Sitting on the beach, feet in the sand, kicking back with a cocktail. You’d think that in a place as desirous as Santa Barbara this would be a common occurrence. But the number of establishments where this is a possibility is actually quite small. The Shoreline Café is thankfully one of them. Located at Leadbetter Beach, right across from City College, what looks like a small and unassuming burger-and-fries shack offers more than a post-surf snackathon. Despite the lack of a bar, we found that it has a healthy cocktail menu.
Owned by Steve Marsh since 1997, the Café contains a list of about 10 cocktails all designed by Marsh himself. Location, location, location: that explains the New York style prices, so be ready. But value for money comes in the form of tasty, strong drinks. Joe’s Café strong.
During our visit, Keith Dennis was making the drinks, and general manager Enrique Hernandez, who has been with Shoreline since it started, was our guide.
Let’s start with the Shoreline Martini, which features a different flavored syrup every day. The consistent ingredients are Stoli vodka, grapefruit juice, Pama liqueur, Triple Sec and sweet-and-sour, with a twist of lemon. The special ingredient during our visit: ginger syrup. A delightful cocktail, these familiar ingredients were made new again, with the mix of sour, citrus and pomegranate, along with a lovely ginger finish. It would be hard to beat this, we thought, but we were in no rush. There were boats to watch on the horizon.
Along came Steve’s Premium Mojito, and although we’ve had our share of mojitos recently, this drink took us back to our first. Something to do with the forwardness of the soda water, which is often diluted or missing among many other versions. Shoreline also uses Oronoco Rum as its base and plenty of limes and full mint leaves.
We finished with a Mai Tai, which seemed appropriate as the sun was setting, not over the ocean, but behind the Mesa — S.B. geography, dontcha know — and this was just as flavorful. Two kinds of rum, Lemon Hart 151 and a mix of “tropical fruit juices” that were not spelled out for us. It’s a good one, though, and we appreciated the drink keeping its gradations of caramel to dark brown liquids until the last drop. But forced to make a decision under the stony, watchful eye of the seagull that was waiting for food, we went back to our first choice, the Shoreline Martini. It’s definitely our Drink of the Week
1 -1/2 ounces Stoli vodka
1 -1/2 ounces Pama Liqueur
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce sweet-and-sour
1/2 ounce ginger syrup
801 Shoreline Dr.