Bring the bar home with cocktails to-go
By Zachary Rosen
With the uncertainty of the times, one thing is for certain — it is nice to have a drink every now and then. The year 2020 has thrown us several curveballs, but it’s also thrown us a gift here in the Golden State: to-go cocktails.
This is the first time in California history that cocktails have been legally permitted to be sold for off-site consumption, creating an exciting new option for imbibers. Of course, there are restrictions for to-go cocktails. All drinks must be sold in sealed containers, for instance, and some restaurants are only offering to-go cocktails with a food order. And by now, we all know that restrictions and health guidelines may change at any time. Even with this in mind, to-go cocktails are helping to bring the bar experience home for your enjoyment.
Here are a selection of bars packing up some of the best to-go flavors to be had on the Central Coast, whether in the comfort of your home or (hopefully soon) back in the bars themselves:
In the rolling hills of Santa Ynez, S.Y. Kitchen has been revered for their farm fresh ingredients and Italian-Californian fusion cuisine. Their well-crafted dishes and cocktails have long set the standard of quality in Santa Ynez, and they continue to set the bar during this time. They were the first restaurant in the area to offer to-go cocktails through a storefront market that also sold items like fresh pasta and hummus for take-away. S.Y. Kitchen is now back open for business, and while the market is no longer operating, they are still serving the bottled cocktails for takeout on request. For their to-go selection, bar director William Perbellini made available four of their most popular cocktails, including two of their agave-based drinks: the Cilantro Margarita, and the El Viejo, a refreshing mixture of mezcal, Fresno chiles, and the spicy gusano salt with fresh lime and pineapple juice. Valley Girl is one of their best sellers and provides the refreshing flavors of vodka, basil, and fresh strawberry-lime juice. The Green Garden is another summery favorite and blends Plymouth Gin with muddled mint, cucumber, and lime. William emphasizes that they have kept precisely the same process and quality ingredients for each drink so that guests get the same fresh and flavorful experience the restaurant is known for.
S.Y. Kitchen is at 1110 Faraday St, in Santa Ynez. For more and to order: (805) 691-9794 or sykitchen.com
Sidecar Cocktail Co.
In quiet San Luis Obispo lies a creekside restaurant and bar, Sidecar Cocktail Co. While normally they have a focus on cocktail bars for events, weddings, and private parties, Sidecar has been using this time to also provide their specialty cocktails for pick-up. In addition to a range of margaritas and tiki drinks, Sidecar brings their own style to the range of cocktails on the menu. The Desperado is a lively and sweet drink that blends a house-made horchata and cold brew coffee with rum, bourbon, and a sarsaparilla tincture. The Red Carpet combines vodka and lime juice with a house-made blood orange, vanilla, and thyme shrub. The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire has a stronger character, composed of a house-made Pimms and bourbon with fresh lemon, grapefruit, and cinnamon syrup. Each of their offerings can be ordered online for pick-up in 16 oz or 32 oz bottles.
Sidecar Cocktail Co. is at 1040 Broad St, in San Luis Obispo. For more and to order: (805) 439-3563 or sidecarcocktail.company
Gavin Koehn, bar manager of Santa Barbara’s new Pearl Social, focuses on “outside of the box” cocktails. He’s is a firm believer of serving customers cocktails that they can’t easily make at home. Fortunately, Pearl Social is now offering any of their cocktails in a take-home mason jar. For each of his creations, Gavin seeks out fun, playful, and unexpected flavors that still lend themselves to being drinkable and familiar. To wit: The Harvest Moon, which captures the flavors of a southeast Asian salad by bringing together mezcal, unaged French Armagnac, and pear brandy with a cilantro-mint cordial, lime, and a dash of soy sauce. One key factor in Gavin’s to-go offerings is being able to deliver the same experience that customers are used to in the bar. For his take on the 1980s Pornstar Martini — a blend of vodka, passionfruit, and vanilla that is traditionally served with a side shot of sparkling wine — he serves the to-go version with its own mini mason jar of cava. This attention to detail can be found for each of Pearl Social’s drinks. The Disco Infiltrator uses a base of Plymouth Gin and Christian Drouin Calvados that is then infused with fresh strawberries and balanced with the herbaceous Suze liqueur and Pineau des Charentes — a French fortified wine from the Cognac region — in place of vermouth. Pearl Social has a small team so they are not currently offering online ordering; however, any of their creative cocktails can be ordered to-go directly from the bar.
Pearl Social is at 131 Anacapa St. Suite B, in Santa Barbara. For more and to order: (805) 284-0380 or pearlsocialsb.com
The colorful Shaker Mill delivers a Cuban flare and to-go drinks on State Street in Santa Barbara with a selection of their popular cocktails available for take-away. In addition to providing safety during the pandemic, Misty Orman-Ristaino, who co-owns Shaker Mill with her husband Brandon Ristaino, sees the to-go option as helping customers who may want another drink but still have to drive home. The couple also owns the other popular cocktail bars, The Good Lion and Test Pilot, and hope to soon be selling to-go drinks from each of their locations. As of now, only Shaker Mill is serving drinks to-go – for curbside pickup with a food purchase – from the attached restaurant, Cubaneo. On their website, they host a rotating selection of up to 10 of their other popular shaken or stirred cocktails in bottles. Explore the flavors of Cuba and the surrounding areas with exotic drinks like their Porto Guava or Medianoche. Cigar Box is a smokey blend of mezcal, smoked chile and lapsang tea, with cognac and lavender adding a smooth fragrance. The Mango Lassi pays homage to the Indian restaurant that once inhabited the building and brings together vodka with mango, coconut, and pistachio, with a hint of cardamom and lime in the finish. Bottled cocktails are made fresh daily and in limited quantities, however they will soon have the stirred cocktails on a draft system, allowing them to fill to-go orders at any time. Each 750 mL bottle comes with keeping and mixing instructions and contains six to ten servings. A new smaller 375 mL format better suited for a single sitting will also soon be available.
Shaker Mill is at 418 State St, in Santa Barbara. For more and to order: shakermillsb.com
milk & honey
milk & honey in downtown Santa Barbara highlights the Spanish themes of the region with a range of tapas and award-winning cocktails. They now provide both contact-free delivery and curbside pick-up for many of their notable cocktails and dishes. Any of their featured to-go cocktails are available in single-serving containers, with the option to make it a double serving for an extra $10. Since the quarantine started in spring, milk & honey has slowly been evolving the to-go offerings to reflect the change in season. Spice up the summer with their Heat of Passion. This sunny orange cocktail brightens up habanero-infused tequila with orange liqueur, passion fruit purée, and citrus juice. For something more uplifting, try their Paper Plane. This tart, bright pink drink balances bourbon and Aperol with lemon juice and an earthy, citrus note from a dash of Amaro Nonino. You’re Berry Fashionable brings together bourbon and strawberry infused fernet with a dash of bitters for a gripping yet smooth cocktail that finishes with a hint of strawberries. To make more of an evening of it, they offer a range of family meals that highlight their Spanish style. Or for something simpler, add on one of their popular tapas like bacon-wrapped dates or grilled brussels sprouts. If you need to restock your home bar, they also sell bartender kits that come with mixers and a one-liter bottle of spirit of your choosing.
milk & honey is at 30 W. Anapamu St, in Santa Barbara. For more and to order: (805) 275-4232 or milknhoneytapas.com
VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai
For years, Ventura’s classic bar, VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai, has been bringing a Polynesian flare to Main Street. Now you can pick up one of the classic tiki drinks, like a Zombie or a Hurricane, to enjoy at home. Each drink comes in a 16-oz bottle and can be ordered online alongside some of VenTiki’s Pacific-fusion dishes. For those looking to stock up, they also sell a Trifecta Pack that comes with a full bottle each of pre-made Zombie, Jet Pilot, and Mai Tai. They are now offering their limited B.I.R.D. Ration Pack (that’s “beverage individually packaged ready to drink”), with only 50 of these kits being prepared at a time. This kit comes with one tiki signature drink designed by VenTiki bartenders, and one classic tiki drink of your choice — just so long as it contains a spirit with the strength of 126-proof or higher in the ingredient list. With two full bottles plus a recipe page, swizzles, and umbrellas, this pack promises the full tiki experience in the comfort of your own home.
VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai is at 701 E. Main St, in Ventura. For more and to order: (805) 667-8887 or ventikiloungeandlanai.com
In Oxnard, 1901 Speakeasy is serving up Prohibition-era cocktails. Attached to the quaint and cozy La Dolce Vita 1901 restaurant in Heritage Square, the bar was completely remodeled almost two years ago. Bar manager Jared Krupp studied the cocktails of the Prohibition era and modeled their menu after the most popular drinks from that time. Since then they have become known for their range of historic drinks, like the Sazerac, or the Old Fashioned, on which Jared flames the orange peel to give it a robust character. While the main lineup of cocktails reflects the flavors of Prohibition, Jared also produces a range of unique infused spirits to give his specialty concoctions their own edge. Pineapple-ginger rum, strawberry-basil vodka, and even pineapple-mango habanero tequila for spicy margaritas — they all bring something new to the glass. Jared makes each of the syrups and infusions in-house, using ingredients foraged from his own garden and a network of neighbors’ yards. Ryder Berries also happens to be just next door, providing Jared with a constant supply of fresh berries for the bar. With an eye for history and a taste for the distinct, the menu features a blend of classic and unique offerings. While the bar is known for its live music and warm interior, they continue to make any cocktail to order in a to-go container, with the restaurant’s full menu available for take-out at the bar as well.
1901 Speakeasy is at 740 S. B St, in Oxnard. For more and to order: (805) 486-6878 or ladolcevita1901.com