DRINK OF THE WEEK: The Benchmark’s Benchmark

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Benchmark Eatery opened oh-so-softly last month at State and Anapamu streets, filling in the space left by Maggie’s and by extension State & A. The remodel is so, so airy but keeps the double-sided bar. The patio once again offers excellent views of State Street.

But the cocktail menu is what we’re here for, and it does not disappoint. Bartender Randy Brown and GM John Giammanco designed the menu around favorites, but with their own spin. Their Negroni, called the The Standard, features Campari, but chooses RE:FIND gin for their liquor and Byrrh Quinquina as its vermouth. The result: smoooothness . Likewise, The Hound is like a Greyhound but opts of out grapefruit juice and uses a liqueur instead: Pamplemousse, which is grapefruit in French, along with Cutler’s gin, lime juice and a fleur de sel (French sea salt) rim.

But our favorite is the Benchmark, their version of a Manhattan, featuring Benchmark bourbon (a coincidence!), Amaro Nonino as the vermouth and Benedictine as the bitters. There’s also added complexity from both Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, which smells like cinnamon, and Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. This is our Drink of the Week from a very new, very popular spot. See you there!

1 3/4 ounces bourbon (preferably McAfee’s Benchmark No. 8)
1 ounce Amaro Nonino (an Italian herbal liqueur)
1/2 ounce Benedictine (an herbal liqueur)
Dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
Dash Bitter Truth Creole Bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with Luxardo maraschino cherry.

Benchmark Eatery
1201 State St.
(805)845-2600 or www.benchmarkeatery.com

Drink of the Week: Apero’s Smoking Bulliet


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.

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