by Sage Andersen
When winter arrives on the Mendocino coast, we watch its wild ocean reshape the beaches. We hike to our waterfalls and watch them swell with rain and we rejoice at the prospect of hunkering down and tucking in for the season. It’s gorgeous here, but it can get chilly, and more often than not, it’s foggy. That’s precisely when it’s time to find a welcoming bar and a warming drink.
On just such a day, when the fog was wrapping itself around the spire of the Mendocino Presbyterian Church, a dear friend and I made our way to the perfect spot: The MacCallum House—or, for those in the know, the Mac House. Its restaurant is lovely, but some days, as we all know, demand some time at the bar.
The Mac House bar—also known as the Grey Whale Bar, according to the tin sign on the door—is as inviting as you’ll find: comfortable couches, a corner fireplace, and sash windows. According to Bar Manager Dan Mello, the wooden bar hails from the 70s, worn and soft in a way that only old wood can be. Arrayed on top are glasses filled with the loveliest garnishes, including pineapple sage flowers and candied ginger, right alongside the more typical olives and onions. I was particularly taken by the cherries, macerated in-house in a local Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s one of the many garnishes, purees and syrups the bartenders make themselves.
Beyond the bar itself, there is a glittering selection of spirits. I found out from Dan and General Manager, Herman Seidell, that just as the restaurant tries to feature local and sustainable products, so too does the bar. They’ve assembled a collection of high quality craft and local spirits, like a brand of rye distilled in Healdsburg or a whiskey from Saint Helena, carefully chosen both for their taste and their birthplace.
A foggy, cold day aches for drinks rich with whiskey and bourbon, and so on Dan and Herman’s suggestion, we tried four: The Whiskey Business, Ginger Spice Manhattan, Cattywampus, and Jetsetter. Each seemed an invitation to another era. The Ginger Spice Manhattan, for instance, made with bourbon and apricot bitters, seemed perfect as a post-dinner drink, possibly even better if consumed while wearing a smoking jacket and slippers.
Ultimately, though, it was the Jetsetter that stole our hearts. Served in the slightly less common coupe glass, and with the rich brown color I’ve come to expect from bourbon, it was my favorite of the afternoon: sharp, and a little tangy with lemon, but still sweet. After each sip I felt the warmth reach my belly, a perfect winter cocktail. Knowing that the MacCallum House is so close by, their creative bartenders and nightly cocktails at the ready, is a delight. I can imagine passing many a night here, cozy and warm, the cocktail in my hand smooth, comforting and— almost—too easy to drink.
- 1 oz Old Forester Bourbon
- ¾ oz Giffard Pamplemousse Liquer
- ¾ oz Averna Amaro
- ¾ oz lemon juice
Shake ingredients together, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cherry, and enjoy!
Sage Andersen lives in Mendocino with her amazing wife and son. She’s a teacher by trade and loves to sing, to cook, and take hikes with friends in her spare time.