golden Pig
These days Hopland is just hopping with activity. Wine tasting rooms abound, there’s olive oil to be found, and at the Golden Pig you’ll discover a world of deliciousness sourced from local farmers, ranchers, gardeners, brewers and winemakers. Little do you know but you’ve arrived at the Mendocino County HQ of Shrub Mixology! Shrubs are concentrated syrups that combine vinegar, sugar and fruit to create mouth-zinging cocktails that refresh and revive. Just for fun, try this one at home:
Mendocino Plum & Blackberry Shrub
1500g – Plums, chopped
420g – Blackberry, muddled
1000g – Apple Cider Vinegar
1000g – Red Wine Vinegar
1500g – Sugar
Add fruit and sugar into container and mix. Next, add the vinegar(s). Let sit in refrigerator for 7 days. Fine strain liquid into bottles.
Made in tall collins glass
1 oz – Shrub Mix
1 oz – Lemon Juice, fresh squeezed
Pour ingredients over ice. Top with soda water, about 4 oz, and garnish with lemon wheel
There are Bloody Marys and then there are the Bloody Marys made at Dick’s Place on Mendocino’s Main Street. Saunter into this locals bar–where tourists are tolerated–and take a front seat to learn how Alex, the master bartender, builds the best Bloody Mary on the planet. Your choice of vodka, tomato juice, and all the fixings make it all seem easy but somehow Alex puts a twist on this brunch staple that just leaves you wanting a second. This is a must-do in Mendocino!
With ocean views for miles, the bar at the Ledford House is the sophisticated way to end a day, whether it’s work or play! Behind the bar, Ayana has been pleasing patrons for more than a decade swishing together masterful Martinis and curiously strong Cosmopolitans. Each week there’s a cocktail special, often involving sparkling wine, like a riff on a French 75. The restaurant’s leisurely pace, southern French meets California cuisine, and smooth jazz combine for a winning recipe!
Head to downtown Ukiah, take a seat at one of Patrona’s outdoor tables on S. School Street and order up the eponymous Ukiah Girl, a simple but satisfyingly cool concoction of vodka, pomegranate and lime. Patrona patrons are known for their friendly outlook on life and will take the time to welcome you. Check the board inside for the weekly special cocktail, order up some calamari and you’re all set!
Tucked away on Clay Street in Ukiah, is the tasting room for the spirits of the county and beyond. Here you can taste the distilled wisdom of craftspeople who have honed the art and techniques that go into creating a barrel of something mighty fine! Of particular note are the products of Tamar Distillery, the dynamic team of Crispin Cain and Tamar Kaye, who have created American Craft Whiskey, Russell Henry Gin, absinthe that hearkens to the days of Toulouse Lautrec, and a delightfully fragrant rose liqueur. Stop in at the tasting room and browse the adjacent Museum of Encountered Objects while sipping.
Sign of the Whale
Stroll down Point Arena’s Main Street and turn into the Sign of the Whale. The unassuming entry belies the lively bar presided over by the one and only Hoolis C. Nation, star of screen and celluloid (yes, really!). Here, craft cocktails are taken to the next level. Mr. Nation is known for his masterful mixology skills, which he’s practiced for over 20 years. We hear tell his Manhattans are a few notches above par.
Little River Inn
This legend on the coast… in the same spot for almost 80 years…is home to Ole’s Whale Watch Bar named for Ole Hervilla, the founder of the inn. Visitors and locals alike find good company and great views from the ocean-view bar stools. Snag a seat and settle in for the evening’s show starring the sun sinking into the ocean, an occasional sighting on the Great Whale Highway, and the constant rattle of ice in cocktail shakers from Melissa making a mean Manhattan and Caitlin pouring Caipirinhas like a champ. Cheers!
Golden West Saloon
It’s hard to miss this watering hole in Fort Bragg as its west side is adorned with a large mural depicting an old-fashioned Fort Bragg postcard! Inside the historical building, things haven’t changed a whole lot in over a century. Stop by on a Sunday to sample the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar or tuck in on a Taco Tuesday when the bartenders make a mash of Margaritas to suit their mood! Play shuffleboard or pool or just people watch in this blast from the past.