The Best Cocktail Bars to Try in Orange County

From hidden speakeasies to rooftop oases, here’s where to get a creative cocktail in Orange County.

Sandbar Cocina y Tequila
Photo courtesy of Sandbar Cocina y Tequila
Photo courtesy of Sandbar Cocina y Tequila

Orange County isn’t known for its surplus of lounges conglomerated in trendy districts quite like Los Angeles, perhaps, but that’s what makes the allure of discovering our local bars that much more fun. In recent years, areas like Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Anaheim, have reimagined what it means to enjoy a drink—carving out thoughtfully-designed spaces atop hotels, underneath restaurants, and even through walk-in refrigerators.

Many of the cocktail bars on this list are relatively new, while some have remained under-the-radar and are begging to be discovered and enjoyed. Keep scrolling for a list of the 15 best cocktail bars in Orange County and find your new haunt for a mezcal negroni slushy, a late-night photo booth session, live jazz with a boozy brunch, and everything in between.

Perched atop the beautiful new Radisson Blu Anaheim, Top of the V is an idyllic location to sip a cocktail while watching the nearby Disneyland fireworks. Located on the 12th floor, the Spanish-inspired rooftop restaurant has a large selection of craft cocktails—great for enjoying on the stunning outdoor dining terrace with fire pits. Try one of the popular “Sunset Sangrias,” or an innovative libation like the La Capilla, with Lalo Tequila, grapefruit, lime, cilantro, agave, and bitters.
How to book: Reservations are encouraged and can be made online.

Vacation Bar

Santa Ana
$$$$

The appropriately named Vacation Bar will make you feel like you’ve been whisked away to another part of the globe. Inspired by the owners’ travels to North and South America, Europe, and Asia, the bar features custom-designed, handmade furniture in a bright and airy atmosphere. Cocktail creations are named after worldly destinations, like Bangkok, Thailand, with Thai basil, scotch, toasted coconut, cardamaro, and lime. To help stave off your hunger, they also have similarly inspired bar snacks and desserts, like a Cubano sandwich with twice-cooked pork between slices of mayo-grilled Telera bread, and Bleu Cheese Ice Cream with port wine syrup.

Under CdM

Corona Del Mar
$$$$

One step inside the buzzy CdM Restaurant, and you’ll understand the hype. Intimate velvet booths hug the corners of the small restaurant, while the emphasis is on the wraparound bar that takes center stage. But a little-known addition to this hot spot lies beneath the restaurant. Walk in, take a sharp right, and slip down the stairs to the swanky speakeasy called Under CdM. The luxurious setting features an intimate bar, photo booth, and tables for a sit down dinner. The speakeasy can also be booked out for private events.
How to book: Call CdM Restaurant at 949-287-6600 for reservations.

Comedor

Laguna Beach
$$$$

Located within Laguna Beach’s La Casa Del Camino hotel (home to the well-known Rooftop Lounge), Comedor is an all-new concept where Spanish tapas and spirit-forward cocktails meet in a colorful yet cozy setting. Weekly live entertainment and happy hour brings a crowd, while the creative concoctions keep people coming back. Try the Tequila Daisy, made with poblano liqueur, pineapple turmeric shrub, lime, and salt. On a hot summer day, a mezcal negroni slushy hits the spot.

Available for Reservations

With a name like Strong Water, you can bet the cocktails are top notch here. A quick skip down the street from the beloved Anaheim Packing District, the bar is the perfect place to let your inner sailor run wild and get shipwrecked, with a dim, dark-wood interior and design details like a helm that’s mounted behind the bar to make you feel like you’re inside a real ship. Strong Water features a hefty list of tiki-inspired cocktails, like the Buzzin’ Jungle Bird featuring Jamaican Gold Rum, coffee-infused Campari, dark rum, pineapple, lime, hemp orgeat, cane, and Angostura bitters.
How to book: Reservations can be made via Tock.

Solstice Irvine

Irvine
$$$$

Opened earlier this year, Solstice is a trendy new hangout located within The Boardwalk in Irvine. The modern, stylish restaurant and bar boasts a seasonal, handcrafted cocktail menu, including enticing large-format cocktails served in punch bowls for the whole table to share. Gather the gang for a Whiskey Punch, made with High West Double Rye, orange honey oil, Noilly Pratt Vermouth, and an orange wheel. Order shareable snacks like Filet Sliders or Summer Squash Tartare to complete your happy hour.
How to book: Reservations can be made via SevenRooms.

The Guild Club

Costa Mesa
$$$$

Once a reservation-only concept, The Guild Club is now open to the public. Serving as a sexy little speakeasy tucked within the South Coast Collection (SOCO), the cocktail bar is undeniably moody with its dimly-lit atmosphere and dark woodwork. Its 19th-century-esque design is much like the owners’ nearby restaurant, ARC Food & Libations. A bar first, the menu at The Guild is rich with boozy options, including a rotating daily cocktail called The Girlfriend, and plenty of other whimsical options, like The Czar, with Beluga vodka, rombauer wash, and a lemon twist. Inspired bites like fries cooked in duck fat and fried olives served with bleu cheese and romesco make the drinks go down even easier.

Bar Jane

San Clemente
$$$$

Bar Jane is a welcome new addition to South Orange County. The intimate cocktail bar exudes a touch of refinement amid San Clemente’s sleepy-surfer vibe. Worldly influences adorn the space, including a vintage 1950s Swarovski crystal chandelier from Austria, handmade Italian wallpaper, wall sconces and bar top lights custom made in London, European white oak flooring from Denmark, granite bistro tables made in France, and much more. Try the Smoke n’ Mirrors, with mezcal, pineapple, chartreuse, grapefruit oil, amaro, and black pepper.
How to book: Reservations can be made via Yelp.

Detention DTSA

Santa Ana
$$$$

Detention, formerly known as Playground, opened in January 2022 with an emphasis on a loungy vibe that’s equal parts restaurant and bar. The service-forward concept shines bright despite the dimly-lit vibe, with immense attention to providing high-quality, unique menu items. The Thief, a single barrel rhubarb old fashioned, is a must-try.
How to book: Reservations can be made via Tock.

Rum Social
Photo courtesy of Rum Social Kitchen & Cocktails

Taking over the old Watermarc restaurant in Peppertree Lane in downtown Laguna Beach, Rum Social Kitchen & Cocktails is an exotic, upscale hideaway. Head upstairs for the ultimate experience at Rum Social’s Treehouse Bar, where one-of-a-kind cocktails set the scene, with an emphasis on rum, of course. Order the Jungle Bird with Copalli Rum, Gran Classico, pineapple, banana, and a dark rum float.

Available for Reservations

Graceland

Huntington Beach
$$$$

You would never know Graceland exists when entering HQ Gastropub Huntington Beach on PCH. But those in the know can take a walk through the pub and toward the kitchen, where a walk-in refrigerator leads you to a hip lounge where no phones are allowed—in fact, the staff provides each group with a locker to stow away their cell phones until they leave. The main attraction is the catwalk table that offers supreme views of the sunset from within. Order dinner or just enjoy the innovative cocktails amid plush lounge seating and 70s music.

The House

Newport Beach
$$$$

A modern take on the traditional supperclub, The House is Newport Beach’s newest private membership establishment aimed to provide a more energetic, vibrant, and cost-effective option to local country club options in the county. You’ll have to be referred to join, or find a friend who can bring you as their guest. Come for dinner and cocktails during the week, or opt for brunch on the weekend. You can even cruise up by boat thanks to the exclusive 250 feet of dock space accompanied by dock valet service.
How to book: Try bribing your friends with memberships or apply for one online.

Ruin Bar

Costa Mesa
$$$$

Tucked behind the more well-known Habana Restaurant at the LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa, Ruin Bar has been around for a minute, but continues to fly under the radar. The edgy speakeasy is an Instagrammer’s dream from the moment you notice it. Each seating option—both indoors and out—is excitingly outlandish. Sip a cocktail in an old ski gondola, at a high top beneath a wall-mounted bull’s head statue, or at the piano you can actually play. Cat lovers will really dig this bar, which has a surplus of feline-centric decor throughout.

Sandbar Cocina y Tequila
Photo courtesy of Sandbar Cocina y Tequila

Sandbar Cocina y Tequila

Huntington Beach
$$$$

A brand-new, modern Mexican concept has hit Main Street in Huntington Beach. Sandbar Cocina y Tequila, developed by the notable Baja Sharkeez Restaurant Group, offers an open-air setting with vintage Huntington Beach prints and artwork and Baja-style cuisine. The handcrafted cocktail menu is the star of the establishment, however, with extremely extensive imported tequila and mezcal lists, including a selection of rare and classic international tequilas like Clase Azul Gold, La Luna Tequilana, Casamigos Blanco, and Siete Leguas Reposado.

Paragon Cafe

Costa Mesa
$$$$

For the day drinking type, look no further than brunchy new hot spot Paragon. Located in SOCO, the restaurant reveals an airy-meets-luxe vibe with a bright white marble bar top, royal blue velvet seating, high ceilings with exposed pipework, and gold galore. Listen to live jazz as you indulge in the food offerings, and be sure to order a mimosa flight, sangria, or one of the many mouthwatering cocktails, like the 24k Magic, with 50 Balmorhea Garrison Brothers Bourbon, Bogart's bitters, brown sugar, and 24k orange peel. The restaurant has experienced such great success that Paragon is now open until 8 pm for weekday lunch and dinner service, with hours expected to continue to increase.

Available for Reservations
Alexa Erickson is a contributor to Thrillist.