Skip to main content

Central California Life Magazine

Sip Cracked Pepper Bistro Wine Lounge: Keeping it fresh with a love libation

Feb 17, 2015 10:03PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine


Cracked Pepper Bistro Wine Lounge: Keeping it fresh with a love libation

by Edgar E. Dunn III

Is it finally the perfect time to pop that all-important question you’ve wanted to ask your loved one: “Sweetheart, would you like to go to the Cracked Pepper Bistro Wine Lounge for Valentine’s Day?”

Assuming your partner is pleased with your query and the answer is yes, then he or she will likely be thrilled with the experience.

Appreciated by loyal patrons for its superbly prepared cuisine and a diverse wine selection, the Cracked Pepper’s best kept secret may be its cozy bar and lounge. Subtly lit with rich, dark woods complemented by rose-colored, button-tufted, thick fabric-covered walls, the setting is ideal for keeping romantic conversations private while enjoying some of the finest wines and cocktails available anywhere.

“I don’t like a bar that’s so noisy it’s distracting to my dining customers,” stresses proprietor and culinary school-trained head chef, Vatche Moukhtarian.

That respectful philosophy is consistent with why he doesn’t promote Happy Hours.

“My bar and lounge and my extensive wine cellar exist only to offer my loyal patrons the very best quality spirits and wine they deserve to enhance their experience here, and not to attract a bunch of rowdy, hard drinkers,” Moukhtarian says.

As I relaxed at the end of the inviting, curved bar on a recent Friday night, I ordered the “Amber Flush,” a Valentine’s Day special cocktail. Had I not been familiar with the stellar reputation of the bistro’s dishes and the extensive cellar of choice wines, I might have expected the traditional pink Champagne cocktail with a floating strawberry from the bar. Instead, I was not disappointed. Like his tasteful cuisine, Moukhtarian’s hand-crafted and creative libations feature fresh fruits and vegetables; freshly squeezed, seasonal juices; and in-house produced syrups, many containing locally grown ingredients.

Head bartender Alicia Quinn helps ensure consistency with every drink she and her bar staff create. That commitment to excellence was immediately evident when I was served the “Amber Flush.” Before I could even take a sip, the refreshing scent attracted me as if I had passed by one of my favorite rose bushes in my garden, catching a whiff of omething pleasantly familiar yet not over-powering. The captivating aroma was due in large part to the combination of a fresh rose petal garnish along with St. Germaine French Liqueur made from freshly hand-picked elderflower blossoms. My attentive and skilled bartender, Nick, blended the fine liqueur with quality Don Julio Blanco Tequila. He added just-squeezed lemon, a splash of hand-crafted grenadine and fresh cranberry juice. Once the contents were briskly shaken, Nick finished with a rose water spritz and Bocelli Prosecco sparkling wine.

The taste, with a slight hint of tequila, was flavorful, yet not too sweet, as one might expect from many Valentine-themed concoctions. Equally stimulating was the texture which seemed to change with each sip – beginning with tongue-tickling, effervescent bubbles of the Prosecco at the top, followed closely by slightly crunchy ice crystals and then transitioning into a cool and fanciful liquid escape from the mundane and predictable Valentine’s cocktail fare.

You may find that just one Amber Flush each is not quite enough for you and your Valentine.