Last Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to be a part of something I’ll undoubtedly remember for the rest of my days. Six makers of wine, beer, and spirits paired with eight creators of some of the best bar programs in the county to see who could create the best locally sourced cocktail. From the Santa Barbara farmers market steps away to the six local makers set up inside the Wildcat Lounge to the homemade syrups, tinctures, and rock ice (rocks boiled in water then the water frozen into ice spheres) to the homemade butternut squash ice cream — anything was fair game.
The winner was Alvaro Rojas, who runs Alcazar, The Bourbon Room, and Milk & Honey and, whenever he gets a second to breathe, helps with the pop-up Spare Parts Bistro. His “Amor Y Amaro” was inspired by The Bourbon Room’s Felipe Nunez, who makes a Cutler’s Artisan Spirits 33 Bourbon Drink Du Jour, and featured Cutler’s 33, Margerum’s Amaro, and balsamic-strawberry spun honey from the farmers market. He also designed a dessert pairing with some homemade farmers market butternut squash ice cream (courtesy of friend Ashley Hayes) served over Cutler’s Apple Pie Liqueur and Ascendent’s Breaker bourbon with soda and homemade cinnamon whipping cream.
And he had to, for the combo was the only way he could beat a burnt sage shooter made out of a charred yuzu peel (from the Sama Sama bartender); a beet, bourbon, and blood orange martini (Hungry Cat); a bourbon and beer foam you could float home on (Cádiz); a salty cilantro and citrus sour (Sly’s); a classy vesper restored into a Harley (Milk & Honey); a fermented jalapeño and pickled tomato drink in a handmade mason jar (Stella Mare’s); and a 100 percent locally sourced vermouth, vodka, and chardonnay drink with Meyer lemons, guavas, and ice that brought a new meaning to the term “on the rocks” (Wine Cask).
Extra thanks to our six guest creators of the fine drink: Whitcraft Winery, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Avelina Wine Company, Ascendant Spirits, and Margerum Winery. You’ve given us delicious tools to work with. And again thanks to the eight great contestants and their inspirational creations, you’ve given us ideas for years to come! Look for our next Farm to Bar Craftsman Cocktail Competition in April.
“Amor y Amaro”
– 2 oz. Cutler’s 33 Bourbon
– 1 oz. Doug Margerum Amaro
– 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 tsp. strawberry spun honey syrup from San Marcos Farms
Stir over ice and serve over a large ice cube with a lemon rind garnish.