When you come to Santa Barbara, we promise no one will judge you for capturing every beautiful moment and morsel of your experience on camera. In fact, we wholeheartedly encourage it because sharing really is caring. We’ve done the location scouting for you to home in on the coolest, most photogenic spots to sip divinely crafted elixirs. Design and deliciousness align in Instagram eye candy harmony at these bars and restaurants, where you’ll find it hard to keep your smartphone tucked away. Aesthetically pleasing cocktails are the stars of the show and the ambiance provides a plethora of Pinterest-ready backdrops. Trust us, the cocktails created by the savvy mixologists behind the bar will taste just as good as they look. And you might just want to order some small plates, too…for “styling” purposes!
(Side note: if you use the hash tag #SeeSB we can share your social media masterpieces!)
The first thing you need to know about Alcazar Tapas Bar is they won Santa Barbara’s first-ever “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” competition in 2017 with their Ginspiration Point cocktail. That’s a testament to the talent and passion of their team, which includes their sister bar, Milk & Honey. Photogenic drinks using local bounty and artisan spirits are the name of the game at each establishment. Talk to your bartender to get the story behind your drink of choice—your captions will be better for it! Beyond the glass, expect dark, candle-lit interiors and a romantic, down-to-earth atmosphere. (Photo Credit: Instagram @alcazartapas)
The Good Lion became an instant classic when it opened next door to the Granada Theatre. It might be a small space, but thanks to the design inspired by coastal southwest Europe and Mediterranean Africa, there are plenty of photo-friendly nooks to plant your glass for the perfect shot. The weekly rotating cocktail menu utilizes organic ingredients sourced from local farms, as do the “greatest hits” classics-with-a-twist like the Rosemary Clooney and Tangerine Gimlet. All are served in elegant glassware and garnished simply by mixologists who look the part, outfitted in dark denim aprons—so an action shot is a solid option here if you want the maker in the frame. (Photo Credit: Instagram @thegoodlionbar)
Santo Mezcal (“holy mezcal”) was created by the team behind the beloved Los Agaves restaurants and specializes in mezcal as well as tequila cocktails paired with modern Oaxacan cuisine. Patio seating is available right on State Street but you’ll get your best shots inside. The warm wooden tabletops and earthy plates complement the colorful selection of margaritas and other innovative cocktails created by mixologist Sean Sepulveda. The stunning angled bar mixes textures and materials, from patterned tiles and slanted wood paneling up to the thick white slab of the bar itself. The hundreds of colorful bottles and fresh fruit and herbs behind the bar also create a dynamic backdrop. (Photo Credit: Instagram @santomezcal_sb)
A lush, laid back South Pacific vibe permeates Test Pilot, Santa Barbara’s premier tiki bar opened by the proprietors of Santa Barbara’s go-to speakeasy, The Good Lion. The irreverent, stylish space features bright turquoise walls, nautical details, Polynesian art, rattan furniture and a mix of medium and dark hued woods throughout. Expanding on the work of cocktail visionaries like Don the Beachcomber who created the tiki concept in the 1930s, there’s nothing kitschy or overly sweet about the exotic cocktails on the menu here. Tropical flavors and local produce shine in their contemporary interpretations of the classics. For your photographing pleasure, many of the drinks are indeed served in totem glasses and garnished with umbrellas. (Photo Credit: Instagram @testpilotbar)
The Wildcat is a longtime nightlife institution in Santa Barbara but The Bobcat Room bar within “The Kitty” is for those in the know. You have to enter the club and then go through a set of double doors to access The Bobcat Room, where you can enjoy craft cocktails and even watch the scene on the dance floor while feeling miles away from the revelry. The dark, sultry bar has a retro vibe and the cocktail menu conceived by respected mixologist Patrick Reynolds utilizes weekly farmers’ market ingredients. This is your spot for moody cocktail shots with Don Draper-approved atmosphere. (Photo Credit: Instagram @fullframefoodie)
Loquita’s menu is 100% Spanish influenced, from the tapas to the award-winning cocktails. When it comes to the setting, the invitingly cozy dining room takes cues from Scandinavian minimalism. Think white washed walls, sheepskin throws, birch chairs, wood topped tables and brass Sputnik chandeliers. The vibrant patterned tiled floors bring it all together with an appropriately Santa Barbara-meets-Spain accent—and, yes, the tiles are so good people have used the floor as a canvas for food photos. Take a seat at their handsome Poquita bar to sample the selection of Spanish vermouths, gin and tonics and other market cocktails crafted by mixologist Gavin Koehn, who has won national competitions for his inspired creations. (Photo Credit: Instagram @loquitasb)
S.Y. Kitchen is an Italian gem in the small country western-style town of Santa Ynez in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. That might sound like an unusual combination, but that’s exactly why masterful mixologist Alberto Battaglini has carved out such a niche and made S.Y. Kitchen a destination in its own right. (For the record, the food is excellent, too!) The native of Verona worked in the UK, Spain, Mexico and Los Angeles before establishing himself as one of the best mixologists on the Central Coast. He creates his own infusions of spirits and bitters using local produce and herbs and employs traditional and modern techniques to wow his patrons with flawless concoctions. The farmhouse setting offers a refined rustic backdrop and excellent lighting for your photographing pleasure. (Photo Credit: @sykitchen)
The Goodland Hotel upped Goleta’s cool cred when it opened a few of years ago, and its Outpost restaurant and Good Bar quickly became a popular watering hole for locals. The F&B menus are influenced by the same cheeky spirit of the laid-back hotel designed to feel like a “beach fiesta.” With cocktail names like Calvin & Cobbes, Easy Like Sunday Morning and Live Long and Prosper, you know they don’t take themselves too seriously. That playfulness extends to the design, which is bright and colorful with just the right dash of rustic chic. The daytime lighting is so flawless, it will keep the need for photo editing and filtering to a bare minimum. (Photo Credit: @outpostsb)
Occupying a prime corner location on Carrillo and Chapala Streets, Finch & Fork is a destination restaurant in the colorful Canary Hotel. Most definitely not just for hotel guests, you’ll find locals and visitors alike noshing and drinking on the farm fresh fare in the lively lobby level setting. The robust bar book is a hefty read so if you’re open to trying something new, ask the bartender to craft something just for you. When it comes to where to stage your cocktail photo shoot, you can grab one of the dark wood tables in the dining room or utilize the large wrap around bar. (Photo Credit: @finchandfork)
Get thee to Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara if you want to make your friends and followers drool with envy. The iconic hotel’s bar and restaurant are open to the public, and the view of Butterfly Beach is absolutely dreamy. If you don’t score one of the coveted patio tables around the fire pit, the inside bar seating area is just as fabulous and downright luxurious. The Spanish-Colonial revival décor features hand painted ceilings, plush Persian carpets and elaborate glass chandeliers. The cocktail menu is inspired by the local area with drinks like the Moreton Bay Martini and Sage Margarita. (Photo Credit: @fssantabarbara)
The eclectic, effervescent character of The Imperial is one of the many charms that bring insiders to this Old Town Goleta hideaway. You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see the original “Ba’k Do’r” sign. Upon entering the dimly lit drinkers’ den decked out with vintage treasures, you’ll have your choice of sitting at the bar, in one of the lounge-y nooks or on the killer back patio. The Imperial’s cult-like following is as much a credit to the award-winning classic cocktails as the visually rich environment and the welcoming bartenders. Even the soundtrack embraces the best of all eras, from jazz throwbacks to cool contemporary artists. (Photo Credit: Instagram @thesweetestgirl143)
A fresh crop of new restaurants in Santa Barbara is spicing up the already delicious culinary landscape. As far as we’re concerned, there’s always room for more good eats in our bountiful city surrounded by organic farms, family-run ranches, avocado and citrus orchards and the seafood-rich Santa Barbara Channel.
Disclaimer: As of December 6, 2020, restaurants in Santa Barbara are only permitted to offer to-go, pickup, and delivery in accordance with the California Department of Public Health’s recent Regional Stay at Home Order. For a list of restaurants offing these services, please click here. In Santa Barbara, there’s no better way to enjoy a meal than by pairing it…