“Recession? What recession?”
So says Ryan Leeper, manager of the Santa Barbara branch of that college drinking institution Sharkeez. Some blocks of State Street may be a bit quieter these days, but not the block between Haley and Gutierrez. With the Savoy across the street, and the numerous late night food establishments popping up here and there (thank you Santa Barbara for getting a clue about our stomachs), this block is buzzing.
And as we walked in on a Thursday, we were told that in an hour it would be College Night, so brace for the crowds. Well, we thought, that gives us an hour to get our drinks in before all chaos reigns.
Now, it’s not totally true that Sharkeez is all about the youth — they have about 50 flat-screen TVs, so when we arrive, a much older crowd is enjoying the game(s) and one regular next to us is having a Tijuana Taxi to drink (it’s not on the menu, but it’s his usual).
Our bartender is Chris Bengtsson, who started off in the Newport Beach Sharkeez four years ago before transferring to this “store,” as he calls it. (An interesting choice of words, that. As if this establishment were like Banana Republic, but with booze.) But, he says, Santa Barbara people are more friendly. Take that, Newport snobs!
Bengtsson makes us a Raspberry Mojito, which uses Bacardi Light, fresh raspberries, mint and lime juice, with a little bit of sweet-and-sour. It’s not a bad opening — the mix of sweet and dry is there, and the raspberry comes forward as it should. The Bacardi disappears behind the mint, making this an easy beginning to a difficult night.
We like the Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita more. Sharkeez gets out the 1800 Silver for this drink, and muddles cucumber, jalapeño, limes and then adds triple sec, agave nectar, and sweet-and-sour. A bit too complicated for a margarita, really, but the flavor bursts in the mouth, the freshness of the cucumber mixing with a spice that creeps up after the drink is past the gums.
Though there’s about 20 or so cocktails on the menu, we end with the Very Berry Lemonade. More muddled fruit here, strawberries in fact, with Three Olives Berry vodka, triple sec and lemonade. This is a sweet one, most probably from the lemonade, but it does berry it up as promised in the title.
However, the I.V. bus arrived as we were polishing off our drinks, and we had to make our exit. If you should find yourself here on a slow night, we recommend the cuke cocktail as our Drink of the Week.
CUCUMBER JALAPEÑO MARGARITA
4 Cucumber Halves
1 Jalapeño Slice
2 Squeezed Limes
1 ¼ ounces 1800 Silver
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
3/4 ounce Fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce Agave nectar
Sweet-and-sour to fill
Muddle cucumber, jalapeño and squeezed lime slices. Add ice, then add tequila, triple sec, lime juice and agave nectar. Top off with sweet-and-sour, then shake and pour back into glass with salt rim.
416 State St.