West Coast (Cocktail) Swing: Cava
Our West Coast (Cocktail) Swing continues this week with a 2 hour drive to Santa Barbara. Don’t get me wrong, spring on the East Coast is nothing short of breath-taking, but spring is also a bit finicky; on rainy days like today where winter still tries to make herself known it’s hard to not be envious of what springtime and really all-the-time looks like in Southern California.
After spending a hard day tootling around the mesa and State Street, we then got in a solid Friday afternoon nap at Butterfly Beach. At that point, of course, we were hungry and tired (it’s always a mystery how a couple of hours in the sun can be so tiring), and we found our way to Cava for a festive family dinner. If there is such a thing in Santa Barbara as an ‘everyman’s restaurant,’ this is it. It felt like we joined every other resident in the region for dinner that night, but large bowls of fresh guacamole and many non-margarita drinks options (though trust us there is nothing wrong with margaritas!) at a mexi-cali restaurant assuaged our dismay of a loud restaurant and a staff who seemed surprised by the Friday evening rush.
What We Ordered
Mole Manhattan: bulleit rye, luxardo maraschino, xocolatl mole bitters
Negroni Muerto: death’s door gin, campari, carpano antica
Basil Cucumber Gimlet: hendrick’s gin, fresh lime, basil leaves
Chili Passion Martini: habanero-infused tito’s vodka, passion fruit puree, chili flakes
What We Thought
Hmm. So we have a rule to highlight the good things about a spot we go to. So let’s focus on the positives: a Negroni, a Manhattan, and even a martini in addition to a well-rounded margarita menu at a Mexican restaurant, yes please, we’re off to a good start.
The winner of the evening was the Mole Manhattan. The substitute of maraschino liqueur for vermouth was bold and effective; and using mole bitters well is hard, but they pulled it off. It was a good, unique drink.
The other drinks were perfectly pleasant, but not remarkable. The Negroni Muerto seemed like an especial pity, with the extraordinary Death’s Door gin getting lost in what was an ordinary Negroni.
We give Cava points for ambition in their bar program. But it seems like their execution is lagging a little behind their ambition. In the end, it might have been best for everyone to stick to the margaritas.