Cheers! 12 Golden Watering Holes to Celebrate the Winter Season

Posted on Dec 1 by SEASONS Magazine

Patrons enjoy cocktails at the Lark, Funk Zone, Santa Barbara. Photo copyright MacDuff Everton.

Patrons enjoy cocktails at the Lark, Funk Zone, Santa Barbara. Photo copyright MacDuff Everton.

Santa Barbara County’s cold(er) winter is a festive time to celebrate with family and friends, and toast the season with a glass of wine, beer or a special mixture of spirits that are often crafted by what’s known these days as mixologists.

Here are 12 golden places that may not offer a partridge in a pear tree, but do possess a full-service bar, a memorable ambiance, personalized service and, importantly, access to quality food. We have determined these 12 to offer the best experience in southern Santa Barbara County, and we’ve even provided the recipes for their signature, or seasonal, cocktails.

Our choices were made from onsite visits, with Seasons‘ readership in mind. With so many places to celebrate, we also include 12 honorable mentions and six local hangouts in the true spirit of Cheers!
—The Editors

For romance…

Angel Oak at Bacara

Smoke on the Water, courtesy Angel Oak at Bacara.

Smoke on the Water, courtesy Angel Oak at Bacara.

8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta; 805/571-4240;

Complementing the innovative cuisine of this world-class resortís French-trained Executive Chef Vincent Lesage, Angel Oak’s 25-seat center bar features perfect cocktails designed by nationally recognized
mixologist Cassie Hesse and offers ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows, a striking countertop of blue Amazonite quartz and optional seating on the outdoor patio—”The Candletop”—to enjoy them, along with sunsets over the Pacific.

Smoke on the Water

Ingredients: 1-1/2 oz. Woodford Reserve Select Barrel, 3/4 oz. Apple Brandy, 1/2 oz. Creme de Noyaux, 4 dashes St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, 1 bar spoon Demerara syrup, large format ice cube

Method: Combine all ingredients into mixing glass. Place wood chips on skillet, light, cover wood chips with empty glass. Add ice to the mixing glass and stir. Strain cocktail into smoking glass. Add large format ice cube with tongs, express orange swath and place on ice. Garnish with lemon swath.

Belmond El Encanto (The Lounge)

Belmond El Encanto's Rye Derby, photo by Henry Fechtman.

Belmond El Encanto’s Rye Derby, photo by Henry Fechtman.

800 Alvarado Pl.; 805/845-5800;

The El Encanto, sitting atop our “American Riviera,” has always been an ultimate Santa Barbara experience. Built in 1913 and completely renovated 100 years later by its new owners, Belmond—renowned worldwide for its iconic hotels and the Orient Express train—who finished a total seven-year renovation in 2013, and yet, purposefully, the new Belmond El Encanto still expresses its rich history and character, and offers the most spectacular view of the city and coastline of any public building. The Lounge, just off the lobby, is an intimate retreat with big windows where afternoon tea, both small and larger plates of California cuisine and the view can be enjoyed indoors…or just below, on the covered upper terrace. The spacious and open-air lower terrace—with its market umbrellas, white linens, a white picket fence at its precipice and tea lights at night—is reserved for enjoying Chef Johan Denizot‘s spectacular culinary creations under the sun, moon and stars.

Rye Derby

Ingredients: 4 oz. Knob Creek Rye Whisky, 2 oz. grapefruit juice, 1 oz. agave nectar

Method: Shake with ice and serve in chilled martini glass.

Finch & Fork
Corner Grill
(at Canary Hotel)

Finch and Fork's Witch's Back, photo by Henry Fechtman.

Finch and Fork’s Witch’s Back, photo by Henry Fechtman.

31 W. Carrillo St.; 805/879-9100;

This tony restaurant and bar is as urban as Santa Barbara gets, with State Street and the historic Santa Barbara Courthouse and El Presidio a few blocks away, along with major shopping at Paseo Nuevo and La Arcada Courtyard. The big bar and most tables face big windows that let the outside street scene in, and the restaurant is as much for locals as it is for hotel guests—the ambiance, food and service are excellent.

Witch’s Back 

Ingredients: 3/4 oz. Bulldog Gin, 3/4 oz. Strega  Orange Liqueur, 3/4 oz. Pamplemousse Rose, 3/4 oz. lime juice, orange bitters, flamed rosemary

Method: Shake and serve in a martini glass.

Olio Crudo Bar
& Olio Pizzeria Bar 

Olio Crudo Bar's Grand Salted Carmel Old Fashioned, photo by Gary Moss/Gary Moss, courtesy Olio Crudo Bar.

Olio Crudo Bar’s Grand Salted Carmel Old Fashioned, photo by Gary Moss/Gary Moss, courtesy Olio Crudo Bar.

11 W. Victoria St.; 805/899-2699;

At each end of Olio e Limone Ristorante—one of the best Italian restaurants in Santa Barbara County—are its two bars, each with its own personality and food. Olio Crudo Bar is relaxed, charming and contemporary, reminiscent of many such places on Italy’s east coast, serving crudo (“raw”) Italian seafood and meats, as well as cooked bar menu items and altro (“other”). The longer, larger and, at times, noisier bar at Olio Pizzeria—inspired by Italy’s neighborhood pizzerie and wine bars—features wood-fired pizza and other Italian favorites. Both offer signature cocktails and lots of Italian and local wines, plus access to Olio e Limone itself.

Grand Salted Caramel Old-Fashioned

Ingredients: 2 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey, 1/2 oz. Salted Caramel with Grand Marnier, 1 dash Bitter Truth Orange Bitters, caramel and sea salt (flake or coarse) painted on glass rim, 1 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. salted butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 cup Grand Marnier.

Method: With a pastry brush, lightly brush the outside of an old-fashioned glass half-way with Grand Marnier caramel sauce and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Set aside. Measure the rye whiskey, Grand Marnier salted caramel and bitters into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon to incorporate the caramel. Fill glass 3/4 full with ice, strain in drink. Zest lemon over top of the drink to release oils, then drop in.

Plow & Angel (at San Ysidro Ranch)

San Ysidro Ranch Cocktail, photo by Jacob Vazquez.

San Ysidro Ranch Cocktail, photo by Jacob Vazquez.

900 San Ysidro Ln., Montecito; 805/565-1700;

The unique, completely delightful Plow & Angel bar, located directly below San Ysidro Ranch’s world renowned Stonehouse restaurant, features original sandstone walls that exude its history and character. The bar’s menus of fine cocktails, scotches, liquors, beers and special tequilas, along with Chef Matthew Johnson’s menu of fresh, innovative cuisine, can be enjoyed within or, when there’s room, outside in the open air on Stonehouse’s lower patio, where loquat trees lit with tiny white lights and a bubbling stone fountain create a tranquil ambiance, and where the ranch’s discreet, personal service and attention to detail make each visit perfect.

San Ysidro Ranch Garden Cocktail 

Ingredients: 1/3 oz. Absolut Elyx Vodka, 1/2 oz. Cointreau, 1 oz. fresh Meyer lemon juice, 1 chef’s garden mint leaf, 3 upper estate blackberries, 1/3 oz. Ranch Garden lavender-infused syrup, 1 lavender sprig

Method: In a Boston shaker, pour in vodka and lemon juice, add ice and shake. Strain into mixing beaker. Place blackberries into a small bowl, add mint, Cointreau and lavender syrup. Macerate berries. Pour macerated berries and juice/syrup into mixing beaker with vodka and lemon juice and stir. Serve in cocktail glass and garnish with lavender sprig.

Ty Lounge
(at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara)

G&T Cura, courtesy Ty Lounge.

G&T Cura, courtesy Ty Lounge.

1260 Channel Dr., Montecito; 805-969-2261;

Off the resort lobby, lit with glowing Italian onyx and massive hand-blown glass chandeliers, Ty Lounge invites guests to enjoy signature drinks, classic cocktails and Spanish or local wines in front of the fireplace, on the ocean-view terrace or around its fire pit. With its 90-year history and recent renovation, this regal, impeccable lounge offers an unsurpassed experience in a lush and historic interior of beautiful leather chairs and cushioned benches for seating and wall-to-wall hand-knotted Persian carpets. Recorded Spanish music plays softly in the background, with live guitar artists Wednesdays and Saturdays and jazz/blues singers on Fridays. The Lounge menu features a variety of chef-designed tapas, small entree plates and desserts.

G&T Cura
with Passion Fruit-Strawberry Spiced Shrub

Ingredients: 2 oz. Cutler’s Gin, 2 oz. passion fruit strawberry spiced shrub (on side), 1/4 slice of orange, 2 pieces of strawberry, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bottle Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic

Method: Pour gin into stemless burgundy glass over single large sphere ice. Pour passion fruit strawberry spiced shrub into glass. Garnish with strawberry, rosemary sprig, orange slice and cinnamon stick. Serve with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic.

For energy!

Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach 

Boathouse Punch, courtesy Boathouse at Hendry's Beach.

Boathouse Punch, courtesy Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach.

2981 Cliff Dr.; 805/898-2628;

With one of the most exciting and naturally beautiful locations of any restaurant and bar along our coast, the Boathouse fronts popular Hendry’s Beach in an ocean cove not far from exclusive Hope Ranch. Serving full breakfasts, lunches and dinners and specializing in drinks for sunset and after, the Boathouse generates energy matched by few others. Here, the White family—who also own several other local restaurants—acquired and redesigned an existing building in 2008 to bring in the ocean air and views and serve food and drink that would entice guests to come back—and they do, in droves. Outside, a large patio offers the best sea views, with diners being protected from the sea breeze and salt air by Plexiglas and market umbrellas. There is also inside and outside seating at the bar, with those inside facing the ocean. The adjacent canvas-roofed dining room, with a handmade canoe and wooden oars hanging from the huge open beams, also offers spectacular views from its wall of windows and specializes in seafood with a “Raw Bar” and a full menu of cooked fish and other delicious food.

Boathouse Punch   

Ingredients: 2 oz. Flora de Cana Spiced Rum, 1 oz. orange juice, 1 oz. pineapple juice, 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice, 1/2 oz. creme de coconut

Method: Hard shake, serve on the rocks and garnish with a nutmeg rim and pineapple slice.


El Salud, courtesy Intermezzo.

El Salud, courtesy Intermezzo.

819 Anacapa St.; 805/966-9463;

Created in 1983 to augment the revered Wine Cask restaurant in historic El Paseo, Intermezzo is one of only a few places in Santa Barbara that buzzes with people every day of the week. Designed as a place to meet for a quick glass of wine with flatbread or a salad before dinner, guests can choose to stay and dine or enjoy a cocktail alfresco near the courtyard fountain. Inside tables with cushioned seating next to a wall of interesting art—or near the fireplace and front window, which are especially desirable on cold or rainy days—are also options. The long glossy bar faces a three-tiered mirrored cabinet of classic liquors, along with spirits distilled in Santa Barbara County. Locally produced beer and wines are served from temperature-controlled taps. This is a vibrant, very social space—voted among the “10 Best” by—that also offers immediate access to Executive Chef David Rosner‘s innovative American, Californian and new American cuisine at one of Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants.

El Salud 

Ingredients: 2 oz. habanero-infused Suave Agave (agave spirit, made in California rather than Jalisco, Mexico, where Tequila comes from) or Tequila, 1 oz. papaya puree, 1/2 oz. agave sweetener, 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Method: Combine ingredients over ice and garnish with a wedge of lime.


Loquita's Maravilloso Gin & Tonic, photo by Rob Stark.

Loquita’s Maravilloso Gin & Tonic, photo by Rob Stark.

202 State St.; 805/880-3380;

The hottest new restaurant and bar in town, Loquita—an endearing Spanish colloquial term for a wild, fun-loving young girl—pays homage to Santa Barbara’s Colonial history. In an alluring interior and patio, Executive Chef Peter Lee‘s menu of bold, Mediterranean flavors are matched by a bar filled with wines mostly from Spain, and a cocktail list featuring a selection of Spanish vermouths, farmers’ market Sangria and handcrafted cocktails—especially gin-and-tonics, the king of cocktails in Spain. Loquita’s interior is a palette of earth tones, trimmed in clean, white-washed brick walls and furnished with massive, handmade mirrors, brass light fixtures with white globe glass shades and doors salvaged from a 150-year-old monastery in Germany. Multiple dining areas include a 60-seat interior dining room, a private dining room, the 60-seat outdoor patio lit with string lights at night, and the expansive walnut bar itself—a naturally defined space for imbibing and socializing.

Maravilloso Gin & Tonic

Ingredients: Ice, 1.5 oz. gin (preferably St. George), tonic water, pink peppercorns, rosemary and orange zest

Method: Build in a stemless Burgundy glass, combining ice and gin, top with tonic water, garnish with pink peppercorns and rosemary with orange zest.

Root 246 (at Hotel Corque)

Spiced Pear Martini, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography, courtesy Root 246.

Spiced Pear Martini, photo by Tenley Fohl Photography, courtesy Root 246.

420 Alisal Rd., Solvang; 805/686-8681;

Within view of the charming Danish streets of downtown Solvang (pop. 5,245), Root 246—the fine dining restaurant and bar of the AAA Four Diamond-rated Hotel Corque—is one of only a few places open after sunset. Fortunately, the restaurant—one of the best in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country—is spacious, offering contemporary California cuisine and personal service. The cocktail lounge has a long bar and optional table seating, indoors near a fireplace or outside on a large covered patio with sofas. Visible in the lounge, a glass-encased temperature-controlled wine cellar stores a sophisticated selection of wines from small- and large-production wineries that dot the valley (and nearby Los Alamos and Santa Maria valleys), as well as wines from other parts of California and the world. Note: Hotel Corque—a property owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians—offers a free (10-minute) shuttle ride to its major attraction, the Chumash Casino Resort.

Spiced Pear Martini   

Ingredients: 1.5 oz. house-spiced pear puree, 2 oz. Absolut Pear, .75 oz. lemon juice,  .75 oz. lime juice

Method: Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with star anise.

The Lark 

JP's Paloma, courtesy The Lark.

JP’s Paloma, courtesy The Lark.

131 Anacapa St.; 805/284-0370; the

Named for the sleek overnight Pullman train of the Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910-1968, this 130-seat full-service restaurant and bar is located in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building at the vibrant heart of what is now referred to locally as the Funk Zone. The Lark spreads out under several coverings inside and out, with a 24-seat communal table near the bar reserved for walk-ins. The complex’s designer, Doug Washington—owner of San Francisco’ís Town Hall and Salt House restaurants—collaborated with Dan Bush Design/ Build of Portland, Oregon, along with AB Design Studio and Young Construction locally. The bar features classic and craft cocktails and a comprehensive wine list that highlights small Santa Barbara County producers as well as artisan winemakers from afar. Ingredients for Chef Jason Paluska‘s menus are grown responsibly, locally sourced and served family-style for sharing in this truly lively space.

JP’s Paloma   

Ingredients: 2 oz. citrus-infused Tequila, jalapeno, 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice, 1-1/2 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. Aperol, 3/4 oz. Fresno Chili simple syrup

Method: Combine ingredients and top off with house-made grapefruit soda, and a Kaffir lime leaf salt rim. Serve on the rocks in a Mason jar.


Viva's Dragon's Breath, courtesy photo.

Viva’s Dragon’s Breath, courtesy photo.

1114 State St., La Arcada; 805/965-4770;

At Santa Barbara’s historic La Arcada Courtyard, this incarnation of what has always been associated with celebration—especially during Santa Barbara’s annual five-day Fiesta—upgrades the concept, from its margaritas that never see sweet and sour—just tequila, pure agave and fresh lime juice—to tortillas handmade daily and its own interpretation of Mexican food. The bar is virtually the entire restaurant, where live music plays several days a week and includes the indoor/outdoor patio that spreads out in front of La Arcada’s
famous turtle pond. Drinks currently include three different margaritas, 15 “house crafted cocktails,” 13 bottled and draft beers and 27 local, northern California and European wines, including sparkling wines and Champagne. With its”Modern Mexican Cuisine,” Viva brings to Santa Barbara a vibrant Mexico City-inspired menu of simply delicious food and festive drink, served by a fun, friendly wait staff at one of the most beautiful locations downtown.

Dragon’s Breath 

Ingredients: 1/2 oz. guava puree, 1/2 oz. blood orange, 1 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. agave, 2 oz. Serrano-infused Hornitos Tequila

Method: Combine ingredients and serve with fashion in a martini glass.

honorable mentions

Jimmy Chung with his son, Bill, behind the bar at Jimmy's Oriental Gardens, now the Pickle Room. Photo courtesy of the Presidio Research Center of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Gift of Tommy Chung

Jimmy Chung with his son, Bill, behind the bar at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, now the Pickle Room. Photo courtesy of the Presidio Research Center of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Gift of Tommy Chung.

Beachside Bar-Café 5905 Sandspit Rd., Goleta; 805/964-7881; This local gem, with its big bar, lots of windows, a distinctly Hawaiian feel, very good and well-priced food and a great happy hour, is one of only three restaurants along our coast that meet sand and beach directly, here offering views of the ocean and Goleta Pier, which, at night, is lit for fishermen and a bonus for guests.

Brophy Bros. 119 Harbor Way; 805/966-4418; One of Santa Barbara’s most popular restaurants, Brophy Bros. is located on the second floor of a two-story building on Santa Barbara’s Breakwater walkway, offering a spirited ambiance and harbor views from all of its many tables and the double-sided bar/oyster bar.

Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina 330 State St.; 805/845-8966; This large Mexican restaurant—sister to the White family’ís Boathouse Hendry’s Beach and Santa Barbara FisHouse—has an unexpectedly wondrous interior created by architect Jeff Shelton,  including a solid black Acacia hand-carved bar. There is patio dining and the bar specializes in Tequila, serving more than 120 types.

Chuck’s of Hawaii 3888 State St.; 805/687-4417; Perhaps the most consistently good restaurant in Santa Barbara, Chuck’s has not changed in appearance or what it delivers since opening in the 1970s. Famous for its steak and seafood menu and its low-lit bar, friendly Hawaiian-attired wait staff and lots of locals mix every day of the week.

Cold Spring Tavern 5995 Stagecoach Rd.; 805/967-0066; An iconic establishment virtually unchanged since the days of the stagecoach,  this historic and charming property tucked away in the Santa Ynez Mountains 20 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara offers excellent food and drink. You can dine by a fireplace in the tavern or join the spirited throng at the big bar, where live music plays on weekends.

Convivo Bar (at Santa Barbara Inn) 901 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; 805/845-6789; Just off the lobby at this brand new rendition of the famous Santa Barbara Inn, the bar is integrated into the Italian-inspired Convivo Restaurant and extends onto an outdoor terrace with gas lanterns, a fireplace and ocean views. Local and regional wines, microbrews on tap and Tequilas are highlighted.

JC’s Bar, Brothers’ Restaurant at The Red Barn 3539 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 805/688/4142; Owned by locally famous chefs, the Nichols brothers—Matt and Jeff—The Red Barn has been a fixture in the old west town of Santa Ynez for who-knows-how-long. With their”made-from-scratch” food, wines, classy hospitality and JC’s Bar, it is now first-class.

Lucky’s 1279 Coast Village Rd., Montecito; 805/565-7540; This old-school bar, with wainscoted walls, was originally constructed as Montecito Bungalows in 1926. In 2000, Gene Montesano took over and created the perenially popular steakhouse and bar.

Montecito Wine Bistro 516 San Ysidro Rd., Montecito; 805/969-7520; Reflective of longtime Santa Barbara tastemaker Pierre Lafond’s casual, classy attitude, the Bistro is yet another of his original creations, a restaurant and charming full-service bar offering craft cocktails and wines from an enormous list, including those from Pierre’s own Santa Barbara Winery—the first in the county.

Santa Barbara FisHouse 101 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; 805/966-2117; With its location along Santa Barbara’s waterfront, this hugely popular restaurant and bar, owned by the White family—who once caught the fish they cooked and served—leaves little to be desired when it comes to fresh fish and has succeeded in creating a bar to match in popularity. Happy hour includes no less than 19 appetizers.

The Outpost (at the Goodland Hotel) 5650 Calle Real, Goleta; 805/964-1288; Let the good times roll at this classy, creative boutique hotel paying homage to the surfing scene of the 60s and 70s. The hotelís excellent restaurant, The Outpost, has two bars—the Outpost Bar, which faces inside and outside near the pool, and the slightly larger Good Bar near the lobby.

The Set (at The Fess Parker, A DoubleTree by Hilton Resort) 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; 805/564-4333; Just off the lobby in this grand hotel, The Set accommodates guests of all sorts—corporate travelers, leisure seekers, wedding guests and locals. Besides the bar, the patio outside has wide views of the ocean across the street. There is also a bar at the hotel’s Rodney’s Steakhouse.

loved local hangouts

Crocodile Bar & Restaurant (at Lemon Tree Inn) 2819 State St.; 805/687-4417;

Harry’s 3313-B State St; 805/687-2800;

Joe’s Café 536 State St.; 805/966-4638;

Paradise Cafe 702 Anacapa St.; 805/962-4416;

Pickle Room 126 E. Canon Perdido St.; 805/965-1015;

Tee-Off 3627 State St.; 805/687-1616;

This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.


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