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: 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: Mesa Cafe’s Caipirinha

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

By the time you read this, the finalists for the World Cup will be lined up, with only one last game to play in sunny Brazil. It was by chance, though, that we walked into the Mesa Cafe for lunch when the USA-Belgium game was going down and we realized that this restaurant bar is football — I mean, soccer! — mad. The servers and hosts were wearing USA jerseys in support (and before they got knocked out, Mexico jerseys too) to amp up the crowd that had come to watch and cheer. USA got eliminated, but the excitement is going to continue Saturday, and we are here to let you know that in honor of the World Cup’s hosts, the Mesa Cafe is offering caipirinhas for $6 each during the game and $3.75 16-ounce Bud Light in a special bottle.

We’ve talked about caipirinhas before, but here’s a refreshing refresher, courtesy of bar manager Caroline Saenz: lime juice, simple syrup and Sagatiba cachaça, aka Brazilian rum. Essentially, it’s like a margarita from the Southern Hemisphere, but without the burn of tequila; it’s smooth and sweet and the perfect way to indulge in this weekend’s game, no matter who you end up rooting for.

1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces cachaça (preferably Sagatiba)

Either muddle 2 lime wedges or use fresh lime juice. Combine juice, simple syrup and cachaça over ice, shake and pour into lowball glass. Garnish with lime and paper umbrella.

1972 Cliff Drive
966-5303 or www.mesacafesb.com

DRINK OF THE WEEK: Olio Crudo Bar’s Balsamic Martini

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

The Olio e Limone name continues to spread on its little corner of Victoria Street. At one point, it was only its namesake restaurant. Then it took over the space next door and started busting out delicious pizzas as Olio Pizzeria. And a few months ago, it moved into a third business on the other side of its door, now called Olio Crudo Bar. This place features small plates of seafood and meat and, most importantly (for us anyway), a lovely collection of cocktails designed by owners Elaine and Alberto Morello and prepared by bartender Tim Delaney. The focus here is on Italian-themed drinks, with a range of familiar and unfamiliar flavors.

We dived right in first with an Aperol Spritz, a simple aperitif of Aperol, prosecco and soda, and that whet our appetite for more. The Milano cocktail, very popular already, is the bar’s version of a Manhattan, with ri brand whiskey, Antica Formula Vermouth and Peychaud’s Bitters. The rye makes this as complex and as sweet as you’d want a classic whiskey cocktail. Moving on, we tried a favorite that’s also over at the original Olio e Limone, the Martini all’Olio, with drops of the family’s olive oil in the drink, as well as Stoli vodka, simple syrup, basil leaf and pink grapefruit juice. The result is smooth and basil-forward, and that oil is almost an afterthought.

Mr. Delaney, who was making all these drinks for us, kept the best for last, though: the Balsamic Martini. We’ve had drinks that mix balsamic with strawberry before, but nothing like this flavor sensation: Bacardi rum, strawberry puree, simple syrup and Bevivo Drinking Balsamic. Sweet and sour in one sip, on top of a fruity tongue. Immediately we knew this would be our Drink of the Week.

2 ounces Bacardi rum
1 ounce strawberry puree
1 ounce Bevivo Drinking Balsamic
3/4 ounce simple syrup

Combine ingredients in shaker over ice, shake and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with strawberry.

Olio Crudo Bar
11 W.Victoria St. 899-2699 or www.olioelimone.com/olio-crudo-bar