With the final weekend of the Santa Barbara Film Fest upon us, I thought I'd talk about a topic that should be of interest to out-of-towners and locals alike. Where to get a decent drink around here.
I've long maintained that bar tending is a dying art. And in some establishments, it's downright moribund. Too many bartenders simply don't know how to make a proper cocktail. I've told you before about ordering a Bloody Mary in Las Vegas and watching the bar tender grab a bottle of pre-packaged Bloody Mary mix, pour it into a glass with a shot of vodka and have the nerve to charge $11 for it.
Of course, we probably only have ourselves to blame. Too many of us go out and order vodka cranberries or, worse yet, vodka and Red Bull. There's no skill involved in mixing either of those high balls.
So, I thought I would pick three of my own favorite cocktails and point you to where in town they do the best job of making them. Since it's Film Festival weekend I'm limiting myself to bars in the general downtown area. And no, I haven't been to every bar between Carpinteria and Gaviota. After all, this is not "The Grog Blog."
One of my favorite drinks is the Bloody Mary. I know, a lot of people feel it's too heavy to drink for some occasions but I like one anytime. I have long thought that the best Bloody Mary was the one made down at Brophy Brothers. Made from scratch with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and a salted rim on the glass. At a mere $7.25 it is hard to beat. But I've recently discovered one that I like even better, the chipotle smoked Bloody Mary served at Tupelo Junction. It has a distinctive taste and the crab claw they garnish it with is the pièce de résistance. It will set you back $9.
Probably no drink request is more apt to be met with a look of puzzlement on a bartender's face then a request for a Sidecar. Yes, it's an old school drink but then again, I'm an "old school" guy. Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice. And of course the presentation in a chilled martini glass is what sets it apart. If you order one and the bartender goes looking for his or her recipe book, it's probably best to get out of there, or at least think about ordering something else.
The best Sidecar in town for my money is the one they make at Cafe Luck. They charge 9 bucks for it, which I recall is a little less than the runner-up in this category, the one they serve at the bar at the Biltmore.
I know it's February so my third cocktail on my list, the Mojito, may not be as popular this time of year. But hey, this is Santa Barbara. We wear shorts in the winter so why not have a Mojito? This is a labor intensive drink and the fresh mint which the bartender is required to muddle isn't always on hand. But you'll never be disappointed in this drink if you order it at Blue Agave. There is no "runner-up" in this category. After all, when you've had the best, why mess with the rest?
© 2010 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com