Photo by Nik Blaskovich
By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
November 30, 2007 10:45 AM
When my cocktail partners and I have felt the need to get funky, we’ve often stepped into EOS, the nightclub on the corner of Haley and Anacapa streets that packs in the crowds every weekend and covers them with a fresh blanket of house beats. We’ve stepped out later, sweaty, danced out, but completely oblivious to the fact that EOS serves up some très gourmet cocktail concoctions. No longer will we make that mistake.
Put this down to bar manager, Ashley O’Brien, who took over the position three months ago, and who has already put her stamp on the establishment. EOS is now one of the few bars in town where the slightly higher drink prices feel deserved — we tasted mixes on our early evening sojourn that we’ve never had anywhere else and we want to try again.
During Friday happy hour, the bar was nearly empty, and the club was preparing for a party that evening. And that meant O’Brien had the time to chat and make us an assortment of drinks that showed off her talents, borne from years steadily climbing the ladder from waitress to manager at bars such as Couchez, Q’s Sushi a Go Go and Sevilla.
Back in the cooler is where O’Brien keeps her infused vodkas — the base of many of her special martinis and mixed drinks. Homemade flavors that don’t appear on any store shelf include strawberry and ginger, watermelon, rosemary, and many more. The apple cinnamon-infused vodka became the essential ingredient in O’Brien’s “Fall Harvest,” a chilled but stomach warming drink that tasted of spice and came with a rim of cinnamon and sugar. Take notice, people: our fellow female mixophile imagined this as the perfect date-and-kissing drink, “because you want to leave the taste on your lips.” Gawrsh.
Needing to cool off, we tried a Cool Cucumber Cooler, which used cucumber-infused vodka and comes garnished with a fat slice on the rim. Refreshing and light, this and the Fall Harvest were generous in their alcohol, so don’t judge these on looks alone.
EOS supplies O’Brien with everything on her shopping list, including limited edition flavors and small batches of regional liquor. With a true mixologist’s sense of mission, she’s always coming up with a new idea, and adding something to a spirit to change the standard flavor. The Prickly Pear margarita contains real pulped pears, and looks devilish. The Manhattan I tried came with subtle blood orange flavorings.
“I was very intimidated to come out with this new menu,” says O’Brien, two weeks after its debut. “I felt ill the whole week before . . . what if nobody ordered anything from it?” That hasn’t happened, of course, and the cucumber vodka in particular has gone through several batches. We finished off with O’Brien’s oddest, most daring, recipe: the Blackberry Basil Cooler. With no experience beforehand of tasting basil in a drink, we have so admit it took us all by surprise. O’Brien has earned the smile on her face, and EOS as only a nightclub destination should be rethought.
BLACKBERRY BASIL COOLER
3 oz. Cîroc vodka
2-3 fresh basil leaves
2 sweet blackberries
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup
In a pint glass, muddle basil leaves and blackberries. Add lemon juice, simple syrup and vodka. Shake to bruise basil leaves. Pour into ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
500 Anacapa St.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday