Lower State Street giveth and it taketh away: Apéro opened last week downtown in the spot formerly known as Verdé, formerly known as Zia Cafe. Yes, we know, Verdé wasn’t even here a year and now it’s toast. Santa Barbara is a harsh mistress for those in the restaurant trade. But Anthony Van Daele has been thinking of his idea for a while and hopes that his Western European tapas and appetizers way of thinking, coupled with an open-late bar on State Street, will bring in those wanting a late-night bite but not wanting to go clubbing.
We grooved on this idea — State Street kinda needs it — and were impressed that not only was there a cocktail list, but it was three pages long, and was ready to go on opening day. Ex-El Encanto bartender Travis Faker worked with Anthony and his wife, Jade, on the menu, and there’s a nice bit of experimentation going on. He’s got a special cloves, ginger, allspice and cinnamon simple syrup ready for various drinks, including the tasty Channel Island Chum, a variation on the margarita. There’s a champagne cocktail (one of many) called the Razz-Mary, a combo of raspberries and rosemary in a mix of St. Germain and Segura Viudas Brut — very aromatic to smell, maybe not as impressive to taste; and a fruity vodka drink called the Estella, with a hearty amount of strawberry and mint.
But our absolute favorite was the Smoking Bulleit , a simple rye and Benedictine drink served in a glass that’s been sitting in spicy smoke for minutes. It was a true “campfire” cocktail as every sip smelled lovely and smoky. This is most probably going to be Apéro’s claim to fame, so it’s our Drink of the Week.
Cloves and 1 cinnamon stick for smoking
1 1/2 ounces Bulleit Rye whiskey
3/4 ounce Benedictine
3/4 ounce sherry (preferably Fairbanks)
On a plate, light several cloves and 1 cinnamon stick on fire. When smoking, place brandy glass over smoke, but leave a gap for air. (The cinnamon stick works as a good prop.) Meanwhile, stir rye, Benedictine and sherry with ice, then strain into the now upright brandy glass.
532 State St. 560-7333 or www.aperosb.com