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Welcome to

A Dossier on the Dynamos and Drinks Fueling

Santa Barbara’s Mixology Scene


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1114 State Street | 805-965-4770 | | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 3

Your Guide to

Cocktail Land


n your hands is a valuable document, our first-ever, behind-the-scenes look at the past, present, and future of Santa Barbara’s bartending scene. In the following pages, you’ll meet the people and places raising our imbibing opportunities to the most creative levels, and learn how they’re inventing the cocktails and cultivating the vibes that make us swoon. ● DISCLAIMER ● Each of these establishments is featured in this issue of Cocktail Land, but there are dozens more restaurants, bars, and lounges across the South Coast where a good drink is easy to find.


Ben Ciccati



Paul Wellman


Matt Kettmann


Harry’s Plaza Café (3313-B State St.;



Tee-Off (3627 State St.; Uptown Lounge (3126 State St.;

GOLETA Beachside Cafe

(5905 Sandspit Rd.;

The Good Bar

@ The Goodland Hotel (5650 Calle Real; )

The Imperial

(320 S. Kellogg Ave.)

4 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |



Arnoldi’s Café (600 Olive St.; The Bobcat Room (11 W. Ortega St.; The Drunken Crab (416 State. St; The Good Lion (1212 State St.; Milk & Honey (30 W. Anapamu St.; The Pickle Room (126 E. Canon Perdido St.;




Benchmark Eatery (1201 State St.;


Nectar (20 E. Cota St.; Viva Modern Mexican (1114 State St.;



(1812 Cliff Dr.; om) alcazartapasbar.c

@ Se v en


bar & k


Cutler’s Artisan Spirits (137 Anacapa St., Ste. D; The Neighborhood (235 W. Montecito St.; Seven Bar & Kitchen (224 Helena Ave.; Test Pilot (211 Helena Ave.; | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 5

Alvaro Rojas Early Adopter

hen Alvaro Rojas sold his State Street burrito joint Chilango’s and opened Alcazar as a tapas restaurant on the Mesa in 2000, he admits, “I couldn’t bartend my way out of a paper bag.” When his bartender didn’t show up one day, Rojas jumped in to make some “antifreeze-looking margarita.” The woman sent it back and left.


Owner of

“I was heartbroken,” Alcazar and said Rojas. “I totally overcompensated by looking into every cool cocktail culture I could find.” Trips to Los Angeles and New York inspired Rojas to put a “salad in your drink,” meaning tons of fresh juice rather than Rose’s Lime Juice and “all that premixed stuff from the big conglomerates.”

Milk &


Sounds de rigueur today, but back in 2000, Alcazar became the hub of modern cocktail culture in Santa Barbara, particularly for bringing the mojito to town, which was a craze all its own. In 2007, Rojas brought his cocktail and tapas formula downtown by opening Milk & Honey, and also ran the Bourbon Room from 2013 until the end of 2015. All the while, he’s enjoyed watching the town’s mixology scene steadily grow so that today’s drinker is much more sophisticated and adventurous. “When I opened Alcazar, I had to tone it back a ton — we’re a little beach town, so people weren’t into stuff that was funky or wild,” said Rojas. “Now it’s a lot easier to have fun and experiment.” e milk & honey

6 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |

Brandon and Misty Ristaino

The Promised Ones

he Good Lion’s opening in 2014 was a big test for Santa Barbara’s scene: Would a bar focused only on craft cocktails full of obscure ingredients and served by mustachioed hipsters succeed? The instant answer was, “Hell yeah!” so much so that the Ristainos just opened their second establishment, Test Pilot, down in the Funk Zone.


“I’m big on spatial honesty, so we want to go with what feels right in each space,” said Brandon Ristaino. The State Street, next-to-the-Granada vibe led to a slightly Old World theme for The Good Lion, whereas the beachy, shack-like vibe of the former Reds led to the Test Pilot’s tiki bar-ness.

Owners of

The Good Lion and Test Pilot

Here’s a favorite drink from each:

Brass Monkey @ The Good Lion

Formerly an end-of-summer drink, this is now a regular cocktail, though the cantaloupe cordial is replaced with an orange cordial when the melon is out of season. 2 oz. amaro meletti .5 oz. lime juice .5 oz. grapefruit juice .5 oz. orgeat (floral almond cordial) .25 oz. cantaloupe cordial 1 dash Angostura bitters 1.5 oz. Telegraph IPA (or other balanced/sessionable IPA)

Oaxacan Dead @ Test Pilot

“This is a Zombie variation,” said Brandon, “hence the pun.”

Directions: Hard shake in your shaking tins all ingredients but the IPA with just one cube of ice. Gently add the beer to the tins. Pour all contents into your favorite tiki glassware (should be appx. 12 oz.) over crushed ice. Top with no more than an additional .5 oz. IPA. Garnish with mint sprig, grapefruit twist, and real maraschino cherry (we like Amarena or Luxardo).

.75 oz. Appleton reserve Jamaican rum .75 oz. reposado tequila (we like El Tesoro and Tequila Ocho here) .16 oz. or teaspoon mescal (we like Nuestra Soledad here) .5 oz. falernum (a clove/ginger/lime cordial) .16 oz. or teaspoon grenadine .25 oz. grapefruit juice .25 oz. cinnamon cordial (we are huge nerds and sous vide our own!) 1 dash Angostura bitters Directions: Hard shake in your shaking tins all ingredients with just one cube of ice. Pour all contents into your favorite tiki glassware (should be appx. 16 oz.) over crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig, grapefruit twist, and real maraschino cherry (we like Amarena or Luxardo). e | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 7


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5905 Sandspit Rd. Goleta Beach 8 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |



Dawn O’Brien Design on Her Mind

fter working

at Zelo on State Owner of Elsie’s, Street and as The Mercury Lounge, an art restorationist, and O’Brien broke out on her The Imperial own in the early 1990s by opening Elsie’s and The Mercury Lounge, both under-the-radar, craft-beer-before-itwas-even-a-thing bars that thrive to this day. In 2013, she took over the shell of the Bak Dor — a dive bar in every sense of the phrase — behind the old Sizzler on Hollister Avenue in Old Town Goleta, and she built a retro cocktail palace. Here’s how she does it: What’s first? I take out what I don’t want. That left me a pretty hollow shell! A centerpiece? Then I usually find a piece of some kind — something interesting always comes along — and that dictates which way to go, as does the room itself. In this case, it was a big, gold sconce that was from The Firebird [a Cota Street bar she opened in the early 2000s]. Also, I found a killer couch. It fit perfectly. Storage unit? I’m always hunting, so you have to have one. Why vintage? It’s so well made and people feel that. Nowadays, everything is so disposable. My cash register is almost 70 years old, and it works like a champ. People feel that quality on a subliminal level somehow. Outdoor seating? The patio changed everything. I got to bring all my vintage rattan furniture from home. We were really lucky. The City of Goleta was so encouraging! Design to drink? We’re drawing from classic cocktails. We’re using the highest quality and freshest of everything we can get out hands on. That combined with the base of classic cocktails makes for a beautiful thing. )

J.J. Resnick Moscow Mule Man

fter selling his company that made gear for service animals, this young entrepreneur and Santa Barbara resident tapped into his family history to revive the original copper mug used in the Moscow Mule.


President/ CEO at


Copper Co.

The Story: In 1941, his grandma, Sophie Berezinski, who’d left Russia as a little girl, was told by her husband to get rid of the many copper mugs she made with her father. A friend of hers had just bought Smirnoff Vodka (in an age when everyone drank brown spirits), and his friend owned the Cock ’n’ Bull in Hollywood, where he loved making ginger beer, even though everyone drank ginger ale. The trio put their heads together and came up with a tasty drink of vodka, ginger beer, and lime on ice, served in those copper mugs. The Moscow Mule was born. “She was a pretty strong, outgoing woman, and I like to think I get some of my entrepreneurial spirit from her,” said Resnick. The Plan: On an overseas business trip for his prior company, Resnick walked past a store filled with the fake Moscow Mule mugs. “The junk mugs you see at most bars with a vodka brand on the side are really plastic or tin that are sprayed a copper color,” said Resnick. “I made it my mission to source the best copper in the world and go back to the original design.” The Growth: In the first year, Resnick’s Moscow Copper Co., which sources the metal from Turkey, Mexico, and India, made 25,000 mugs. But that number is expected to grow to 250,000 in the year to come, thanks to a deal with Stolichnaya Vodka. There’s also a 75th anniversary book called Mulehead coming out this fall, featuring more lore and 75 recipes from around the world that were culled from 4,000 submissions. See e | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 9

Patrick Reynolds and Shaun Belway

Farm-to-Bar Innovators

fter self-training at Epiphany, studies at SBCC’s culinary school, and a formative stint at The Hungry Cat, Patrick Reynolds started a Farm-to-Bar series every Tuesday (thanks to the concurrent downtown Farmers Market) at Wildcat Lounge back in 2012, building it into his own nonprofit, event-focused cocktail catering business and spinning off the Bobcat Room, a speakeasy-like addition to Wildcat. Then Shaun Belway, who’d spent some time learning the classics in New Orleans, swooped in to take the day-to-day reins, and he can now be seen foraging the streets of downtown for his next cocktail enhancement.


Imagineer and Bar Manager

of the

Bobcat Room


Sense Memory Tricks

Bobcat room’s Shaun Belway, Bob Stout, and Patrick Reynolds

(from left)


“Jesusita” Foraging Tips

1) Chamomile-infused vodka makes everything taste like white Life Savers. 2) Serve an heirloom tomato and basil gin drink to make them think of mozzarella. 3) Put Hank Williams Sr. on while serving a bottle of beer. 4) Use sage and Angostura bitters to make anything taste like hiking. 5) Use hickory smoked pistachios on the rim of any whiskey drink to replicate bacon.

To make his Jesusita, which includes Cutler’s gin, white grapefruit, and black sage, Belway suggests: 1) Know your surroundings: We have a plethora of edible goodies, both in town and in the wilderness, but know what to look for. The black sage I use has many mimics, some unsafe! 2) Make friends: Much of the good stuff is on private property, but many people have an overabundance and are happy to share. But don’t take without asking. You can even trade yard work, which I did with my neighbors who have lots of white grapefruit. 3) Share your goods: In the end, bring everyone together, share, and you might be allowed to use more. e

10 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |

Ian Cutler Boozeman Does Bitters

Owner of

Cutler’s Artisan Spirits or more than three years, Cutler has been distilling vodka, gin, whiskey, and his special Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie concoction down in the Funk Zone. He was a welcome addition to the scene, as more than 100 bars, restaurants, and retailers now sell his stuff in the Santa Barbara area. A change in California state laws this year allows him to pour one cocktail per visitor, so he fired up a bitters program to add nuance to his hooch.


What are bitters? They’re basically tinctures, alcoholic extracts that are typically botanical in nature. A tincture is a single extract, like vanilla, but bitters combine multiple things. In cocktails, they bring bitterness, which helps balance the sugar but adds a complexity of flavors, as well. How do you make them? You take the botanical and soak them in alcohol. Most home bitter makers just use 80-proof vodka, but you can extract at any proof

you choose to. That’s part of the art — you will get different flavors based on your choice of proof. Also the quantities of botanicals, how long they sit for, what temperature you use — there are a lot of variables that go into crafting the flavor balance of a good bitter. What have you made? A chocolate bitter, using Twenty-Four Blackbirds chocolate, and more aromatic chocolate bitter with citrus peels. A citrus-chile bitter; I started with pasilla and guajillo, but I plan to use other chiles, too. Pecan bitters, and I’m working on a cherry bitter, but I’m not quite there yet. What do you add them to? For the chocolate one, I really like adding it to bourbon with a twist of orange and a little bit of maple syrup. It’s a really spirit-forward type of drink, which I like. e | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 11

The Black Sheep

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12 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |

matt kettmann

G u r e u s t O e B E V E R Y D AY 5PM – 1:30AM

Chris Burmeister Serving the Seasons


s at any seri-

Beverage Manager at

ous modern The Good Bar bar, Burmeis- and Outpost S.B. Inside the Goodland Hotel ter changes the menu at The Good Bar every three months to best reflect the changing seasons and trends. Here’s what inspires each shift.

20 E. Cota St. | 805-899-4694 |

Fall: As we move into October, I’m definitely going with more aromatic and darker spirits. It’s not really getting colder yet, but football is ready to start, and it’s getting darker a little earlier, so people are drinking a little more bourbon, rye, and dark rums. Winter: Anything with baking spice, things that are super aromatic, fortified wines like ports, and whole egg whites. Big, hearty, savory — those kinds of flavors that are almost like a meal. It’s like comfort food on the cocktail side.

Spring: More floral, with lavender and violet. Wine cocktails are awesome. You’re moving toward summertime, but it’s still kind of herbaceous and botanical. Gin is always good in springtime. It pairs well with floral notes and fresh berries.

Summer: White spirits like vodka, gin, rum,

and tequila. Refreshing, lots of long drinks, lots of citrus, and beer cocktails. Grapefruit, rose, coconut, pineapple. Anything that tastes tropical, like you can drink 100 of them sitting outside. e

Louisiana-style “shellfish by the pound”experience! Craft Beer Selection Bottomless Mimosas Sat-Sun

416 State Street 805-845-2986 | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 13

Drew Morehouse Modern Spin on Old Classics

aised in Hawai‘i, Morehouse worked at Le Café Stella and Stella Mare’s and then helped open Seven Bar & Kitchen in the Funk Zone back in 2013. He departed briefly to work alongside nationally respected mixologist Julian Cox at the short-lived Nuance on lower State Street in 2015, then returned to take over the bar at Seven, where the focus is “Americana.”


He’s proud of the modern spin he puts on old classics, including the following:

Bar Manager of

Seven Bar &Kitchen

• Beekeeper, a Penicillin that uses American whiskey instead of Scotch, with honey syrup, macerated ginger, lemon bitters, and a touch of ginger beer. • Moscow Mule, which uses American potato vodka and a chamomile tea that blend the cocktail together. • Old-Fashioned, which employs elements of the Fancy Free, using a maraschino liqueur rather than muddled fruit. But his hottest drink?

The Peter Pink Pepper

“A lot of people see gin by itself and mescal by itself and are put off by it,” said Morehouse. “I love both liquors. They’re my favorite to play with.” He mixes them in this cocktail, along with a pink peppercorn syrup, fresh lemon and lime, and a bit of peach purée, served up. “The smoky flavor of the mescal with the floral brightness of the gin really go well together,” he said. )

14 | September 22, 2016 | CoCktail land |

Willy Gilbert The Bartender’s Bartender

illy Gilbert’s first job in town was as a prep cook at the Big Yellow House back in 1977, but he found his home at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens in 1984, where he was the friendly face behind the bar until it closed in 2006. Amid post-Jimmy’s stints at Wildcat and Jill’s Place, Gilbert settled into the Monday and Tuesday shift at the Pickle Room (inside the old Jimmy’s) and Thursday-Saturday at Arnoldi’s down on Cota and Olive streets.


The Mai Tai master? Gilbert is the gatekeeper to the Mai Tai mix created for Jimmy’s by his good friend, the late owner Tommy Chung, who let him watch the process but never divulged an actual recipe. “I make it a little more sour, with more fresh lime juice,” admitted Gilbert. “People don’t like them too sweet anymore.” Which cocktails are dying? Very few, but he only makes a Harvey Wallbanger once a year and hardly ever makes a Tequila Sunrise. As for the Alabama Slammer, he said, “I haven’t made one of those in years.” Ever stumped? Rarely, thanks to experience and his smartphone. But he recently had to ask a patron for the preferred ingredients to a Blood and Sand, which is Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth, and a splash of Drambuie.

Bar Manager at the

Pickle Room


Arnoldi’s Café

Favorite drink to make? “I have a standard answer,” said Gilbert. “I like to make a bottled beer. Nobody opens it better than I do.” Where’s he drink? After golf on Wednesdays, he often winds up in either Harry’s Plaza Café of the Tee-Off, two classic joints on upper State Street, sipping Tito’s or Stolichnaya vodka on the rocks. “What I like about both places is not the cocktails; it’s the bartenders,” said Gilbert. “At Harry’s, I have to order with a side of ice because it’s a big ol’ bucketful. I have to keep watering it down.” How ’bout at home? He prefers light, crisp lagers or pilsners, particularly Peroni. And then there’s the 4-2-1, or as he calls it, “the Miratti,” as it was taught to him by actor Tony Miratti. Four parts vodka (he likes Tito’s), two parts gin (Plymouth), and one part dry vermouth, served on the rocks, either with an olive or a twist or a spring onion. “It’s a nice little cocktail,” he said. e | CoCktail land | September 22, 2016 | 15


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Santa Barbara Independent Cocktail Guide, 9/22/16  

Special Section, Cocktail Guide, 9/22/16

Santa Barbara Independent Cocktail Guide, 9/22/16  

Special Section, Cocktail Guide, 9/22/16