Cocktail Corner: Toasting the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

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

Harry's (courtesy photo)

Harry’s (courtesy photo)

Golden Globe winning director Ben Affleck, whose terrific film Argo seems to be the Oscar front runner at the moment, is a down-to-earth guy who would appreciate the local charm and flavor of Harry’s—not to mention the generous drinks. Perhaps after he receives the Modern Master Award on January 25 he’ll join us for a Dirty Martini at Harry’s. Made the old-fashioned way, with Bombay Gin, Dry Vermouth, a splash of olive juice, and a “family of olives,” like Affleck, this drink is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

The Biltmore's Smoked Maple Manhattan (courtesy photo)

The Biltmore’s Smoked Maple Manhattan (courtesy photo)

This Saturday night the whole town’s got a date with Daniel Day Lewis when he accepts the Montecito Award on January 26.

Be still my heart.

After years of lusting after Daniel Day Lewis (for his brain, of course, not to mention his smoldering Irish accent) I think its only fitting that before he takes the stage at the Arlington that night we should enjoy an ocean view sunset cocktail together at Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore in Montecito. I think Daniel would appreciate the poetry of a Smoked Maple Manhattan, made with hickory smoked Maker’s Mark bourbon, Bliss maple syrup infused vermouth, shaken straight up and garnished with a brandied cherry or two.

Quentin Tarantino will receive the American Riviera Awardon January 30. He’s a great raconteur in any setting, but I think he’d revel in both the view and the cocktails at The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, one of Santa Barbara’s loveliest spots for drinks. My personal favorite is the Blood Orange Margarita, made from El Charro 100% Agave Tequila, with fresh blood orange juice, fresh lime, Triple Sec and a splash of sweet and sour, served on the rocks. I also love the Honeycomb Mojito: Myers Platinum Rum with honeycomb simple syrup, a squeeze of lime, mint, and a splash of club soda.

The enchanting Amy Adams is in town next Thursday, January 31, to receive the Cinema Vanguard Award for her work in The Master. This woman’s versatility is amazing. I’ve loved her in everything from serious dramas (Doubt, The Fighter) to lighthearted films (Enchanted, The Trouble With the Curve). I’d take Amy to Kunin Wine Tasting Room on the Urban Wine Trail. I think she’d appreciate the elegance and local flavor of this great spot, as well as a glass of Seth Kunin’s 2007 Santa Barbara County Syrah. Crafted from three different local vineyards, it’s a smoky, spicy taste of Syrah—and Santa Barbara.

Kunin Tasting Room (courtesy photo)

Kunin Tasting Room (courtesy photo)

Finally Jennifer Lawrence, who was fabulous in both the Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook this year, will receive the Outstanding Performer of the Year award on Saturday, February 2. I think she’d enjoy cocktails on the patio at Blush. I have a feeling she’d like one of their fruity fun libations, like the Melted Popsicle (Stoli Raspberry Vodka, Cointreau, fresh oranges, cranberry and lemonade) or Pineapple Smash (Pineapple-infused Skyy Vodka, agave nectar, lime juice, pineapple and jalapeno). Who knows, we might even go ballroom dancing later … when Bradley Cooper shows up.

Seriously, if any of you are reading this—especially Daniel Day Lewis—drinks are on me. Cheers!

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Leslie Dinaberg, hard at work. Photo by Derek Johnson.

Leslie Dinaberg, hard at work. Photo by Derek Johnson.

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 25, 2013.

Cocktail Corner: Red Carpet Cocktails

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

The Academy Awards are on Sunday. My money’s on Argo to take home the biggest prize of the night—and firmly cement the Santa Barbara International Film Festival as the must-stop red carpet event to strut your stuff on the way to the Oscars. I’m still marveling at how many Oscar-bound stars made it to the festival this year.

Meanwhile, 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!

Do your favorite films and your favorite cocktails match up? You’ll have to watch—and try—them all to make an educated decision.


While beautifully shot and acted, to say this movie is a downer is the understatement of the year. However,’s version of The Amour cocktail is a sparkling champagne cocktail designed to invoke the earlier romance of the movie’s couple. Plus, a few sips of this might help you brace yourself for the intensity of the movie.


Bacardi USA mixologist Manny Hinojosa (how’s that for a cool-sounding job title?) has come up with a delicious-sounding Argo-inspired Scotch-Campari cocktail with elderflower liqueur, basil and ginger ale, The Diplomatic Escape.  Certainly one of the most purely entertaining movies in the bunch, a little Scotch can only help this film go down even smoother.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Cajun Lemonade is a great treat to celebrate this bayou-themed beast. This spiked version from Food & Wine includes a generous splash of Vodka (or Rum), but nine-year-old star (and nominee) Quvenzhané Wallis—who gives an amazing performance in this haunting film—should probably stick to good old lemonade.

Django Unchained

Grey Goose Vodka did a whole series of Oscar-inspired cocktails, but this Coco Django is a standout—it even alludes to a quirky coconut drink that one of the characters has in a pivotal scene.

Les Misérables

The Les Misérables Cocktail from, featuring French brandy, is worth taking your time to absorb, just like this sprawling, epic movie set in 19th-century France.

Life of Pi

The Citrus Seas, from Dallas’s SideDish Magazine,  is sublime and sea-worth salute to Ang Li’s beautiful film. They recommend Shellback Silver Rum, but like the Cajun Lemonade, this one would be equally tasty with Vodka.


Basil Hayden’s Bourbon pays tribute to Lincoln with this take on a traditional cocktail, Lincoln’s Manhattan, mixing Bourbon, both sweet and dry vermouth, and maple syrup. They had me at Daniel Day-Lewis.

Silver Linings Playbook

Word on the street is that Robert De Niro loved this Purity Silver Linings Playbook Martini at the Weinstein Company’s Silver Linings Playbook event. Another one of my favorite movies of the year … and there’s certainly not much to dislike about a pure Vodka and spring water cocktail!

Zero Dark Thirty

The Drake Hotel in Chicago has come up with Zero Dark Worthy, a “heavy martini made from Vodka, Cherry Brandy and Dark Crème de Cacao to commemorate the very heavy substance of the film. The title of the Zero Dark Thirty is, as director Kathryn Bigelow explains, “a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, and it refers also to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade-long mission (to capture Osama Bin Ladin).”

Pass the popcorn! Cheers!

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Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on February 22, 2013.