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Finest and Best Craft Cocktails in Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara has top-rated bartenders crafting some fantastic cocktails. And this list has got you covered if you’re looking for the best cocktails in downtown Santa Barbara.

Take your pick from homemade blends, the finest gin-fueled martinis, boozy punch, strong Tequila drinks, spiked slushies, and other artist-inspired sips. This is everything you need to know about Santa Barbara’s current pandemic-friendly drink scene.

We searched high and low throughout the local area and hand-selected the finest and best choices. We have tried ’em all and went back for seconds. Cheers to leaving that 2021 stress behind!

The Good Lion

This place is a special gem in Santa Barbara with a seasonal rotating cocktail menu featuring the area’s local spices, herbs, fruits and produce. Most of the Good Lion’s cocktail ingredients are sourced from local and organic farms and are as pleasing to the palate as they are to look at.

A fan favorite is the “Get Rich or Die Chai-ing” — with a blended scotch, chai, almond, Italian stuff, lemon, and herbal liqueur (not sure what Italian stuff is, but it’s definitely workin’ for this drink!) — and the “Pear-Pear Plane” — with bourbon, maple, aperol, lemon, and pear brandy (double yum). The Old Fashioned is also a classic choice and not to be missed at this gin joint.

Right now one can enjoy an outdoor seating area under the marquee of The Granada Theatre until patrons are allowed back inside to cozy up in an intimate interior space inspired by the “American Riviera.” While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the bathroom — there’s a typewriter displaying “The Good Lion” short story by Ernest Hemingway that explains it all.

The Good Lion is located at 1212 State Street, open 7 days a week.

Lab Social

Oh, you gotta try Lab Social if you’re searching for a great drinking spot away from State Street.

This popular spot is a coffee shop-by-day and speakeasy-by-night. Seriously, you can get your daytime coffee and that buzz feeling at night. In the evenings pre-pandemic, the Haley Street front entrance was closed and people could enter through a hidden side door. (Tip for the future: look for the glowing red light.) For now, enjoy a tucked away private-ish outdoor patio that’s equally as cool as the inside.

We highly recommend the Churchill Sour made with bourbon, earl grey gomme, black walnut bitters, lemon-mint “rose” and an orange essence mist. Or drop a little LSD down the hatch, the Lab Social (Lemon) Drop. Whatever your poison, this bar’s creative spin on craft cocktails is sure to please your palate and your Instagram content needs.

Lab Social is located at 416 E. Haley Street and is currently slinging drinks Friday-Saturday nights.

Test Pilot

Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is known for world-class wineries and breweries, but a visit to Test Pilot is an absolute must when taking a spin through the Urban Wine Trail. This tiki-inspired craft cocktail bar has exotic cocktails in aesthetic mugs made with top-shelf rum that’s as close to the original rum recipe you’ll find in this day and age.

Hands down a staff favorite for our crew is the “Montenegro for Two”, served in a pineapple and filled with Montenegro Jamaican rum, lime, pineapple, vanilla, and aged bitters. But if you’re really in search of a taste of summer, be sure to order up one of their signature boozie slushies while you take in the street art that surrounds.

Test Pilot is located at 211 Helena Ave, open 7 days a week.

Santo Mezcal

This lively Mexican restaurant is just a few blocks from the ocean and steps from the Funk Zone. You can relax on the gorgeous outdoor patio and drink appealing cocktails loaded with mezcal, tequila or vodka bursting with local and seasonal ingredients. Tequila connoisseurs can’t go wrong here — Santo Mezcal boasts flavorful cocktails and margaritas as well as an extensive tequila menu.

Santo Mezcal Restaurant is located at 119 State Street, open 7 days a week.

Joe’s Cafe

Joe’s is locally known as the “stiffest drinks” in Santa Barbara and has been in business since 1928.

This bar and restaurant, centrally located in the heart of downtown, is serving up good eats all day and even better classic drinks like Grandma’s Spicy Margarita for delivery, pick-up or dine-in. Inside, you’ll see red and white checked table cloths, historic black and white photographs and a jukebox with a similar “locals only” feel in their new outdoor space. Bring the family to this gin joint for a hearty meal and good drinks.

Joe’s Cafe is located at 536 State Street, open 7 days a week.

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