Walking into the Glass House, the State Street “cocktail garden” that opened in March, feels like entering another era. Inspired by the life of David Fairchild, an American botanist and plant explorer, as well as owner Alvaro Rojas’s partnerships with aquaponics farms, the play on the term “green house” becomes crystal clear. Rojas — who owns the popular and long-standing tapas restaurants Alcazar on the Mesa (opened in 2000) and Milk & Honey on West Anapamu Street (opened 2007) — is channeling his beverage expertise and passion for sustainability into this mixed-drink wonderland.
The decor is like a mini world tour of Fairchild’s travels of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when he found more than 200,000 exotic plants to import to the United States. Among other crops, he’s credited with introducing avocados, dates, quinoa, and kale to this country. The Glass House’s sprawling bohemian setup features vintage nooks where guests can get cozy surrounded by differing styles from French colonial to sleek New York.
“He lived through all those eras, so he’s the inspiration for the layout,” said Rojas, whose sustainability ethos also directed the design. The majority of furniture, glassware, and coasters are all either partially recycled or repurposed, and even the romantic string lights are all solar. Explained Rojas, “We want to have as close to a zero carbon footprint as possible.”
This mind-set infuses their cocktails as well, which feature produce from Santa Barbara Aquaponics, a purveyor from Oxnard, the ubiquitous farmers’ markets, and, soon, ingredients grown in-house from their own aquaponic tubs, which are already sprouting up greenery. Rojas partnered with bartender Kyle Peete, who hails from Chicago and was formerly with Alinea Group’s The Aviary, which was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table for their inventive creations. “Kyle worked there for two years and brought back all kinds of tricks,” Rojas said.
In addition to cocktails and spirits, Glass House’s impressive wine program was curated by Jeremy Bohrer of Les Marchands. There’s also a range of tasty brews.
Since they derive inspiration from fresh produce, the cocktail menu changes with the seasons, but you can always count on a quality product and an invigorating experience. “We want you to leave better than you came,” Rojas said.
Here are some cocktail highlights:
Yabba Dabba Don’t Mind if I Do: New to their summer menu, this whimsical elixir features gin, strawberry, pineapple, and citrus in a Fruity Pebble milk punch. “It has a really bright summer spirit to it,” Rojas said. Not too sweet and perfectly balanced, this cocktail goes down easy, and may have you echoing Fred Flintstone’s spirited cry.
Smoke Break: A smart bar knows to feature Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, but it takes an especially innovative one to use the wood from their actual barrels for drinks as well. In an immersive sensory experience, this cocktail achieves its smoky undertones from a Cutler’s Artisan Spirits bourbon barrel stave. The stave is charred with a blowtorch and the glass is placed above, locking in all that sweet bourbon smoke. It is finished off with a concoction of Cutler’s Stagecoach, cognac, scotch, sherry, and vanilla, with cinnamon and allspice aroma. The flavors are layered to create a beautifully balanced combination with hints of toasted marshmallow and calming campfire vibes.
Prickle My Fancy: “We like to play,” Rojas explained of their creative cocktails and penchant for “punny” names. Served in a terrarium-style glass for two, this tasty beverage echoes that spirit. Mezcal, dark rum, habanero, prickly pear, ginger, lime, and egg white dynamically jibe with one another in this zippy drink. A true crowd-pleaser, this is one of Rojas’s favorites and was the winner of Lotusland’s cocktail competition as well.