Is This the Best Cocktail Bar in the Country? Try the Recipes to See for Yourself.
A bar tucked away at one of Montecito’s most luxurious resorts is practicing modern mixology at the highest level.
The coastal region around Santa Barbara has long been called California’s Riviera for good reason: The palm tree-lined beaches are spectacular, the red-roofed buildings evoke the Mediterranean, and the pace is languorously slow as it often is in places with perfect weather, well-resourced residents, and tourists privileged enough to partake in such a rarified convergence of pleasantness. And here you’ll find the kind of resort that lives up to the surroundings: Rosewood Miramar Beach, the sprawling oceanfront resort with its collection of rambling casitas, serene pools, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
It also happens to house Manor Bar, which in the two or so years since it opened has established itself as one of the best bars on the planet, with expertly considered cocktails and skilled bartenders capable of filling the fine-lipped glassware with the spirits, bitters, and fresh juices of perfectly executed drinks. There are a few cities on the planet that are home to a short list of bars practicing at this high level—Tokyo, London, Sydney, and Paris among them—and you can now count Santa Barbara as a contender.
While you could easily order a gin and tonic or vodka on the rocks, rest assured you will be well taken care of, with craft tonic from a bottle (not a gun), perfect Kold Draft Ice (if you know, you know; if you don’t: It’s the gold standard of ice machines in the bartending world, turning out perfect cubes that melt just so). But the menu of the original drinks is the smart move if you want to experience the heart and soul of the Manor Bar. And quite a menu it is. Bound in leather, printed on heavy stock, and called the Chronicles of the Cocktails, it’s an ever-evolving compendium of forward-thinking cocktails that have both a narrative and multi-sensory arc. The idea is: You sit down in the Manor Bar’s cosseting dark paneled lounge, flip through the tome’s pages, and find a story and its accompanying drink that appeal.
At the time of our visit, Volume II had just been printed and its theme was women writers. And so there was the Like Water for Chocolate cocktail, paying homage to Laura Esquivel’s 1992 novel, in particular a scene in the final chapter in which the protagonist cooks a meal for her lover that involves both chiles and a dramatic fire. The drink fittingly includes poblano liqueur as a nod to the dish served, salt colored with volcanic ash referring to the conflagration, and a wafer of artisanal chocolate as a garnish and tip of the hat to the title.
Until you can book a trip to this haven of high-level craft cocktailing, we’ve got the recipes to try your hand at the art of mixology, Manor Bar-style.