Bars are officially back, and we are here for it! How we’ve missed the simple pleasures of sipping a hand-crafted cocktail mixed right before our eyes. Not to mention the utter luxury of having an inquisitive mixologist pick your brain about what your palate gravitates to, and then making a custom cocktail to your specific liking. Now we can relish in divinely crafted elixirs with a little less distance from the makers themselves, and the cocktails will be extra delicious thanks to that personal touch. Better yet, we can safely experience the eye-catching interiors of beloved watering holes if we so choose—while also taking full advantage of new and improved outdoor sipping environments.
Follow this guide to Santa Barbara’s premium cocktail bars, speakeasies, and lounges that serve up equal parts style and substance. Cheers to that!
The winner of Santa Barbara’s first-ever “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” competition back in 2017, Alcazar Tapas Bar on the Mesa has long been respected for the talent, passion, and creativity that goes into their craft thanks to chef and cocktail curator, Alvaro Rojas. That same ethos and quality standard drives their sister restaurant, Milk & Honey, located in downtown Santa Barbara, right off State Street. Photogenic drinks using local bounty and artisan spirits are the name of the game at each establishment. We recommend talking to your bartender to get the story behind your drink of choice. Beyond the glass, expect dark, candle-lit interiors and a romantic, down-to-earth atmosphere extending to the parklet patios. Learn More
The Good Lion became an instant classic when it opened next door to the Granada Theatre and further endeared us with their commitment to sustainability and artistry. The weekly rotating cocktail menu utilizes organic ingredients sourced from local farms, as do the “current hits” of classics-with-a-twist like the “Coffee Negroni” and “Eastside G&T.” All are served in elegant glassware and garnished by mixologists who look the part, outfitted in dark denim aprons. Their new patio comes with appealing views of the classic Granada Theatre and the bustle of State Street. For the perfect cultural fix, we recommend attending “Roar & Pour,” a live music series in partnership with the Granada and Opera Santa Barbara every Thursday evening.
Santo Mezcal, which means “holy mezcal,” was created by the team behind the beloved, highly rated Los Agaves restaurants. As the name suggests, they specialize in mezcal and tequila cocktails paired with modern Oaxacan cuisine. Patio seating is available on lower State Street, while inside you’ll find warm wooden tabletops and earthy accents—both environments complement the colorful selection of margaritas and other innovative cocktails with a kick. The stunning angled bar, where mixologist Sean Sepulveda works his magic, features patterned tiles and slanted wood paneling, while hundreds of colorful bottles and fresh fruit and herbs behind the bar add to the dynamic backdrop.
A lush, laid-back South Pacific vibe permeates Test Pilot, Santa Barbara’s premier tiki bar. 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—many of which are fittingly served in totem glasses garnished with umbrellas. A current favorite is the “Ken-Tiki Kentucky” featuring bourbon, navel orange, Madagascar vanilla, lemon, citrus bitter, and nutmeg.
Loquita’s menu is 100% Spanish-influenced, from the tapas to the award-winning cocktails. When it comes to the setting, the expansive bougainvillea lined patio oozes a Mediterranean ambiance. Inside, the cozy dining room takes cues from Scandinavian minimalism. Think white-washed walls, 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. Whether you sit at the handsome Poquita bar, dine inside, or take a patio perch, the unique selection of Spanish vermouths, gin and tonics, and market cocktails always offer a worldly sense of adventure and discovery.
The Kimpton Goodland Hotel in Goleta is home to the Outpost restaurant, a popular watering hole for locals and hotel guests alike. The F&B menus are influenced by the same cheeky spirit of the laid-back hotel designed to feel like a “beach fiesta”—think bright and colorful with just the right dash of rustic chic. The large outdoor dining patio is an original feature of the property and a big part of the appeal. The spiked agua frescas are made for day drinking, while the “Goodland Negroni 2.0” and “Four’s Company” are perfect sippers to savor after the sun goes down. Learn More
Occupying a prime corner location on Carrillo and Chapala Streets downtown, Finch & Fork is a destination restaurant in the colorful Kimpton Canary Hotel. Most definitely not just for hotel guests, you’ll find locals and visitors alike noshing on and drinking farm-fresh fare in the open 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. And if you’re a hotel guest, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the exclusive rooftop bar open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, which comes with the added benefit of one of the dreamiest sunset views in all of Santa Barbara. Learn More
This Old Town Goleta hideaway is beloved for its eclectic, effervescent character. 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 cult-like following The Imperial has earned, is as much a credit to the award-winning classic cocktails as the visually rich environment and welcoming bartenders. Even the soundtrack embraces the best of all eras, from jazz throwbacks to cool contemporary artists. Learn More
Shaker Mill, located adjacent to Cubaneo, comes from the minds behind The Good Lion and Test Pilot, two perfectly delicious cocktail bars locals can’t get enough of. Here, Shaker Mill embraces the Cuban spirit, from the bright, colorfully adorned space complete with flamingos, to the tropical flair of the artfully prepared classic Cuban cocktails. To give you an even better feel for the spirit of the place, the cocktail menu is categorized by “Frozen Cocktails, Punches & Sours,” “Fizzy Drinks,” and “Stirred & Pinky Up.” The original recipes are all made to pair well with food, so, naturally, ordering food at the bar is highly encouraged. Learn More
Hotel Californian’s library bar, Djinn, is a destination for theatrical, intricate cocktails. Open Thursdays through Saturdays in the evenings, the elegant den of drinks features a cocktail menu curated by highly respected SoCal mixologist, Devon Espinosa, who came to fame behind the bar at Church & State in Los Angeles. His signature intriguing fusion of ingredients and creative presentation yields cocktails like the “Puff, Puff, Pass” handcrafted with Eagle Rare bourbon, lemon, blueberry grenadine bitters, Islay scotch, and smoked with mesquite (it’s actual smoke). Another favorite is “Midnight in Morocco” featuring Libélula tequila blanco, Violette, Orgeat, lime, Luxardo liqueur, and firewater bitters. Keep an eye out for the return of Djinn’s special monthly full moon series, Howl, coinciding with the full moon, no matter what day of the week it falls on. Learn More
A fun weekend-only cocktail bar with a true speakeasy spirit, Lab Social is located in The Mill, a cooperative space that serves as an anchor of the Haley Corridor neighborhood, which saddles the borders of Milpas, the Funk Zone, and downtown State Street. The bar takes over the Caje Coffee space on Friday and Saturday evenings when they shake up stellar cocktails and offer a menu of delectable small plates. Instead of having one dedicated mixologist, Lab Social features a rotating line-up of local mixologists to keep things extra fresh. And their Prohibition-era “wink and nod” also includes a secret side entrance, to add to the “in the know” exclusive feeling. Learn More
Seven Bar & Kitchen is a welcoming, lively bar in the Funk Zone that captures the creative neighborhood’s character to a tee. Inside, you’ll find brick walls and colorful, large-scale original paintings by local artists like Demi Boelsterli. Outside, a vibrant mural serves as the patio backdrop. When it comes to cocktails, options range from dangerously drinkable spiked lemonades, the refreshing “Guava Have It,” and “The Lockdown” available in three ways: red tier, yellow tier, and orange tier. If you’ve got a large party all drinking the same thing, their batch cocktail bottle service equates to five drinks. And for eats, the well-rounded menu ranges from flatbreads and salads to burgers and fries. Learn More
The corner of State and Haley has been taken over by The Cruisery, a brewery and restaurant turning out elevated fare and smooth-as-can-be beers. But brews are not their only specialty by the glass. Their craft cocktail game is equally strong, featuring spirited, playful drinks like “Flaming Lips” with jalapeno-infused tequila, passionfruit, and lime. They’ve got a knack for integrating beer into a cocktail, as evidenced by the “Pineapple Express” with mezcal, tequila, lime, charred pineapple, and IPA. And then there are the hyper-local tributes, like “Fig & Haley” featuring fig-infused bourbon, bitters, and vanilla tobacco. Learn More
Live music has been sorely missed over the last year, so The Red Piano is a breath of fresh air with their constant live music going during opening hours, Wednesday through Sunday. Performances take place on the back patio, inside, and on the front patio, with different artists featured in different areas. While the music line-up spans several genres, the cocktail menu pairs particularly well with jazz and the blues, given its piano bar soul. This is the spot to sip classics like martinis, Sazeracs, and Manhattans. We’re particularly fond of the “Bees Knees,” featuring locally distilled Cutler’s Gin, honey syrup, and lemon—so good, it could almost be considered a health tonic! Learn More
A newcomer to the historic Presidio District, Palihouse Santa Barbara is a boutique hotel tucked away on Garden Street. Their charming intimate cocktail bar opens to a courtyard patio and is a lovely spot to tuck in for a cocktail or two while enjoying the preppy coastal ambiance. The “Santa Barbara Martini” features vodka, strawberry, lemon, balsamic vinegar, and pepper. The “Polo Club” is made for warm days, with Pimms #1, Aperol, ginger ale, cucumber, and lemon. And the “Brown Derby” with bourbon, grapefruit juice, and maple syrup will warm you from the inside out while sipping alfresco under the stars. Learn More
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