Cocktail Corner

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg
(Here is my newest column which I write every Friday for Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.)


© Pac | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Pac | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Popping the Cork for Mother’s Day

One of my favorite things about Mother’s Day is that it’s a terrific excuse reason to have Champagne for breakfast. Of course, you can do this anytime you want—and pretty, pretty please invite me over!—but on Mother’s Day, unless you’re visibly pregnant, no one looks at you strangely when you order a bottle of Champagne with your Eggs Benedict (which is a fabulous pairing, by the way). But here’s an even better reason to toast mom with some bubbly this weekend: new research has just come out that three glasses of Champagne a week can help to improve your memory!

Kentucky Derby Day Drinks

Early Times makes the official Mint Julep of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. (courtesy photo)

Early Times makes the official Mint Julep of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. (courtesy photo)

It’s Kentucky Derby time this weekend, and although all I know about the leaderboard is thatOrb is favored to win, I know enough about Kentucky Derby Day traditions to know whichever horse your money’s on, y’all should be cheering ‘em on with a Mint Julep.

Citrus & Spice Cocktail at The Pan (photo by Leslie Dinaberg)

Citrus & Spice Cocktail at The Pan (photo by Leslie Dinaberg)

Cheers to The Pan

I’m a big believer that variety is the spice of life. If I could tipple “cocktail flights” for every happy hour and nibble appetizers for every meal, I would be doing a happy dance for the rest of my life. I still haven’t found a place that has “cocktail flights” on the menu (sharing sips with friends is the next best thing), but I have found a great small bites place just a hop, skip and jump from the office: The Pan.

Cheers to Prosecco

OGIO prosecco (courtesy photo)

OGIO prosecco (courtesy photo)

I had my first taste of Prosecco just a few years ago, when a friend brought a bottle of Mionetto IL Prosecco to accompany our sushi at one of the summer concerts at El Capitan Canyon.  It was delicious, bubbly and tasted good with potato chips too.

Wine and Cheese Please!

I was thrilled to discover that today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. What better way to fight the post-vacation blues than to celebrate this traditional American treat and pair it with some of our favorite local wines?

KAPPA Krush (courtesy of KAPPA Pisco)

KAPPA Krush (courtesy of KAPPA Pisco)

Potions With Pisco Popping Up

I wasn’t too familiar with Pisco last fall, when someone gave me a bottle of KAPPA Pisco, a new Chilean Pisco from the House of Marnier-Lapostolle, producers of Grand Marnier. But since then, this exotic beverage has been showing up more and more.  Especially in Montecito, where it’s behind the bar at Cava Restaurant and Bar and the Biltmore’s Ty Lounge and on the shelves at The Bottle Shop, among others.


Cheers to Spring at the Ty Lounge

Four Seasons Biltmore's barrel-aged Negroni (courtesy photo)

Four Seasons Biltmore’s barrel-aged Negroni (courtesy photo)

A great spot for cocktails just got even better. The Ty Lounge (at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara) has always been a beautiful place to drink in the priceless view of the Pacific, but now mixology pro and manager Chris Nordella has introduced a lively selection of spring cocktails.

Dargans (courtesy photo)

Dargans (courtesy photo)

A Bit of the Blarney About Dargan’s

Irish eyes are always smiling at Dargan’s, one of my favorite downtown pubs (18 E. Ortega St., 805/568-0702). Of course the place will be rocking this weekend in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s a great place to tipple any time of the year.

A Bouquet of Orchid Cocktails

Black Orchid (courtesy photo)

Black Orchid (courtesy photo)

With the  68th Santa Barbara International Orchid Show coming up this weekend, a bouquet of orchid cocktails is certainly in order to celebrate this event.

Chuck's Famous Mai Tai (courtesy photo)

Chuck’s Famous Mai Tai (courtesy photo)

Chuck’s Famous Mai Tai

A lot of places slap the label “famous” onto a cocktail, but Chuck’s Famous Mai Tai is one “famous” libation that’s ready for a “legendary” label. It’s not quite as good as a trip to Maui, but it’s pretty darn close.

Red Carpet Cocktails

For those of us who won’t be at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre this weekend, the competition for Oscar-inspired libations is every bit as fierce as the race for Best Picture. Here are some red carpet cocktails to make your home viewing party a hit!

How to Make a Sidecar with Rachel Maddow and Dita Von Teese

I love pretending I’m Rosalind Russell and ordering old-fashioned cocktails. Must be the journalist’s fascination with His Girl Friday. Phrases like, “How ’bout a Sidecar, doll face?” and “Gimme an Old Fashioned, the old-fashioned way,” just trill off the tongue, don’t they? Anyway, when I stumbled across this video of one of my favorite journalists—MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow—demonstrating how to make a Sidecar, I just had to share it.

Cajun Martini at the Palace Grill in Santa Barbara

Cajun Martini at the Palace Grill in Santa Barbara

Cajun Martini at The Palace Grill

It’s always Mardi Gras at the Palace Grill (8 E. Cota St., 805/963-5000), the closest you can get to New Orleans while staying in Santa Barbara.

The Antagonist at The Marquee

I’ve been really into sweet, hot and spicy cocktails recently and had a fabulously tasty one the other night at The Marquee. The Antagonist is made of chili-infused Absolut Vodka, white peach puree, mixed berry puree and pineapple juice.

Toasting the Film Festival

Even movie stars shine a little brighter when you give them a perfect cocktail. Since the stars will out in full force this week, here’s where I would take some of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival VIPs out for drinks.

Paradise Cafe Margaritas

My childhood smelled like Coppertone, my teenage years like Love’s Baby Soft, and my 20’s smelled like the Margaritas at the Paradise Cafe .

National Hot Toddy Day

It’s National Hot Toddy Day. A “hot toddy” is a warmth-inducing yummy drink made with honey, lemon, hot water, and the spirit of your choice (usually whiskey, brandy, or rum).


Alcazar's Heat of Passion cocktail. Courtesy Photo.

Alcazar’s Heat of Passion cocktail. Courtesy Photo.

The Heat of Passion at Alcazar

The sultry Heat of Passion is sweet, hot and spicy and certainly my favorite cocktail at the moment.

Simmering Sangria

Sangria is one of my favorite warm weather libations, but until our recent uber cold front (quite unusual for Santa Barbara) I had never thought about serving it warm.