DRINK OF THE WEEK : SBIFF mixologist master award co-winner, the Tarantini

THE BILTMORE'S TARANTINI Nik Blaskovich/News-Press Photos
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press Photos

We heard that there was a group of people going around Santa Barbara sampling cocktails and selecting their favorites. And we were shocked to discover that it wasn’t us. Turns out the Santa Barbara International Film Festival peeps were out for a second year in a row choosing cocktails for their Chopin Vodka Mixologist Master Award. The winners (it was a tie) are now available to be sipped at their respective bars during the fest and “select VIP events,” which our own team may attempt to sneak into.

In the meantime, we wondered, what are these cocktails? What do they taste like? And who didn’t make the cut? What do our own tastebuds think? The tie went to drinks from Elements and the Biltmore, but the second runner-up came from Tonic. We set out to discover.

Beth Weinberg, formerly of Elements, came up with the fruity Rising Star before she moved town. She was unavailable to take us through the drink but manager Robert Miranda whipped one up for us. To the Chopin, Miranda added fresh kiwi, pear puree, lime juice and lemongrass simple syrup. When Weinberg made the drink she garnished with a slice of starfruit (hence the title), but they are now out of season. Miranda made do with artfully arranged slices of asian pear. The drink was heavy on the lime, light on the kiwi, looked lovely, tasted OK.

Off to the Biltmore and the Tydes, where Grant Danely’s Tarantini won the hearts of the SBIFF crew. And, according to assistant manager Mario Parapini, Quentin himself got to try his namesake. The Tarantini adds blood orange puree and agave lemonade to the Chopin vodka, and ends with a float of Moët and Chandon Nectar Imperial. The Chopin’s smooth mouthfeel complements the citrus, and the sparkling wine adds a refreshing late-afternoon fizz. We would have thanked Danely for his invention, but he, too, was not in town. He’s coming back though, and you can have a Tarantini at either Tydes or the Ty Lounge.

At Tonic, Jody Mello was not about either, but his runner-up drink The Leading Lady was. The drink is all about apples, with a puree of Pink Lady apples, simple syrup and ginger blending together with Newton Chardonnay and Chopin. A thin ribbon of apple peel hugs the inside of the martini glass. We loved the apple taste, and the white wine is the perfect complement. The drink is available at both Tonic and Blush. It goes when Jody goes, said manager Josh Lewis.

If you asked us, we’d put the Rising Star in third, the Leading Lady in second and break the tie with the Tarantini in first place. But you’re all winners for us! Have a good final fest weekend, folks!

2 ounces Chopin Vodka
1 ounce Blood Orange Puree
1 ounce Agave lemonade
Float of Moët and Chandon Nectar Imperial

Shake vodka, puree and lemonade with ice and pour into martini glass. Add float of sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon wedge, mint and yellow cherry tomato.

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