The growing craft cocktail scene in the Warsaw and Winona Lake area is something I’ve been watching closely for many years. While varying restaurants offered their “signature” drinks, it was really Winona Lake’s Cerulean who kick started the craft cocktail scene in the area. As with their chefs, bartenders honed their “craft cocktail craft” at the restaurant and then took their expertise to other establishments.
As a result of this knowledge sharing and others learning the craft on the job, the Warsaw/Winona Lake community has more than a few establishments where a delicious cocktail can be enjoyed. For an area with less than 20,000 residents, that’s impressive.
For those of you who don’t have the time to search out the best ones, I’ve compiled a handy dandy list for you. “Research” in these areas is my forte – it’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Did I mention I’m a cocktail judge for hire? “Will work for drinks” works for me. Some are craft. Some are classics. All should be enjoyed.
Rum Punch at Cerulean
I love rum and have had the delightful opportunity to try this cocktail at beach bars across the Caribbean. Again, it’s a “research” thing for my Beach Bar Bums blog but someone has to do it, right? Cerulean’s take on this Caribbean beach bar staple is as spot on as you’ll find in the area. You’ll have to wait until the weather warms up, however, as I’ve only been able to find it on the menu when there is an absence of snow in the area.
Bounty Hunter at Rua
I love Rua and if you enjoy trying new types of food not typically available in this area, you need to get their pronto. However, my biggest complaint with them has always been the price of their cocktails. Nothing in the ingredients list justified the price. Happily (and just in time for this article), they just announced that the price for all of their house cocktails would be dropping to between $8 and $10. Now instead of telling everyone that if they decreased the pricing on their Bounty Hunter from $12 to $9 I would buy two instead of one, I can just tell everyone to go buy one … or two. It’s a bourbon drink and the brown butter and orange ingredients that join with it allow the bourbon to show through without overwhelming. It’s my favorite drink at Rua and the only one I order there. While it still doesn’t clock in at $9 (new price is $10), any potential savings while enjoying this tasty concoction already qualifies 2018 as the best year ever.
Note: Along with a drop in cocktail prices, Rua is announcing a new cocktail menu along with a new dinner menu that will feature “a handful of new additions that are designed to appeal to more traditional eaters.” New plates will include a cheeseburger, tostadas and the like. Stay tuned for more details!
Mai Tai at Noa Noa
If Noa Noa can’t do a Mai Tai, they shouldn’t be making cocktails. Luckily for all of us, they do and the best place to enjoy them is bellied up to the tiki bar in this tropical oasis of a restaurant. Let the ambiance take you away while the Mai Tai invites you to stay a little bit longer. It’s a welcome escape from frigid temperatures.
3 Stars Daiquiri at Oak and Alley
It’s not on the menu so you’ll have to ask for it and to be honest, you can get my favorite daiquiri at any restaurant or bar that carries Plantation Rum. Their 3 Stars white rum is my favorite rum and when it’s used in my favorite cocktail, well, that’s just a little taste of heaven served up in a coupe glass. What separates Oak and Alley’s version? It’s only $7. I can’t emphasize that enough – $7 for the best cocktail in the history of cocktails. If 3 Stars rum isn’t available, hit the bartender up for a daiquiri made with Plantation Pineapple and get your Stiggins’ Fancy on. Even though the bottle retails for 50% more than 3 Stars, the daiquiri’s price stands pat at $7, making this version the best value of them all. Time for a DTO!
I Dream Of Tiki at One Ten Craft Meatery
This rum/orange/ginger/cherry/lime tiki concoction does the tiki gods proud. For me, the trick with tiki cocktails has been making them sweet without being overly sweet, a delicate balancing act of letting the juices do their job of cutting the rum without overwhelming your senses. They should be more “crisp and refreshing” than anything and even in the middle of winter, this crisp and refreshing drink is exactly what you need. It’s also only $7, an amazing value when it comes to tiki cocktails. Get it while you can. One Ten switches up their menu as the seasons change so there’s no guarantee this one will be there for long.
One for the road ….
Sidecar at The Old Train Depot
It’s in Pierceton so it falls outside the geographical boundaries of this article but it’s the main reason I would head to this unique bar. Simply put, it’s the best sidecar I’ve had anywhere and the bar’s setting makes for an enjoyable and memorable getaway that you should try at least once.
There you have it. Like my cocktails, it’s a rum heavy list but even non-rum enthusiasts can find enjoyment at the bottom of one of these glasses. Either way, get out and explore the local bars and restaurants in Warsaw/Winona Lake and the other surrounding communities. You just might find a favorite of your own and have a little fun while doing it.
As stated above, while some of these cocktails are mainstays, some are seasonal, some aren’t even on the menu and some may have just plain disappeared, leaving a good time for your taste buds in the hands of Mother Nature and the bartender. You can’t influence the former but if you’re really nice to the latter, you might just get the best drink you’ve ever had.
Get your Six Plus on.