Drink of the Week: El Paseo’s Black Magic

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

At last, we near the end of our three-week journey, ending up in the heart of Fiesta. That is, El Paseo, which, since 1922, has been the place to go for fine Mexican food and a long selection of tequilas. This remnant of what was once a bustling mercado of shops and eateries in the forgone era of the 1970s, before it was turned into, well, law offices, is still pulling people in.

We’ve been trying out various margaritas over these three weeks, and so we scan down the menu until we get to the Black Magic. It’s not called a margarita on the menu, but according to our building blocks of a margarita, it is. It has a tequila — Don Julio Reposado. It has a sweet — St. Germain and some simple syrup. And it has a sour — lemon juice. And it has muddled blackberries to cast the whole thing into a purple haze. So, yes! It is a margarita, and very smooth and fruity and mellow one at that. And yes, El Paseo is going to be blowin’ up by the time you read this. But they’ll still have our Drink of the Week waiting for you.

3 blackberries
2 ounces Don Julio Reposado tequila
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup

Muddle blackberries.
Add ice and then tequila, St.-Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

813 Anacapa St.
(805) 962-6050 or www.elpaseosb.com

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Casa Blanca’s Prickly Pear Margarita

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

It’s week two of our Drink of the Week march toward Fiesta! Or rather than march, call it a saunter, with glass in hand. We are keeping our focus on margaritas, that endlessly versatile drink, and the go-to cocktail for Old Spanish Days. We decided to stop by Casa Blanca, the very large and very fun restaurant and bar on the corner of State and Gutierrez. When it first opened, we came here and tried many drinks, including the Sunset Margarita. This time, we wanted to check out the special, which bartender Morgan Moore was happy to make for us: the Prickly Pear Margarita. This cactus fruit has a banana-like texture and flavor and a neon pink color, and makes this drink pop out among all the others at the bar. Moore uses El Charro Reposado tequila, the bar’s well, but you can replace it with your favorite. Also included: lime juice, lemonade and orange juice, instead of the typical sweet and sour mix. This drink was so good, we were done before we started … or it seemed like it, with plenty of citrus-y goodness mixed in with the pear, tangy but soft. It’s our Drink of the Week, but stay tuned next week for our final cocktail!

2 ounces. El Charro Reposado Tequila
2 ounces Perfect Purees’ Prickly Pear puree (or any other brand)
1 1/2 ounces triple sec
Splash lime juice
Splash orange juice
Lemonade, to top

Combine tequila, puree, triple sec, lime juice and orange juice over ice and shake. Pour into salt-lined lowball glass, top with lemonade. Garnish with lime wedge.

Casa Blanca
330 State St.
(805) 845-8966 or casablancasb.com

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Palazzio’s Jalapeño Margarita

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

In just under two weeks, it will be Fiesta, and already we’re thinking about it … just the drinks, of course. OK, yes, we are thinking about the dancing, but that makes us think about the parade, and that makes us think about the mercado, and that makes us think of food, and that makes us thirsty. So there you go.

So what to do? In our first of three suggestions, we think that Palazzio just might be the place to stop. Jamie Freymuth has been the face of Palazzio’s bar for four years and creates all the cocktails there, putting the weekly winners on the little sandwich chalkboard near the street. That’s how we first saw the Jalapeño Margarita.

This is a quick mix. Several slices of jalapeño, then a mix of 1800 Reposado, triple sec, and then Palazzio’s house mix, a 50-50 of lemon and lime juice and simple syrup to top. When Ms. Freymuth unjarred that container of jalapeños, that spicy smell knocked us back, but, fortunately, the drink is sweet, not blasting with heat. It’s designed for a seat at the bar, looking out at the madness of State Street, just above the fray. It’s our Drink of the Week.

2 oz. 1800 Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz. Triple Sec
Lemon and lime juice, 50-50 mix, to top
Simple syrup to top
3 – 4 jalapeño slices

Muddle jalapeño slices gently at bottom of pint glass. Add tequila, triple sec and ice. Top with equal parts citrus mix and simple syrup. Shake and return to pint glass.

1026 State St.
(805) 564-1985 or www.palazzio.com

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Cafe Del Sol’s Strawberry or Mango Blended Margarita

Strawberry or Mango Blended Margarita
Strawberry or Mango Blended Margarita

Remember spring? No, we don’t either. It was a scorcher the other day, but as it started to cool down, we here at Drink of the Week got on our bikes for a ride alongside our fabulous beach, down toward the Bird Refuge. It was just another reminder that we’re lucky to live here and do not have to only visit for the weekend.

Our ride ended at Cafe del Sol, which has a very nice happy hour during the weekdays and a beautiful view over the estuary every day. And they remembered us from our visit many years ago. Even bartender Kyler Barbee remembered our faces and told us he’s read every column since.
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Carlito’s Pomegranate Margarita

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press

Stunning to think that Carlito’s has been in Santa Barbara 32 years, serving up Mexican food across from the Arlington. That patio always stays packed when the sun is out, and that’s most of the time in our ‘burb. The chips and salsa keep coming, and oh my, that salsa! Or rather, those salsas, the chunky tomato version is so thick that the chips have a hard time standing under the weight. The black bean and corn salsa is oh so crunchy. What really could go with this lovely salt’n’corn combo?

Why, cocktails of course. Silly to ask, really. This is the Drink of the Week column, and Carlito’s was off our radar for a while only because it doesn’t have a physical bar to sidle up to. Instead, we sidled up to the menu, and found that there’s about 20 choices for the cocktail fan. So let the party begin, and come find us on the patio.

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Chili’s Grill and Bar’s Freshest Margarita

Nik Blaskovich/News-Press
Nik Blaskovich/News-Press

Is it possible to have a neighborhood bar in a big box mall? Hollister Brewing Co. is having a go at it, and next to them, Chili’s looks dinky by comparison, walled in on the other side by Pastavino and Holdren’s. A 10-seat bar, sports inevitably on the TV, windows that look out over the parking lot…and regulars.

Yes, Chili’s is corporate, but manager Israel Fuentes has been here five years (10 total in the Chili’s chain) and bartender Jen Bradshaw has been here three and a half. And during this economic downturn he hasn’t had to lay anybody off.

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The Study Hall’s Cherry Cheesecake

Let’s face it. Choosing “The Study Hall” as a bar name in the center of college students heaven/hell is the height of wit in a block full of d’oh-inspiring shop names. (“The IV Drip” coffee shop! “Naan Stop” Indian take-out!) How comforting knowing that you can tell the old folks at home that you spent all day (and night) at the Study Hall.

Jason Smith has been serving here for seven years. The regulars all call him Smitty. Come here twice and you too will be a regular. As one of the two bars in sizzled and schnookered Isla Vista, The Study Hall has its work cut out for it. How to convince students to drink here, when the liquor store and a Del Playa house offers a cheaper night out?

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