The OCeanfront Shakeoff Cocktail Contest

As you might have realized from all my cocktail-crazy Tweets, I spent last Thursday shuttling among six luxury resorts on the Orange County coast, sampling their signature cocktails and handing down judgments along with a panel of other foodies and journalists.

The contest is called the OCeanfront Shakeoff, and though we kicked it off last week, everyone can go into the six resorts that comprise the OCeanfront alliance—the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, Montage Laguna Beach, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, and the Surf and Sand Resort—to try out the specialty cocktails and vote for their favorite on The OCeanfront Blog, or on OCeanfront’s Facebook Page.

Better yet, guests can enjoy each resort’s submission for just $10 with a coupon they can download on the Facebook page. And when guests vote, they are entered to win a round of drinks for the winner and three friends at South Coast Plaza’s Marche Moderne or Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s.

Want to check out the drinks I got to try and all the different luxury properties we quaffed and caroused around? Take a look at the property information, cocktail recipes and photos below!

The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
21500 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 698-1234

The lounge at this sprawling resort at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Beach Boulevard is called Red Chair, and mixologist Robert Marquez shook up a fruit-filled concoction with plenty of sweet sass for the ladies called the OCeanfront Breeze.

Hyatt OCeanfront Breeze

1 Watermelon Cube
1 Pineapple Square
1 Orange Wedge
1 Lemon Wedge
1 Lime Wedge
5 Mint Leaves
1 oz. Agave Nectar
1 oz. 10 Cane Rum
¾ oz. St. Germain
¼ oz. Peach Schnapps
3 oz. Sparkling Wine
2 oz. Lemon Lime Soda
Mint & Blueberries, to garnish


1. In a mixing glass add watermelon, pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, mint leaves, agave nectar, 10 Cane Rum, St. Germain and Peach Schnapps.
2. Muddle the fruit gently.
3. Pour all ingredients into a Collins glass and top off with Sparkling Wine and Lemon Lime Soda.
4. Gently roll back into shaker and then back into glass.
5. Garnish with Mint Sprig and a few blueberries.

Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort
21100 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 845-8000

The cocktail we had here was called the Spicy Mary, and once you see the ingredients, which include a chili-infused vodka, you'll see why. It's basically mixologist Jessie Riley's twisted take on a Bloody Mary. Oh, and there's a strip of bacon as garnish. Meaty.

We were also treated to some lovely little nibbles including a lamb meatball with lime cilantro sauce, a piquillo pepper stuffed with Point Reyes goat cheese, and a deviled egg made with creme fraiche mayo and sprinkled with bits of bacon. All washed down with...

Spicy Mary

2 oz. Triple Pepper Infused Skyy Vodka
4 oz. Our House Blend of Tomato Juice and Spices
1 Strip of Applewood Smoked Bacon
1 Celery Stick
2 House Stuffed Point Reyes Bleu Cheese Olives


1. Combine the Vodka, the House Blend of Tomato Juice and Spices and 1 cup ice.
2. Shake the mixture well and strain into a tall pint glass filled with ice.
3. Garnish the Spicy Mary with the Bacon Strip, Celery Stick and Olives.

Balboa Bay Club and Resort
1221 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 645-5000

Our next stop was a few miles down the coast at the tony, privately owned Balboa Bay Club, which has a storied past as the playground for yacht-loving celebrities, and whose lounge is actually called Duke's Place, after John Wayne, who was a habitue here.

The resort is actually the only one right on the marina in Newport, and mega yachts are docked in slips right behind it, making it a prime property for some high-end cavorting on the California Coast The cocktail from Felicia Chavez was definitely a favorite amongst the panel of judges, and you'll see why when you take a look at the intoxicating combination of sweet and spicy she managed to include. It went perfectly with the tapas treats we were served, including panko-crusted prawns with wasabi aioli and ginger plum sauce.

The Newport Peach

½ Peach (fresh or canned)
1 ½ oz. Strongly brewed orange pekoe herbal tea
½ oz. Peach Schnapps
½ oz. Orange Juice
2 dashes Chipotle Hot Sauce
1 ½ oz. Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Tuaca Liqueur

To Prepare:

1. Blend the first five ingredients together.
2. Add tequila and liqueur.
3. Shake well and strain over ice.
4. Garnish with orchid, colorful flower or mint leaves.

Surf and Sand Resort
1555 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-4477

Ah, the Surf and Sand. Some of my first hotel memories are of childhood trips to the Sawdust Festival and the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, and this iconic hotel right over the waves is where we used to stay. It was not kept up so well for a while there, but these days the old lady is looking pretty fabulous...especially if they end up remodeling all the rooms based on the showroom I was shown during our visit.

The cocktail here is a variation on the margarita, with a muddle of cucumber, lime and cilantro that keeps things fresh and interesting.

Cucumber Margarita

1 ½ oz. Hornitos Reposado
3 Thin Slices English Cucumber
Pinch Fresh Cilantro
½ oz. Agave Nectar
¼ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz. Sweet and Sour


1. Muddle cucumber with agave nectar and cilantro, add other ingredients and shake well.
2. Serve on the rocks.
3. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, a lime wheel and a cilantro leaf.

Montage Laguna Beach
30801 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92561
(888) 715-6700

Our penultimate stop was the Montage Laguna Beach, one of the most highly rated resorts in California, and definitely one of my favorite settings, perched, as it is, above the dramatic coastline just south of Laguna itself.

We were treated to some fantastic finger foods at the resort's high-end restaurant, Studio, courtesy of Chef Craig Strong, including lobster salad rolled in paper-thin pineapple, and mini caviar blini.

That all went perfectly with the gorgeous sunset, and the Ginger Gin Ricky with a peppercorn tea bag kick, courtesy of bartender Brian Nakamura.

The Ginger Gin Ricky

2 oz. Genever Gin
¾ oz. Key Limes
¼ oz. Simple Syrup
2 oz. Ginger Beer
1 oz. Soda Water


Serve over ice and garnish with fresh ginger and tea bag filled with green peppercorns, so the guest can steep their drink to their liking.

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 240-2000

Our final stop of the day--and what a long (but fun) day it ended up being!--was the also magnificent Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, another of those clifftop beauties that makes the OC coast such a premier destination.

Here, along with sliders and truffle fries, we were served yet another variation of the humble margarita, this time made with fresh strawberries and limoncello by the ever charming Erin Snider. She calls it the Summer Fever.

Summer Fever

1 ½ oz. Herradura Silver Tequila
1 ½ oz. Limoncello
Splash of Agave Syrup
Splash of Strawberry Puree
Lime Halves, Cut in Half
Small Diced Strawberries


1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Squeeze lime halves into mixture.
3. Serve in a Tall Beer Glass, rimmed with strawberry salt.
4. Finish with Limoncello Infused Strawberry-Garnish.


Now, I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that the judges' three favorites were the Newport Peach from the Balboa Bay Club, the Ginger Gin Ricky from Montage, and the Summer Fever from Ritz-Carlton. That said, it was a lot of cocktails for one day, so I'd suggest getting yourself down to Orange County a few times over the next month to try out each and every one of the OCeanfront cocktails for yourself, and submit your votes.

In the meantime, here's to a super summer enjoyed with limitless libations. Cheers!