Cocktail Corner: Welcoming Fall With Finch & Fork’s Joe Dohany

Finch & Fork Cocktails, courtesy photo.

Finch & Fork Cocktails, courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

The spirits of fall are in the air, and Finch & Fork has a friendly new face behind the bar with an autumnal-inspired new menu. Joe Dohany—who most recently was a craft bartender at Shaker & Spear and Pennyroyal at Kimpton‘s Seattle property, The Palladian—is bringing a creative approach to the popular hotspot inside the downtown Santa Barbara Canary Hotel (31 W. Carrillo St.)

In addition to his mixology skills, Dohany went to culinary school, which definitely informs his holistic approach to creating cocktails.  His debut menu included half a dozen refreshing originals reflective of the season and the locale. While these will be switched up on a regular basis, Dohany assured us that the excellently balanced Witch’s Back—with Bulldog Gin, Strega orange liqueur, Pamplemousse Rose, lime and orange bitters, garnished with a fragrant sprig of rosemary (which resembles a witch’s broom)—will stay on the menu.

Finch & Fork's Witch's Back (left) and Rubies & Gold, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s Witch’s Back (left) and Rubies & Gold, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Other Dohany creations on the menu at the moment are the aromatic Puck’s Potion with Ketel One Vodka, Dolin Blanc, jasmine tea syrup, lemon and peach bitters and a kiss of absinthe; the Buzz Around Town with lavender–infused Tanqueray Gin, blackberry, honey, lemon and soda water; and the Do or Do Not, made with Dewar’s Scotch, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, lime and Scrappy’s Orleans bitters, among others.

The night we were there, Dohany was working on a new seasonal libation called Rubies & Gold, featuring gold rum, lime, cranberry and Becherovka, an herbal liquor with the distinctly fall flavors of cinnamon, anise and cloves. Expect to see that on the menu soon, alongside old favorites like the Guava Margarita (jalapeno-infused El Jimador Tequila, lime and guava) and the Figueroa (fig-infused Wild Turkey, Demerara Syrup and bitters).

Finch & Fork's The Figueroa, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Finch & Fork’s The Figueroa, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I recommend you check out Finch & Fork on a Thursday night, when the bar features live music from 5-7 p.m. and an extended Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m.  Hope to see you there.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

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 October 14, 2016.

Cocktail Corner: Tupelo Junction Cafe

The Whistling Dixie at Tupelo Junction Cafe, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

The Whistling Dixie at Tupelo Junction Cafe, photo by Leslie Dinaberg

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg |

You’ll find Southern comfort food in spades at Tupelo Junction Cafe, but this reliable old favorite downtown restaurant also has a creative and well-priced cocktail menu (1218 State St., 805/899-3100).

This week my tipple of choice was the Whistling Dixie, a smooth concoction of Maker’s Mark Whisky, Fresh Squeezed Lemonade and Soda that was just the ticket before a yummy meal of the Crispy Fried “Free Range” Chicken with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Swiss Chard, Sweet Corn & Herbed Pan Gravy. Delicious … and just like Grammy used to make, if my Grandma didn’t specialize in making reservations!

Tupelo’s specialty martini list has clever home-fried names—which the writer in me approves of—and lip-smacking top shelf potions—which the drinker in me approves of. For example:

The Kentucky Derby, made with 10 Cane Rum, Amaretto, Pineapple, Orange Juice & Cherry.

The Sweet “Tea”ni, made with Ketel One Citroen, Blackberry Sage Iced Tea & Lemonade.

The Sour Lemon Drop, made with Grey Goose Vodka, Fresh Squeezed Lemon & served in a sugar rimmed glass.

The Pink Flamingo, with Tanqueray Gin, fresh squeezed Pink Grapefruit Juice & Soda.

The Southern Belle, an Absolut Mandarin Cosmopolitan with Cranberry and Lime Juice.

The Rajin’ Cajun, with Absolut Peppar, Chipotle Bloody Mary & Pickled Green Beans. This is definitely a brunch time favorite for Bloody Mary fans. Try the Wild Mushroom, Asparagus, Black Truffle Cheese Scramble with Baby Green Salad & Homemade Bread—you’ll swear you’ve died and gone to truffle-sniffing heaven!

The Spicy Smoked Chipotle & Crab Bloody Mary also has a lot of brunch time takers.

And for dessert, try the Velvet Elvis, made with Stoli Vanilla, Kahlua, Baileys, Banana Liquer & Chocolate. If you really want to “love me tender,” pair this with the Chocolate Turtle Beignets with Crème Anglaise & Candied Pecans. Ahhh, such sweet nirvana!

Happy Hour is also a great time to visit Tupelo Junction Cafe. Every night from 5–7 p.m. (they’re closed Mondays) they have selected cocktails for just $6, including The Rajin’ Cajun and The Southern Belle, as well as a Farmer’s Market Blackberry Mojito and a terrific Margarita with Fresh Lime, Mint, Cucumber & Tangerines. Selected wines by the glass are only $5 during happy hour, in addition to a whole slew of tasty small plates, including Cheddar Cheese Hush Puppies with Spicy Pepper Jam, Fried Green Tomatoes with Herb Buttermilk Dressing, and those Chocolate Turtle Beignets I was telling you about.

I’ll definitely be back again soon. Hope to see you…I mean y’all, there.


Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

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.”

Price points to shopping paradise

Costco in Irvine, CA, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Costco in Irvine, CA, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Stalking Costco’s aisles is much more than a spectator sport for bargain hunters

Our anniversary is coming, so naturally when my husband told me he needed to “go to Costco,” I was sure he was going to buy me that Chagall lithograph I’ve had my eye on.

When I heard that Costco was beginning to sell fine art, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before we got lured into the excitement. My normally shop-o-phobic husband has a hard time resisting the temptation of big box bargains.

We once ate hot dogs every night for an entire summer, just to use up the enormous vats of relish, mustard and catsup he couldn’t resist. And we’ve still got 39 cans of pickled brussel sprouts sitting around from the time my son swore they tasted delicious, “the way that Grandma made them.”

Pretty much anytime we walk into Costco, we save so much money that we go broke.

So when I read that an original crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso sold at for $39,999, I knew that the $8,799 Chagall would soon be on my walls, because when you enter Costco, Costco logic prevails.

Which is why I have an unopened ten-gallon bottle of Tanqueray Gin still making a dent on the top of my fridge, from a long ago party where “someone might want a gin martini” and an industrial-sized kennel of baking powder for all of the cookies I was going to make for holiday gifts one year.

While high-end retailers hire merchandising specialists to help move you through their stores, Costco logic relies instead an unwritten law. “Whatever you look for at Costco will be on the far opposite side of the store. And in your quest to find the desired item, you will always find a minimum of seven other items you can’t live without.”

Try it sometime. It’s science.

I know that eventually, at some point in the future, I’ll come out ahead on my Costco purchases, but I’ll have to live to be 107, because that’s how long it’s going to take me to eat all of the chicken noodle soup I bought three flu seasons ago.

At least the soup purchase had some practical application. Lately I’ve been lured in by “new” products like Sierra Mist Free — which is really just Diet Sierra Mist with microscopically different packaging — or Wheat Thin crackers with zero trans fats (and exactly the same ingredients as the old crackers).

While customers are buying in mass, Costco is taking its profits in bulk. In a flat retail year, gross profit was up 13 percent last year with annual revenues of 47.5 billion dollars.

That’s an awful lot of Cherry Pepsi Free.

What else are people stocking up on?

In my case, there are the 14-foot-long rolls of coordinating wrapping paper, that I may need someday, and the gigantic tub of cinnamon-spice hand cream that I couldn’t resist. My husband’s temptations usually relate to outdoor activities — which is funny if you know him — like the tent could literally house a village, or the ice chest that could surely hydrate them. Costco’s marketing gurus even have a name for these items — the ones that never make it onto your shopping list, but somehow inevitably make it into your shopping cart — they call them the spice.

Then there are the actual spices, like Piment Despelette, which I bought a gigantic jar of once, because a woman who looked like Betty Crocker told me it was a once-in-a-lifetime bargain at 20 dollars an ounce

If the spicy new packaging or the advice from fellow customers doesn’t tempt me, the free samples usually do. While my dad usually trolls the Costco aisles for the “cheapskate special” lunch, I’m more likely to get sucked into the illusion that if I just bought that case of Jennie-O-Turkey with tequila-lime marinade, I’d somehow get in tune with my inner domestic goddess, the one who’s been MIA the past 40 years.

Sure, you’d expect the soccer moms hoarding juice boxes and the college kids stocking up on Easy Mac ‘N Cheese, but I’m most intrigued by the flocks of chic women who buy their thirty dollar Cabernet at Costco and their 200 dollar jeans at Blue Bee.

“Is that a good wine?” asks my husband, ever on the look out for both a bargain and the chance to chat up a pretty young thing.

“Oh yes. It’s quite a good value,” says Ms. Second Wife, as she bats her eyelashes at my First Husband.

“I hear the Chagall’s are quite a deal too,” I say, showing them both the lithograph print from my computer. My husband’s eyes go wide. Is he tempted?

“Wow, $8,799 for a work of art at Costco,” he laughs, in a way that tells me my chances of attaining it are dismal at best.

I wonder if Chagall does multi-packs.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 17, 2005.