Scarlett Begonia’s not the only game in town. Here are some of S.B.’s best, newest, and most patio’d cocktail-drinking establishments.
Months-old Indonesian restaurant Sama Sama (1208 State St.) is now the proud holder of a liquor license (not to mention the original bar from long-gone Mom’s, a bonafide S.B. heirloom). Along with beer, cider, and wine, the new drink menu (released to a packed house last Thursday) includes signature cocktails that feature exotic takes on familiar combinations (see: Tamarind Fizz; Mule Kick) using lots of unusually infused alcohol (starfruit-infused gin, pandan-leaf-infused rum, Thai-chili-and-ginger-infused vodka), and standbys like the Old Fashioned, and — OMG! — Sazerac. Be still my heart. Their kitchen is in fighting form these days, and with the booze and the addition of Dessert Chef Joey Vega (who also does desserts at a little hotel called the Bacara), they’re becoming a contender…
Farther downtown is the speakeasy-themed American Ale (14 E. Cota), which deals in the best of Americana: craft beer, greasy burgers, and bourbon (and bathtub gin and moonshine), all served in mason jars, natch. Bonus points for the outdoor patio… In the funk zone, Seven Bar & Kitchen (224 Helena Ave.) is pulling serious crowds lured by live music, drinks — heavy on the infused vodkas, as in the cucumber-infused vodka lemonade — a bar menu that features, among other gluttonous items, a Seven-Deadly-Sins-themed sandwich list, and a sweet patio… The Bourbon Room (4444 Hollister Ave.), next door to the Creekside, is a destination worth seeking out. The latest from Alvaro Rojas (Milk N Honey, Alcazar): He and partner Anna Sacks have created a cozy hideaway that feels like it’s been around since the turn of the century. Drinks like the Bittersweet Destiny were inspired by Sacks’s time at Wisconsin bar Nelson’s Bitters Pub — the longest legally-running pub in the country — while the Kitty Coupe Deville shows off their house-made Cherry Bounce. Extra credit for the fresh bar snacks and piano.
And we can’t forget the standbys: The Hungry Cat’s (1134 Chapala St.) cocktails are catnip to drinkers (and Independent staff at happy hour), particularly those who prefer their Cucumber Martinis and Pimlicos accompanied by a platter of oysters… If you like it hot, Intermezzo’s (819 Anacapa St.) El Salud is a must. Named for Supervisor Salud Carbajal (at his request) and developed by bar manager Matt Pickett, the cocktail involves habanero-infused tequila, cherimoya puree, lime, and agave nectar, and keeps me coming back. (Pickett recently confided that some customers had complained it was too hot, so the kick is subtler now, but still packs a punch.)… At Anchor Woodfire Kitchen (119 State St.), bar manager Patrick Reynolds brings his farm-to-bar sensibility (he’s still hosting those events on Tuesday evenings at Wildcat) to the drink list, which features fresh concoctions like the Back Country, made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, blackberries, sage, lime, and bitters — all served in classic barware.