PICTURED, from left: Orchard Margarita, Quarantini and Spicy Margarita. Photo by Kateri Wozny

by Kateri Wozny

Azu Restaurant and Bar
457 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai

It’s no secret that a majority of us are missing our local hangout spots and favorite bartenders. Thank God the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has allowed wine, beer and cocktails to go, or we would’ve been lost by now!

I decided to start my weekend off right by traveling to Azu Restaurant and Bar in Ojai to try its three craft cocktails: an Orchard Margarita, Spicy Margarita and Quarantini. At $10 per cocktail, I was sold. I placed my order online and headed for greener pastures (you can also have it delivered, but only within a certain distance). 

I haven’t traveled too far since the public health order came down in March and it felt liberating to drive my vehicle up the 33. The hills and mountains are so vibrant, I highly suggest getting up there to take a walk or take photos…with social distancing of course!

Once I arrived downtown at Azu, there were cones instructing me to park in the “Food Pick-Up Zone Only” area outside the restaurant. A few minutes later, Jeremy Haffner, the head brew master of Ojai Valley Brewery (also located in the establishment), came out wearing a black bandana for a face mask and gloves. He handed me my drinks in plastic containers on a paper carry-out tray along with slices of lemon and lime. I also ordered a side of fries to savor with my cocktails. (ABC rules require restaurants to provide food along with drinks; Azu offers burgers, nachos, tacos, salmon and a few other snacks and entrees to go with their wine, beer and libations.)

I had two mason jar glasses and a martini glass that allowed me to sip in style. Back at my apartment, I filled one mason jar with ice and the Spicy Margarita, a mix of jalapeñoinfused tequila, triple sec, agave syrup and lime juice, garnishing the whole thing with the lime provided by Azu.This was my favorite cocktail out of the three because I love spicy drinks (and food). It’s not an explosion of heat in the mouth, but the perfect balance of spice, citrus and sweetness.

Next up was the Orchard Margarita, consisting of tequila, seasonal tangerine juice (freshly picked off the Haffner family orchard trees) and lime juice. It was very fresh, citrusy and tart, but I did have to add a bit of sweetness to it. I didn’t have agave nectar, so I put a teaspoon of sugar in and mixed it up. Perfect!

Finally, the queen of all drinks, shining brightly in her martini glass garnished with a lemon: the Quarantini, a drink we have seen all over the Internet in recent weeks. 

Azu’s Quarantini features infused grapefruit vodka, blood orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and lime juice. I expected it to be quite tart, but it was not. It tasted well balanced and very smooth. I don’t know if it was the liqueur that gave it that slight sweetness or the cranberry juice, but I was able to finish it with glory. It was a trip well worth taking, regardless of the beautiful scenery.

Pick-up and delivery hours at Azu are 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Cocktails available for delivery are subject to change.

Kateri Wozny is a foodie who loves sipping on the best craft cocktails in the 805. Follow her on Instagram @kitkatwozny.