A new rooftop bar offers retro-Caribbean classics with a modern flair.
By Mary Harpin
The newly opened Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach might look like other hotels in The Meritage Collection portfolio, with its luxury interior and fine-dining restaurant below. But stand on the beach and look up: There’s a magnificent tree that looks like it’s sprouting out of the hotel’s rooftop.
There, the Treehouse Lounge at Tanner’s, the hotel’s rooftop cocktail bar, has the stellar ocean views and watercolor sunsets that SoCal is famous for. The guests sitting at the lounge’s modern circle bar enjoy creative classic cocktails under the glow of lanterns dangling from an enormous man-made tree.
“I wanted to do something proto-tiki style and more Caribbean influenced,” says Cassie Hesse, lead mixologist for Paséa Hotel & Spa. With its charming, cushy cabanas and island-inspired cocktails, she’s talking about both the vibe of the lounge and the menu.
“Our classic tiki cocktails are influenced a little more from before ‘Don the Beachcomber,’ ” she says. When prohibition happened bartenders moved to Caribbean islands and started using local spirits like rum and fresh juices from pineapple, banana and grapefruit. “I wanted [the Treehouse menu to] elevate that cocktail culture,” Hesse says. But this inventor of a playful coconutty drink called Bananas and Blow adds her own playful twist.
“One of my favorites is called the Daiquiri #6,” she says, “traditional rum, sugar and lemon—but with an absinthe rinse.” The #6 is based on an Ernest Hemingway daiquiri (the original supposedly invented when Hemingway asked his Havana bartender for something like a daiquiri with “no sugar and double the rum”); the absinthe idea came to her from the recipe for a Sazerac cocktail, popular in her native New Orleans.
This is what the bartenders at the Treehouse Lounge at Tanner’s are best at—taking a cocktail recipe that’s withstood the test of time and getting creative with it. If you belly up to the circle bar, be prepared for an enthusiastic tour of the menu. “The guests that sit at the bar get a little education, a little cocktail journey,” Hesse says. “They learn to trust us, and we get to introduce them to lots of new cocktails,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons I love this gig.”