From Just Booze

Best hotels to grab a drink in Palm Springs

Norma’s adds color and quirk to every meal at the Parker Palm Springs

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

It just so happens that Memorial Day weekend coincided with the same weekend that my girlfriend wanted to spend her 30th birthday out in Palm Desert. Her family has a home out there and I was happy to oblige in a weekend of laying by the pool in 90 degree weather, checking out some local restaurants and doing a little sightseeing. Being that this was my first time staying at a residence in the desert, I still had an inkling to check out some of my favorite hotels to grab a drink in Palm Springs.

Most of my trips to Palm Springs and the surrounding areas usually revolves around a music festival, bachelorette or a press trip. I highly recommend staying at a residence if you’re in the area to save some m oney, but you should definitely take advantage of all of the cool hotels around town for a change of scenery. Here’s my pick for the best hotels to grab a drink in Palm Springs.


The Second Date Cocktail at the Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage.

Perched on a bluff above Rancho Mirage, The Ritz Carlton is a pet-friendly and family-friendly destination in the desert. Head straight to State Fare Bar & Kitchen for a cocktail and some snacks and you’ll be surprised with the craft cocktail list. I opted for the Second Date, mostly because I’m a new brandy fan and also because the region is known for its date farms. The cocktail is a combination of Germain-Robin California Brandy with date and vanilla. I also tried the Wolfskill & Pine, which was a combination of Ketel One Citron, Chandon Brut, lemon and rosemary. The complimentary bar nuts were also delicious and were mixed with chopped dates and rosemary.


The Ace Hotel & Swim Club is where all of the hip kids go in the desert. The hotel is known for its pool parties during festival season and its super groovy décor. We visited during the evening and people were all over the grounds near the pool, in the lobby, at the hotel’s bar The Amigo Room, and in King’s Highway, the hotel’s onsite diner. Grab a craft cocktail and walk around the grounds and you’ll surely meet some interesting characters.

Take your drink outdoors at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs
The lobby at the Ace Palm Springs is just calling your name


The Parker Palms Springs isn’t for the weary or the uber-conservative

While you may feel super fancy the second you walk into the Parker Palm Springs, there’s a calming and serene vibe after you soak in the lush and interesting furnishings, designed by the one and only Jonathan Adler. The Parker is full of color and its grounds will make you want to take a permanent residence. Grab a drink at the Mini Bar or better yet, at one of the resort’s two restaurants, Norma’s and Mister Parker’s. You absolutely have to walk around the property with your drink in tow. Play a game of Bocce Ball, stumble upon some hidden doorways, take a dip in the pool, or lay in the hammock.

Color and texture inside the lobby at the Parker Palm Springs
Get lost on the grounds at the Parker Palm Springs
Belly up to the outdoor bar at the Parker Palm Springs

Palm Springs and the surrounding cities has so much to offer when it comes to hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping, sightseeing, and so much more. Even if you’re staying at a friend’s house or personal residence, get outside and explore!


Get in the Holiday Spirit with Pink Pigeon Rum

We can’t believe it’s nearly the end of October and we’re on our way to celebrate the holidays. In order to take a moment to enjoy this haunting month of Halloween festivities, breast cancer 5ks, and the fact that those meaty NFL players proudly wear hot pink on game days for breast cancer awareness month, we’re prepping for the holidays with a few of our new favorite cocktails.

We’ve heard about Pink Pigeon Rum for months now and finally had a chance to taste this delicious new league of liquor in some of our favorite cocktails. So why you are out and about enjoying this month’s Halloween festivities, why not get into the spirit with Pink Pigeon and its cocktails designed in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

West coast bartender Kate Grutman of the Roosevelt Hotel Hollywood’s Spare Room created a few seasonal cocktails that you must order at your favorite craft cocktail watering hole. If you’re looking to spice up your cocktail routine, ask for one of these craft cocktails.

The Pink Ribbon was created by Grutman and blends the rose-tinted rum with champagne. Here are the ingredients and instructions

Peychaud’s Bitters
brown sugar cube
3/4 oz Pink Pigeon Rum
lemon twist

The Pink Ribbon

Soak brown sugar cube in Peychaud’s Bitters and add to champagne flute. Top the soaked sugar cube with Pink Pigeon Rum. Fill remainder of the flute with champagne. Garnish with lemon twist.

Woody’s Place
Sbicca American Bistro
Rimel’s Bar and Grill
Pacific Beach Bar and Grill
Millers Field
Firehouse PB
Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger Joint
Currant Restaurant
Cowboy Star
Keg N Bottle
Newport Farms

She also created another holiday cocktail, called Flip the Bird. This autumn-inspired cocktail will be perfect after a long day of shopping on Black Friday or pumpkin pie baking. The recipe is below:

1 egg yolk
¾ simple syrup
¾ cream
½ oz Punt e Mes
1.5 oz Pink Pigeon
Shake without ice, to whip and emulsify ingredients until frothy
Add ice to shaker and shake vigorously
Strain into port glass or small fluted glass
Garnish with shaved cinnamon or nutmeg
Glass: Port Glass or small fluted glass
Ice: bar ice

The creative Pink Pigeon Rum cocktail was developed by Tony Selna at Roka Akor’s Sake & Shochu Lounge in Chicago’s hip River North, a restaurant that recently debuted Pink Pigeon cocktails on its menu. The Pink Pigeon Rouge pairs wonderfully with Japanese cuisine.

1 oz. Pink Pigeon Rum
.25 oz. Combier Fruit Rouge
.25 oz. Agave
.5 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Dash of Rice Vinegar

Muddle raspberries and blackberries in a tin. Combine, shake and fine strain with fresh ice. Pour into a highball glass.

For more information, visit

A Day at Tijuana’s Waterpark, El Vergel, with Turista Libre

By Nadia Ibanez

Viva Mexico!

As a native San Diegan, I’ve always had my hesitancies when it comes to visiting Tijuana. It’s been a known thing that you only visit TJ a) before you turn 21 to booze it up on Revolución, b) with a native Spanish speaker, or c) to grab a snack and supplies when you’re en route to Baja for some surfing and vacationing.

Tijuana has gotten a bad rap for the last few years, from long waits at the border to get back into the U.S., to dangerous street violence and kidnappings. Luckily, Derrik Chinn, the face behind Tijuana day tour group Turista Libre, has made it his goal to spread the good word about all that is delicious, beautiful and exhilarating in TJ.

We first found out about Turista Libre via Instagram and fell in love with the zany photos from previous trips. Chinn boasts more than 30 tours showing off the city’s circuses, amusement parks, roller rinks, lucha libre matches, music festivals, brewery tours and so much more. It’s like all of the events and attractions you’d find in a major metropolitan area, but at half the price and twice the excitement.

We decided to climb aboard the Turista Libre tour bus to Albercas El Vergel, Tijuana’s famed water park. For a mere $30, we were provided with transportation to and from the border to the park, admission into El Vergel, and pre-party libations, including Tecates, water guns, and chili-spiked jello shots for the ride over.

Our large group met near the border entrance, walked across into Mexico and was driven to the park, which was about 15 minutes away. The views during the drive to the park were pretty striking, from hillsides stacked with homes that have seen better days, to street art and historic statues in the middle of roundabouts.

After parking our bus, we finally got an eyeful of the water park in all of her glory. Before the trip, we were warned that El Vergel isn’t like the parks you’d find in the U.S. With more than 30 years under its belt, El Vergel wasn’t afraid to show off some of its rickety slides or quasi-dangerous attractions. Even the stairwells up to the higher waterslides weren’t up to the standard size and height specifications and are a bit of a hazard for those who’ve had a few too many cervezas. Oh, and the ambulance parked in by the front of the entrance didn’t help the cause.

Grilling Under the Slides

Nonetheless, the waterpark was everything it promised to be. Tons of space to lay around, a lazy river pool to float around in the sun, nearly a dozen terrifying waterslides, pop up food vendors offering everything your taste buds could desire, booze, temporary tattoos, and so much more.


I recommend starting the day by renting out a locker to hold all of your things. With a waterpark of this size, I guarantee you won’t spend much time laying out in one area, so drop off your items so you’re not worrying about them all day. Next, make the rounds and check out all of the slides.

Medusa is one of the shining stars at the park and very much resembles the massive slides you’d see at your local state fair that you scream down while sitting on a burlap bag. The ride can be a bit bumpy but it’s well worth the thrill.


Kamikaze is definitely one of the scariest slides and features a massive, nearly vertical drop that will not only make your stomach jump into your throat, but will also leave you with a nice wedgie on the way down. Kamikaze is definitely built for the thrill seekers and nearly scared the crap out of me.


Twister is another must-see and must-do at El Vergel and is an enclosed slide that spits you out in a spiral motion into a toilet bowl-looking contraption before you fall into a cold pool below. But if you’re looking for a mellow pool to waddle around in, there are tons of options for playing and people watching.

Swinging from the Tarzan Swing at El Vergel


When it comes to the average American waterpark, food options are pretty limited. You’re either going to order a slice of cardboard-like pizza, a gross hot dog, or a dry burger to soothe your hunger pains. One of the coolest things about El Vergel is that there are BBQ grills nearly everywhere throughout the park. Families upon families were grilling seafood, chicken, steaks and veggies on the grills, making the smells in the air nearly impossible to avoid.

Tijuana Hot Dog

But if you really want to do it up, I suggest taking full advantage of all of the on-site food vendors. Adam and I had one of the best tasting tortas ever at one of the main food stands. The Torta Cubana was filled with carne asada, grilled ham, chorizo sausage, avocado, tomato and onion. We devoured the thing in a mere minute so we apologize for not taking a moment to photograph the food porn. We also tried the TJ hotdog, which was wrapped in bacon and came with all of the fixings.

Other food stands were offering burritos, ceviche, fish tacos, pizza, sweet treats, fresh coconuts and even sushi. Definitely go where your nose takes you and don’t be afraid of something new. Oh, and I highly suggest taking home a bag or two of the freshly made churros. They’re unlike anything you’ve ever had from your local mall or fair.


You can’t visit El Vergel without having a few Tecates to celebrate the day. And for only 20 pesos, or about $1.50, you can’t go wrong. Order a few Tecates throughout the day to keep the liquid courage flowing when you’re waiting in line for the slides. Ask the bar maidens for some of their chili, chamoy, Tajin mixture. It’s that gooey red mixture behind the bar and a spoonful of it in your beer pairs perfectly well with an ice cold Mexican beer.

If you’re feeling courageous, order the park’s Clamato con Caguama. You get a huge cup, around 44 ounces or so, filled to the brim with clamato juice, Tecate, chili, a special black syrup that we’re still not sure what it is, diced cucumbers, a chile-spiced rim, and a chili mango garnish – with the option of a couple spoonfulls of diced clams. The savory drink is a bit fishy but will definitely quench your thirst, so take heed.


If you’re a newcomer to San Diego, or are a local native like me, I highly suggest looking into one of Chinn’s upcoming trips. Adam and I spent about $20 each that day and had a day full of authentic tortas and tacos, beers, temporary tattoos, churros, all while taking in the sights and smells of Tijuana.

Get a passport and check out to learn more about Chinn and his upcoming trips. We’ll see you there!

An Inside Peek into Sin City’s newest Nobu Hotel

Inside the Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Nobu Hotel

Two-thirds of the Wander team is heading to Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate Karina’s last few weeks of singledom. Why not toast to a fantastic Bachelorette party with a sneak peek into Sin City’s newest additions set for this October.

Nobu Hospitality’s partners Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper have teamed with Caesars Palace to open Nobu Hotel. The first of its kind under the Nobu brand, the new hotel will offer hip luxury with its 180 rooms and make way for the largest Nobu Restaurant and Lounge in the world with more than 11,000 square feet of dining space.

Once the hotel opens later this year, guests can expect design elements like wood tiles; smart touch-screen elevators that use algorithms to get visitors to their destination quicker; carpets that resemble cherry blossoms and Zen gardens; in-room custom calligraphy; and origami-inspired fixtures. The natural and elegant designs within the Nobu aesthetic are promised to blend seamlessly against the Vegas backdrop.

The Bathrooms are Inspired by Japanese Bath Houses

The suites and bathrooms have caused our ears to perk up a bit once we got a peek into what to expect inside. We’re counting down the weeks until we can reserve our own room and take advantage of oversized walk-in showers, luxury bathroom amenities designed specifically for the hotel, bedside essential oils, and a minibar with blood orange chili juice and chocolate-dipped Pocky pretzels.

It’s the Little Details that Matter

One of the other great perks of staying at Nobu Hotel is priority seating and 24-hour access to the Nobu restaurant, along with the first-ever in-room dining menu. We already have our eye on the High Roller bento box, which features lobster wasabi, Wagyu steak, spicy garlic shrimp and an assortment of nigiri and special sushi rolls.

The hotel is slated to open this October. For more information, visit

From High Tea to Craft Cocktails, Here are Our Favorite Places to Drink in Phoenix

Written by Nadia Ibanez

From high tea designed by a tea maitre’d, to craft cocktails and healthy elixirs, here are our favorite places to drink in Phoenix and the surrounding area.


Liberty Market at Night

Just a short drive from Downtown Phoenix, Liberty Market is the perfect place to grab a coffee or glass of wine when you’re looking for a retro scene. Located in the quaint community of Gilbert, Liberty Market has a deeply rooted history. Drop by the restaurant for a coffee at its adorable E-61 Espresso Bar, or come in for a meal and have an Arizonian grown beer or wine. I recommend any white wine from Pillsbury Winery or a seasonal ale from 4 Peaks Brewery. The Market is also known for its house-made desserts so drop by the bakery case and order everything that looks appetizing.

The Salt River Bar from Liberty Market

Oh, and don’t forget to visit the bathrooms. They’re unbelievable.


Jeffrey Hattrick, the Tea Maitre’d

If you’re feeling a little fancy or just need a couple hours to unwind among crystal chandeliers and pop-music playing piano players, I insist you visit the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. Jeffrey Hattrick is the Tea Maitre’d in the adorable white, three-piece suit and bow tie. Whatever your taste buds fancy, he’ll be able to conjure up a tea blend that suits you best.

High Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix

I recommend the White Tea Peach and the Provence – a blend of blueberries, berries, rose hips, hibiscus and lavender. And if you’re not sure about what type of tea you like, Jeffrey will be more than pleased to assist you.

If you’re looking for the full, afternoon tea experience, you must taste all of the food offerings. Jeffrey has managed to infuse nearly every food item with one of the teas offered, making for one amazing culinary affair.

Bites and Nibbles at High Tea

Go for the black currant chicken salad with a bergamot sage cream, served in a spinach cornet. The shrimp salad poached in a turmeric ginger tea served in a sundried tomato tart shell is also to die for, along with the goat cheese mousse infused with raspberry green tea.

I can’t say enough about the homemade scones. They’re unlike any scone you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Ask Jeffrey about the availability of the Provence tea-infused scones and make sure to try all of the accoutrements. The Devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit preserves are out of this world and the chocolate bowls they are served in are delicious.

Scones with All of the Fixings

And if you can muster enough room in your belly for more decadence, the Ritz offers even more tea infused chocolates and cookies to cap off the experience. The roasted banana pana cotta with crushed coconut oolong tea topped with a roasted pineapple sauce is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted at a High Tea.

Tea-Infused Sweets


Inside Blue Hound, Photo Courtesy of Blue Hound Kitchen

One of the newest additions to the area’s bar scene and places to drink in Phoenix – and frankly, the gastropub scene – is CityScape’s Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. The cocktail list look like something you’d find at your local speakeasy, but without the secret passwords. The menu resembles a novel and after several minutes of perusing, you’re bound to find something delicious.

Craft Cocktails from Blue Hound Kitchen

Try the Floradora, with gin, lime, raspberry syrup, ginger and soda. Or go for the Rising Sun, with tequila, lime, spiced pineapple syrup, lagunitas pilsner, and a celery salt rim. All cocktails are $10 or less, which is unheard of within the craft cocktail scene in Southern California, so try them all.

You Can Never Go Wrong with House Made Tater Tots

The food at Blue Hound is definitely not to be missed – and you might want some grub to soak up all of the alcohol. We tried nearly everything on the left side of the menu and recommend the Caramel Popcorn with butterscotch and ancho chile; Tater Tots with smoked bacon and a chive and French onion dip; Roasted Beet Salad with lavender cured feta, watercress and hazelnuts; and the Gorgonzola Flatbread, with rosemary, cured lemon and red potato.


Inside True Food Kitchen, Phoenix

Finding solace from the blazing desert heat is much needed when you’re traveling through Phoenix. Luckily, True Food Kitchen offers a menu of refreshing beverages and healthy bites to keep you hydrated and light on your feet. While the restaurant’s seasonally-inspired cocktail list is appealing, its Natural Refreshments are perfect when you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink to guzzle down.

Try the Hangover Rx, with coconut water, honeydew and pineapple juice, or go for the Kale-Aid, a mixture of kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger. What’s nice is that all of these beverages are freshly pressed, so if you feel like adding a little extra fruit, or substituting one juice for another, it’s completely possible.

Refreshments at True Food Kitchen

If you’re in the mood for food, you can order nearly everything off of the menu and have no guilt about it. Based on Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, you’ll know that everything you’re eating is natural and good for you. For a light bite, go for the Edamame Dumplings and the Herb Hummus.

Taking a moment to get out of the heat and recharge is mandatory when you’re traveling through the desert. Luckily, Phoenix has a wide array of restaurants and bars to keep you invigorated. What are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in Phoenix?