Last year, when Newhall Refinery announced they’d have a full liquor license (upgraded from beer/wine), they made it clear: We’re not changing who we are. And by that they mean that they’re keeping the tradition of their beer and wine selection by offering high quality, craft spirits in their seasonal cocktails and not just your run of the mill well liquor for a rum and Coke. (And while yes, you can get a rum and Coke, if you really want to, it won’t be with the cheap stuff, and I really recommend thinking twice.)
To introduce the new lineup, Refinery owner Simon Mee, general manager Shannon Ercek and lead bartender Peter Nguyen hosted a small group for a preview on Monday night to get a look at what’s new.
To start off the evening, an apéritif was proper. Mixing Cassis Noir de Bourgogne (a liqueur made from cassis and blackcurrant, prominently featured in the menu this season) and Ancho Reyes chile liquor with a splash of club soda, this tasty little thing is a great way to start off any meal.
Following that we sampled the Clarity, a gin cocktail made with Barr Hill hin (one of my favorites recently) with tea infused simple syrup, lime and tonic. Not your average gin and tonic, this is very sweet, thanks in part to the honey flavor of the Barr Hill gin and the simple syrup, but also a splash of aloe vera juice.
Next was the Juice Box. A playful throwback to the days when mom packed your lunch and you headed off to school. Again, a very sweet drink made with Agnostura white rum, Samuel Smith’s strawberry ale imported from England, orange juice, Sprite and a little of the Cassis Noir and topped with house made fruit leather (think fruit roll up). Playful and fun, it tasted like a Jolly Rancher for some, SweetTart for others.
Ain’t Life Grape came up and behind the bar Peter was busy spanking leaves of Basil in his hands to bring out the flavor. (Never muddle leafy herbs like basil or mint, slap it to bring out the oils.) The drink is a bit like a savory lemonade with simple syrup, muddled white grapes and blueberries, basil and lemon juice mixed in with California’s own Hangar One Vodka. Not as sweet as you’d think but it can be made sweeter with the addition of some simple syrup provided on the side.
We’ve been seeing more and more cocktails that are spicy and featuring chili pepper flavors and Newhall Refinery has taken note of that and brings their Poco Pica. Spicy margarita-like it’s made with Kimo Sabe mezcal, the Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, orange juice, lime, agave syrup and sprite and served with a garnish of cucumber and chile powder. This was my favorite drink of the night, mostly because I’m a huge fan of margarita’s recently and especially spicy ones.
Bourbon is one of my favorite spirits to drink straight up (any Whisky really right now) so I was looking forward to the Bourbon Bramble. Made with Evan Williams Bourbon, St. Germaine elderberry liqueur, some more of the Cassis Noir (told you it was prominent) and a little lemon served over a single large cube.
Also on the menu is the option to “refine” your drink. This $5.00 add-on for your sparking or white wine adds some raspberry puree and Hendrick’s gin for a little something extra. Might be a great alternative to a mimosa if you’re in for brunch on the weekend.
Finally, no better way to end the evening than with dessert. The Extended Vacay is just that, dessert in a coupe glass. Starting with Mt. Gay black barrel rum and some Tia Maria coffee liqueur it’s mixed with half and half and topped with shaved 70% cacao chocolate. Resembling a White Russian, but distinctly Caribbean in nature, it’s delicious.
Eve Bushman, Santa Clarita’s best known wine and spirits consultant put together a little montage of images from the preview that we attended on Monday evening, which features some more of what’s behind the bar at Newhall Refinery, including their Around the World Whiskey Flight.
24258 Main Street
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
Our special thanks to Lindsay and Brian Schlick and Schlick Art (http://schlickart.com) for the photos.