A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg
Like its cousin Tequila, Mezcal is made from agave, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a cactus but is actually a relative of the yucca plant and Joshua tree. While tequila is only be made in the Tequila region (similar to Champagne, vs. sparkling wine labels), Mezcal is usually produced in Oaxaca (it can legally come from anywhere in Mexico) and can be made from many types of agave, some of which only grow wild.
With a name like Santo Mezcal, I was expecting an impressive array of Mezcal cocktails to be available at Carlos Luna‘s new restaurant, (119 State St.) and thankfully wasn’t disappointed. The new restaurant combines the modern Mexican flavors we’ve come to know and love at Luna’s Los Agaves locations with some more sophisticated menu items and an impressive cocktail program.
We worked our way through much of the Margarita selection, particularly enjoying the Margarita Jamaica, made with spiced hibiscus syrup, lime, hibiscus flowers and—like much of the cocktail selections—your choice of Mezcal or Tequila. The spicy Margarita Picante was excellent too, as was the Santo Margarita. We also enjoyed La Mermelada (the marmalade), a seasonal cocktail made with your choice of Whiskey or Tequila (we chose Tequila), seasonal jam, lemon, agave nectar, seasonal fruit and mint.
Another really interesting choice is the Snow Pea Smash, with snow pea infused Gin, basil, Benedictine, pineapple, lime, hellfire bitters and micro cilantro. I’m also intrigued by La Flor Ahumada (the smoking flower), made with Mezcal, honey-lavender syrup, lemon and lavender bud, and Senora Rosada (pink lady) with Rum, raspberry gomme, pineapple, lime and Einstock white, powdered raspberry. All of the cocktails are in the $10-12 range.
The food, spearheaded by Executive Chef Ricardo Garcia, has a focus on seafood. We loved the Camarones Al Mezcal, Mexican shrimp served in a creamy mezcal sauce; Pulpo a Las Brasas, octopus marinated in a special adobo served with house-infused chile oil; and Enchiladas Cabo Azul, stuffed with fresh crab. My favorite thing was probably the Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Ceviche Pulpo, two beautiful dishes combined into one plate for review purposes, that really highlighted the flavors and spirit of Santo Mezcal and Santa Barbara itself.
I think this new hot spot at the hub of the ever-evolving Funk Zone and Waterfront area is definitely here to stay.
Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.
When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”