Casey Lyons is the lead bartender and mixologist at Pacific Hideaway at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, CA.
Better Bartending: What brought you to Huntington Beach?
Casey Lyons: My relationship with Blake Brissette-Mathias, the general manager of food and beverage at the Shorebreak. We had been working together at the Culinary Dropout in Scottsdale, AZ, as the GM and lead bartender.
When he told me he would be leaving Phoenix and Culinary Dropout to open up a new restaurant in a Huntington Beach resort, I naturally started thinking to myself, “Well, hell, I need to be a part of this new restaurant. And…on the beach?!”
BB: How did you get started in bartending?
CL: My first job was making pizza for a local spot in Phoenix called Nello’s. I loved pizza—still love pizza—but loved mixing flavors. Shortly after, I became a server and learned more about hospitality and taking care of the guests.
As I grew in the industry, I met some great people who helped me get into bartending. One person specifically truly helped mold me into a bartender. She would quiz me on classic cocktails, flavor profiles of different spirits, tidiness of my bar, ensuring everything was meticulous and clean.
Then came Culinary Dropout. At the time, we were the first place in Phoenix that was taking the craft cocktail scene by storm. To this day if you travel to Phoenix, some of the best bars in Phoenix are derived and developed by Dropouts in some way, shape or form!
BB: What’s your favorite cocktail to make for others?
CL: Old Fashioned. It was one of the first classics I memorized, learned and embraced into my own. Bartending is all about the classics—and then twisting them some way, somehow.
The Old Fashioned is a fairly easy cocktail to make; however, its complexity is in the layers of flavors created through the selection of bourbon/whiskey/rye you want to use. I’m not sure if I ever make my Old Fashioned the same way twice; a tweak here or there can lead to something new and just as good.
BB: Least favorite cocktail to make?
CL: Trick question! There’s no such thing as a “least favorite” cocktail. A two-piece cocktail, like a Jack & Coke, can be a saving grace when you are in the well on Friday/Saturday night!
With that said, the least favorite cocktail would be when a guest orders one of our specialty craft cocktails and then modifies it. Just like an entrée created by a chef, the cocktail was created as is for a reason.
As a guest, you should come in and experience the food and beverage as it is intended to be experienced. If you want to modify it after you have tried it, that’s one thing, but never experiencing it the original way just doesn’t add up to me.
BB: You’re known for drinks with quirky names—how do you approach naming a cocktail?
CL: This will sound corny, but the drink name kind of takes shape as the cocktail takes shape.
Speaking to our current menu, the idea is to poke fun at some of the cliché stuff in the world. Our Active Wear cocktail is an ode to all the people out there who love their leggings—and yes, I too, love my leggings!
Blake challenged me to make a Pina Colada. As a result, our beverage Cocktails and Dreams was derived and named after the incredible film Cocktail where Tom Cruise’s character opens his own bar Cocktails and Dreams.
BB: What’s the best drink name that you’ve come up with so far?
CL: Tough one. It’s probably Dazed & Confused. We recently won Reader’s Choice Best Signature Cocktail in Orange County for this cocktail.
The best part about this drink though isn’t the drink necessarily; it’s more about the name and garnish (a sage and oregano rolled doobie). The name speaks to Huntington Beach and the vibes of Orange County.
My other favorite is Cabana Boy. I created an avocado daiquiri for a previous bar. I created a Malibu Mist as well and sprayed it all over the cocktail. As such, when it is served, you would swear there was a Cabana Boy somewhere in the vicinity cleaning the pool or bringing you towels. Truly a fun cocktail!