A small number of people, according to owner Roy Gandy, believe his restaurant and bar on Carrillo is called The Jolly Tiger, and not Roy. That could have something to do with the large, neon sign that says exactly that, hanging over the bar.
A Buffalo Bills football nestles in the lower loop of the “g,” a mark of the man who rescued this piece of Santa Barbara history from the back of an antique store. The actual Jolly Tiger was on the corner of Canon Perdido and Chapala, now Cajun Kitchen, a local chain of three eateries that closed in the ’80s.
Hey, Pepe’s! Long time no see! We were checking out one of our favorite bookstores in Goleta (Left Coast Books, fyi) and wanted a drink and maybe some Mexican grub and decided to stop by Pepe’s, located just around the corner. We had forgotten two major things about the place: Its bar is warm and friendly, and the bar food is super affordable. (We felt miles away from downtown. How many miles? About $10 worth.)
And there’s a summer cocktail menu to try, with bartender Jamie Brofeldt pouring us some selections, being very chatty, and just very enthusiastic. There’s a new mojito to order featuring Bacardi light, lime and simple syrup. It’s delicious and it made it through the rough audition process at Pepe’s, where even things like an Orange Cosmo were called “too fancy.”
Is The Lark now the most popular restaurant in Santa Barbara? We’ll answer that rhetorical question for you: Yes, yes it is. Before our official Drink of the Week visit, we were with friends who suddenly wanted to grab some food. The wait time was … come back tomorrow. Even when we got in, there were only bar stools to be had. But that’s OK. We like barstools.
It was a chilly August night — yeah, that is weird, right? — and we were taking in Holdren’s on State. We like that this classic steakhouse sits right next to the raging party central that is the Sandbar, and both were packed to overflow. Two different clienteles, two different menus, same result. Holdren’s has a pleasant, long, old timey bar and a hard workin’ bartender called Brad Mueller who’s been here many a year. Every time we meet, it’s a bit of the old “Aren’t you the … ?” and “Don’t I know you?” dance.
Here’s the thing: Holdren’s has drinks of the month, and we don’t check them out enough.
While this week no doubt brings out margarita cravings, we here at Drink of the Week couldn’t help but talk to some of our bartenders about non-marg business, seeing what else was up in the cocktail world. Cecily Barrie gets to play around with new and old ingredients behind the bar at Cielito, and is well aware that Fiesta is here. So she’s come up with the Verdi Gris, which takes the tastes of Old Spanish Days and reworks them into a unique cocktail.
She starts with Hornitos Reposado, a nice base tequila, nothing too fancy. But then she adds some Pavan, a new liqueur, at least to these local shelves.
Imagine a mix of orange blossom water and moscato grapes, with an amazingly complex nose. It’s delightful just by itself over ice, so we were curious what would happen with it in a cocktail. But Barrie wasn’t done: She has made up a puree of cilantro and tomatillos. We know, right? That’s salsa! But, ay, dios mio, it works! “Dangerously drinkable” was uttered. “Like an adult popsicle” was also said. “What to have when a margarita is just not doing it,” was another.
Cielito righteously gets packed during this five-day party, and the Verdi Gris may not have made it on the menu by the time you read this. But you can ask for it by name. Tell them Drink of the Week sent you.
1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila (preferably Hornitos)
1 ounce cilantro and tomatillo puree (see note)
1 ounce Pavan liqueur
Shake ingredients over ice and pour into lowball glass. To make puree: Use the ratio of 1 ripe tomatillo to a small handful of cilantro. Adjust batch size accordingly. Keep refrigerated.
Yes, the hotel on the corner of Chapala and Carrillo has changed hands over the last decade like Beyonce changes costumes during a concert. And we’ve been with them through every new incarnation. The interior of the bar has, however, remained pretty stable — serving up very good cocktails — and the combo of happy hour drinks and bites has been nicely affordable.
The new restaurant and bar is Finch & Fork. The focus is still on fresh ingredients and infusions. The cocktail menu is packed with goodness (the happy hour food is also great, and we suggest you order the deviled eggs). The Hawaiian Honey Creeper, named after the finch-like bird, is a variation on the mai tai: two kinds of rum, a mix of juices and orgeat syrup, but topped with green Chartreuse in a hollowed lime shell. Instead of the sweetie-sweetie tropical drink we expected, we got an almost bitter mix, and we loved it! The Figueroa uses fig-infused Buffalo Trace in this version of a simple whiskey cocktail, and anybody who likes a Manhattan should try it. And the Guava Jelly is spicy because of its mix of guava and habanero mixed with tequila.
Manhattan has its cocktail, although it may be named after a bar in New York, not the borough. The Bronx has a cocktail, and its infamy is tied to Bill Wilson, whose Bronx binge led to alcoholism and much later Alcoholics Anonymous. And then there’s the Long Island Iced Tea, one of the stronger drinks out there. The Brooklyn cocktail exists, but is as rare as finding a cheap place to rent there, and is like a Manhattan except for Maraschino liqueur used instead of vermouth. However, Staten Island … sorry dudes, you get nothing.
Which leaves us with Queens, which is probably where your hip friend is living now after the big dreams of living in Manhattan fell apart and Williamsburg was too trendy. We learned all about the Queens cocktail when we stopped by Sly’s in Carpinteria the other day. It had been a hot one, and we’d been stuck in traffic coming up from Ventura. It was time for some libations, and the Queens was just what we wanted.
Related to the Bronx, it uses gin. Bartender Jack Chinn, with advice from mixologist and history buff Mandy Huffaker-Chinn, set about making us this drink, using Gordon’s gin, an equal mix of vermouths, and muddled pineapple. It’s the fruit that gives the cocktail its smooth mouthfeel, frothy head and bright color. It’s our Drink of the Week — and our second favorite borough!
Here at Drink of the Week HQ downtown in our undisclosed location, it’s officially summer. It’s hot and sometimes humid, and the answer to a lot of our problems is another light and icy cocktail.
We have to pace ourselves, but the other day we got invited to stop by Arnoldi’s for a game of bocci and we realized that, yes, we should probably get some exercise other than lifting glasses to our mouths.
Stearns Wharf is a great place to watch the sunset, but tonight it’s also a great place to watch the fireworks. Yes, it’s going to be crowded, but there’s a lot of great views and a different perspective than that afforded to the majority of landlocked viewers. And one of the best venues on the wharf to watch the rockets’ red glare is Longboard’s Grill. It’s upstairs, it looks right out onto the beach where the fireworks are set, and you can get a cocktail.
We’ve been to Longboard’s a few times over the years and we like that it’s one of the few places still serving tiki drinks. They have parrot-shaped glasses, shark-shaped glasses, scorpion bowls, volcano drinks, and drinks for a big group in one bowl. But for fireworks, we wanted something less flashy and more suited to the long sunset that preps us for the flares.
The Santa Barbara Sunset could be that drink. It comes in a large wine glass, and keeps it simple with orange juice and grenadine for color, and Hornitos and Grand Marnier for booze. Yes, there’s also a sunny drink called the Sunsplash – Stoli Ohranj, Cointreau, and cranberry, lemon and orange. It looks good, but it’s just a bit too sweet for the jaded tongues of DOTW. Instead, the Sunset is much more about the tequila, and hence when the sun goes down, this cocktail will be doing the same. Happy Fourth!
THE SANTA BARBARA SUNSET
2 ounces Hornitos bianco tequila
3 ounces orange juice
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
Combine all ingredients over rocks, shake and pour into wine glass. Garnish with cherries and a flower.
When Sama Sama opened in the space once occupied by East, we here at DOTW wondered what happened to the precious liquor license that came attached to the place. Would Sama Sama make the bar separate, like East tried to do, or would they incorporate it into the fresh, locally sourced aesthetic of this Indonesian restaurant? Well, it’s the latter, and to make these drinks on their new cocktail menu work, they invited bartender Adam Hopkins (formerly of Whiskey Richards) and Jesse Keenan (currently of Elsie’s) to get together over a long weekend and bring some southeast Asian flair to things.
To be honest, we wanted to try nearly everything on the menu, but we had to whittle it down to three. Sama Sama’s namesake cocktail starts with Benchmark bourbon and adds jasmine sweet tea (made on the premises), lemon juice and lemon basil leaves. The result is so light that it’s hard to believe there’s bourbon in it. So maybe this is good for anyone easing themselves slowly into whiskey. (We’re already in the pool and the water’s fine.)
The Mule Kick is the bartenders’ version of a Moscow Mule. (Can we point out that this looks to be the year of the Mule and its variations?) Two kinds of vodka are used: a Thai chili-infused one and a ginger-infused vodka. This then gets mixed with Reed’s ginger beer. The kick is indeed strong on this one.
But for Drink of the Week, we settled on the Zeppelin, a mix of potato vodka, cava sparkling wine, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit bitters. A very complex, mature cocktail, this is that little bit o’ samasama you need.
1 ounce potato vodka (preferably Boyd & Blair)
2 dashes grapefruit bitters (preferably Fee’s)
1 ounce elderflower liqueur (preferably Thatcher’s)
Cava sparkling wine, to top
Lemon rind, for rim
Shake vodka, bitters and elderflower over ice. Strain mixture into glass, top with cava and garnish with lemon. Yield: 1 drink