Liquor licenses are a precious commodity in Santa Barbara. Ask any restaurateur or bar owner and they’ll tell you the trials and tribs to get one, including the lottery system, the wait and the cash outlay. (Compare the affordable beer and wine license offered in town.) But fortunately, when an eatery like Scarlett Begonia gets one, it makes it worth its weight (and wait). More than any bar we’ve been to recently, the folks at Scarlett Begonia are bringing in an eclectic selection of liquor and liqueurs, and also sourcing local ingredients when possible.
Proprietor Crista Fooks and Kentucky transplant David Byrd have combined their love of old cocktail books and new trends, and come up with a fantastic cocktail list (there’s even cocktails for the morning shift, including the Liquid Breakfast).
There are almost too many to mention. The Old Fashioned uses Four Roses Bourbon, a large orange wheel and sugar cubes, and is simple but top-notch. The Pink Swan contains Swans Neck Vodka from France, watermelon juice, and lemon and lime, neither too sweet nor too sour. The Czech Mule, a variation on the Moscow Mule, uses Becherovka liqueur instead of vodka, along with Fever-Tree ginger beer. Becherovka is amazing and deserves your full attention — herbal and spicy, like a mellow Fernet, it makes this more than just a spin on a classic.
But our favorite had to be the Church Martini, a recipe found in “The Savoy Cocktail Book” and updated with Bauchant orange liqueur, Vya dry vermouth and the smoothest gin out there: Plymouth. As Ms. Fooks says, it will convert a vodka drinker to gin. We’ve already converted.
1A ounces Plymouth Gin
Dash Bauchant orange liqueur
A ounce Vya dry vermouth
Castelvetrano olive, for garnish
Combine liquids over ice. Stir, do not shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with olive.
Yield: 1 drink
11 W.Victoria St. 770-2143 or www.scarlettbegonia.net