Drinking in the Desert: Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley, home to Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Indian Wells, has a long history as an escape from the limelight of LA’s flash-bulb popping, paparazzi scene. A mere 120 miles southeast of the City of Angels, the Valley is at once a refuge and a milieu unto itself. Fans flock here for events such as the Coachella Arts & Music Festival, a hub of inspired design, or to watch fantastic tennis at the renowned tournament at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which kicks off on Monday. In its role as a getaway locale, the Coachella Valley inspires originality of all stripes, all set in a remarkable landscape. Local restaurants and hotels take a creative eye to design, incorporating cool colors, materials, and details into their interior landscapes. It is best enjoyed with a refreshing cocktail in hand, one that may take its cue from the Colorado Desert the region calls home.

Eight4Nine, Palm Springs
White linen-topped tables are rare enough these days to be remarkable, but what makes the design at Eight4Nine so fun is the Alice in Wonderland experience when moving between the bar and restaurant. Wide and bright white, a leather-clad chaise greets you upon arrival or choose to sit at the bar, framed in white and lined in blue. In one of the dining rooms, a black wall acts as a stark contrast for a tea-pot sculpture the size of a human while in another, pink cushions on white chairs and modern lamps give the feel of the Mad Hatter’s tea party (pictured above). The eclectic look is matched by the menu which features the must-try mesquite-smoked carne asada. Pair it with an Eight4Nine. The house’s signature cocktail is colored pink with fresh strawberry, but it is the combo of prosecco and limoncello that will have you singing a happy tune in no time. Make a reservation at Eight4Nine. 

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel &Swim Club, Palm Springs
Inside what was once a Howard Johnson’s but is now the Ace Hotel & Swim Club sits King’s Highway, a roadside diner cum hangout that was once a former Denny’s. The vibe is retro chic that skillfully blends 1970s touches with modern flair. Grab a seat at one of the warm wood tables to behold a huge stone wall from which hangs the visage of an elephant watching over the room. The farmers market carrot tacos with date mole and lime salad make the perfect mid-afternoon meal. Or take in the poolside views from the patio with a Paloma Fresca from the Amigo Room bar. Made with blanco tequila and Coachella Valley grapefruit squeezed earlier that day, the drink’s bitter citrus bite is like a balm after a baking hot desert day. Make a reservation at King’s Highway.

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

Purple Palm at the Colony Palms Hotel, Palm Springs
Just a block from Palm Spring’s downtown design district, the Colony Palms Hotel is an oasis of Spanish colonial architecture. Into this palm tree-lined setting sits Purple Palm, where the blue and yellow “woven” floor tiles duke it out with saffron-hued frescoes of the room’s wallpaper. Dark furniture is highlighted by the glow from the round chandeliers, adding quieter tones to the room’s energetic flow. Duck dumplings or Osaka-style crab fritters with nori and bonito show off the flavors of the New American menu, but the rim of ghost pepper salt on the blood orange and tequila cocktail known as the Rio Rita adds pop and modern flair to the scene. Make a reservation at Purple Palm.

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Palm Springs
A huge rectangular concrete table lit by dangling Edison bulbs and a visual landscape that pulls the eye ever up to view washed concrete walls are just some of the design features that helped Workshop Kitchen & Bar earn a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design in 2015. The menu skews local and seasonal with dishes like house-cured gravlax tartine and Saltspring mussels with housemade Merguez sausage. 3 Dots and a Dash, one of the cocktails from the Workshop team’s adjacent bar, Truss & Twine, plays up the midcentury tiki trend. Originally invented by Ernest Gantt, a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber, a.k.a. the godfather of tiki, after serving in World War II, the cocktail was refreshed by bar manager Dave Castillo with rhum agricole, housemade falernum, and allspice dram. Said Castillo “Ernest was clearly inspired when naming this particular cocktail; 3 dots and a dash is Morse code for “V” and V is for victory!.” The three cherry and pineapple wedge garnish seals the deal. Make a reservation at Workshop Kitchen + Bar.

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

Reservoir at Arrive Hotel, Palm Springs
Dating to California’s Gold Rush days, a martini is just about as classic a cocktail as you can get in any town. Sip one at Reservoir, the poolside restaurant and bar at the Arrive Hotel, where the design is cutting edge fresh. The angular roofline echoes the shape of nearby San Jacinto mountain range. Local artists designed the ping pong tables fashioned from marble with a cut-steel net and lounge chairs built from reclaimed barn wood.  Co-founder Chris Pardo developed the planter wall, sourced from the same Corten steel as the buildings on the property. “Corten provides a natural consistent color without any maintenance. It blends seamlessly into the desert landscape, mimicking the shades of the sun melting over San Jacinto,” he said. Make a reservation at Reservoir.

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

The Edge Steakhouse at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Rancho Mirage
Perched on a cliff overlooking the breadth of the Coachella Valley sits the Edge Steakhouse. Floor-to-ceiling windows make a reservation 30 minutes before sunset a must for foie gras served over a huckleberry waffle or an Australian Wagyu tomahawk ribeye chop. The strong classic cocktail program is anchored by the Edge Manhattan. It all starts with Eagle Rare Whiskey blended with just enough Antica Carpano vermouth and bitters to round the whiskey’s sting. This Manhattan might be made for Frank Sinatra (the street below is named for the crooner), but consider this: the drink is matured for 30 days in oak before service, adding subtle flavors. Would Ol’ Blue Eyes recognize this drink were it not topped with a Luxardo cherry? Discuss while ogling the view. Make a reservation at The Edge Steakhouse.

Top Cocktail Spots in the Coachella Valley

What are your picks for the top cocktail spots in the Coachella Valley? Tell us about them here or over on FacebookG+InstagramPinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.

Christina Mueller is a San Francisco-based writer, epicurean adventurer, and culinary sleuth. Find her at //christinamueller.com and follow her on Instagram @EatDrinkThink and Twitter @EatDrinkThink.

Photo credits: Kristin Teig (Reservoir); Ace Hotel and Swim Club (King’s Highway); Audrey Ma (Workshop Kitchen); Allen Canerutto (Purple Palm); John Paschal (Eight4Nine).